KEEPING YOUR CREDIBILITY IN AN ERA OF “FAKE NEWS”
In fact, the 2016 annual Gallup survey showed America’s trust and confidence in the mass media "to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” dropped to its lowest level in the poll’s history. The results were not an outlier either, numbers were at all-time lows the previous two years as well.
As PR professionals, we take this trend to heart because we play such a big role in news and media development. Not just consultants to reporters, we’re active participants in the research, fact checking and content creation that goes along with storytelling. It’s a big responsibility, one we can’t take lightly as we look to make connections with target audiences who seem to be growing more skeptical.
With accuracy and balance in mind, here are a few ways we can ensure our “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed in ongoing PR and storytelling pursuits:
- AVOID THE FALSE START
No reporter wants to go back and redact or (gasp!) retract a story. It’s a tough balance when you’re trying to get the news out about your organization or client quickly, but having a robust process in place for review and vetting of materials can help prevent potential after-the-fact pitfalls. Securing numerous approvals can be an exhaustive task at times, but patience oftentimes prevails and accuracy should serve as a unifying objective between PR professionals and the media.
- CALL IN BACKUP
In bigger organizations, there are legal teams that keep folks in check on their public claims. But, not every organization or client we work with has this luxury and it often falls on us to be stewards of accuracy and authentication. So, if we’re making a direct claim somewhere – be it about a new product or an industry trend – we need reputable sources and/or valid statistics to back things up. It also helps us forge a strong reputation, which is particularly valuable in our dual roles as both marketers and media liaisons.
- LET THE STORY BE THE STORY
In competition for clicks and views, sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in a desire to sensationalize our stories and content a bit more than necessary. However, for every eye-popping headline that doesn’t quite align with the story, or the compelling yet unsubstantiated executive quote, we could end up sacrificing our credibility. And the number of views we generate won’t mean much if they aren’t making an impact. Mean Girls had it right here, sometimes we just cannot “make fetch happen.”
While the old slogan “sex sells” might hold a kernel of truth, perhaps we should view today’s audiences in the context of a long-term relationship. Though it’s a delicate balance for us promoters, sometimes we have to sacrifice what’s flashy for what’s more sustainable. It may not always be the easy route, but the reward can be more open ears and open lines of communication with audiences we want to connect with.