Andrea Aker, CEO of WBENC-Certified Aker Ink PR & Marketing, shares how to fight misinformation in your industry.
Andrea is an expert communicator and business strategist with a reputation for tenacity, perseverance and honesty. Her WBENC-Certified firm, Aker Ink PR & Marketing, is one of Arizona’s leading boutique PR and marketing firms.
MIT recently reported that false news travels farther, faster, deeper and more broadly online than the truth — which isn’t shocking to anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account, but the rate it spreads may be. Researchers found falsehoods reach their first 1,500 people six times faster than accurate information.
On social media, a little carelessness can lead to full-blown misinformation crisis. Anyone can have a social media presence, whether they use it responsibly or not. Defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead,” misinformation can impact many facets of our lives, influencing how we spend our money or for whom we vote.
Whether you’re a mom-and-pop shop or a nationally known enterprise, misinformation can create a hairpin turn in your business trajectory.
Here are some tips to protect your business’ reputation from harmful lies that can quickly gain traction online.
1. Keep an Eye on News and Discussion Related to Your Brand
Google Alerts is a free, time-saving tool that collects any new articles that include your preset keywords, which might include your company name, products or key leadership. Also, social media monitoring is crucial for modern businesses. There are several popular tools to monitor hashtags, mentions or share of voice in the marketplace. Using these can help teams quickly intervene if misleading information is discovered, correcting the source and social media users before the situation spirals out of control.
2. Be Ready to Respond Quickly
Taming a misinformation crisis takes fast and confident action. A crisis communication plan will be useful, outlining roles and responsibilities, what methods are used to distribute key messages and how the company will monitor public sentiment. Creating a crisis communications plan before an issue arises can help companies respond swiftly.
3. Leverage Facts and Figures
You might have the numbers or evidence available to disprove a rumor before it gets too far. However, sometimes directing people to your website isn’t enough — sharing information from a credible third-party source, such as an analyst firm or professional association, can back up your side of the story.
4. Regularly Update Your Newsroom or Blog
By regularly sharing relevant and educational content on your newsroom or blog, you build trust with customers, partners, stakeholders and media. They’ll know they can count on you for the most accurate information. Moreover, if a crisis does emerge, your business could use content marketing to control the narrative and keep audiences informed on the developing situation.
5. Share Your Customers’ Glowing Testimonials
Testimonials and online reviews are powerful tools, and they’re often the deciding factor in whether to make a purchase or select a service. Sharing these positive experiences are an excellent way to build trust and credibility with your audience, and they may even contradict a false narrative.
6. Consistently Engage with the Media
Company spokespeople should be readily available and prepared to speak to the media. Journalists will be more likely to turn to your spokespeople (rather than other unreliable sources) if they have a positive relationship. Timeliness, availability and compelling commentary are the keys to building relationships. Members of the executive team and other media-facing personnel would benefit from formal media training and annual refreshers.
Unfortunately, misinformation isn’t going anywhere, and it’s easy for well-intentioned but easily persuaded social media users to lose sight of the truth. In turn, companies should treat misinformation as a credible threat. Partnering with a public relations team can protect your reputation in an increasingly online world.