As the popularity of social media platforms grow, more and more organizations have turned to these sites to disseminate information. While social media has become a medium that allows organizations to directly interact with their publics, the number of fake news stories that are present on these platforms continues to grow. It can be difficult for a public relations practitioner to handle, because many accept these fake stories at face value without any further investigation. Here are three ways fake news stories have changed public relations:
The importance of monitoring social media.
Monitoring social media is important even if there isn’t a fake story circulating. With that being said, not every fake news story is worth looking at. Many of these stories have facts that are hard to believe, or they don’t make any sense; however, there will be people who share the articles without reading them or ensuring they have come from a reputable source. As a public relations practitioner for your organization or brand, it is your job to monitor what is being said or shared. It’s important to be aware about the fake stories that are circulating. If an article or story has been shared by a large group of people, or it is causing perceptions about the company to change, then it is probably best to address the problem. When doing so, it is extremely important to have facts to reinforce what you are saying, as you will have to inform and change the minds of those who believed the fake story.
“The end of mass persuasion.”
Robert Wynne, a contributor for Forbes.com, states that the role of public relations practitioners has shifted due to the rise of fake news. Wynne writes “It used to be everyone was entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Not anymore. Americans disagree on fundamental facts, not whether Bigfoot and Elvis are meeting at the Waffle house.”
Many have questioned the authority of the press and media, and many Americans don’t trust news outlets to deliver unbiased, true news stories. As public relations students and practitioners, part of our job is to target an audience and inform them. As people turn away from traditional media to social media in order to look for stories that confirm their beliefs, even if they are fake, this job can be extremely hard. Social media gives people an outlet to disagree with ideas openly, and possibly on a large scale. It gives them a place to share their opinions. As such, public relations efforts cannot just consist of releasing one message on social media and hope that it persuades every audience. Messaging needs to be extremely strategic. Chances are, you will reach some of your audience. Not everyone will agree with you or the messages you are trying to put out, and some will try to prove you wrong.
The importance of relationships with the press.
Public relations is not the only industry facing the fake news challenge. While good relationships with the press and media are important in any situation, these relationships are also extremely important while combatting fake news. Organizations need to continue to work with reputable media outlets and focus on creating accurate content. Truth and accuracy are some of the best ways to overcome fake news stories.
Gabrielle Coy is a sophomore public relations major at Waynesburg University. She serves as the social media coordinator for Waynesburg PRSSA, as well as a project manager for Red Brick Communications. After graduation, Gabrielle hopes to pursue her passions within the public relations field and work within the nonprofit or crisis communication sector.