Terribly Tiny Tales – Trust.
Without any embellishment, let’s get down to the facts. Trust, this five-letter word, has been taking over our industry for the wrong reasons. There’s been an onset of #FakeNews that has trickled down from the nation’s greatest to the smaller tabloids as well. Who’s to blame, though?
With many theories having risen to explain fake news and its origins, it all boils down to one common denominator – the fragmented communication landscape. As the world transforms into a digital space, the communication industry is bearing its brunt by being faced with the daunting task of highlighting the distinction between real news and fake stories at a glance. While it may seem simple, it is a challenge because of the human appetite for scandal and seemingly unrealistic stories — it’s the Gossip-Girl era sponsored by #FakeNews.
Going back to the question at hand, no one is to blame. We’ve collectively accepted the power of digital disruption and the fine print it comes bundled with. Yes, we can now utilise the digital space for commercial purposes, but we can also abuse it for our personal agendas — a fabricated news story that is provocative enough and just as believable will go viral, creating a ripple effect among online readers.
A suspect I’d like to defend is citizens. With the abundance of online portals and the publishing power people enjoy on social media platforms, the concept of Citizen Journalism came to life. Earlier, journalism was about editors and writers that took to the cause and did their homework to ensure they were publishing valid and credible content. Now, a fire in a building can be captured on camera, uploaded on various social media platforms and then the snowball effect begins. This video can be circulated for months, causing a panic almost every time it sees light of day.
I don’t personally believe that fake news is damaging, it is simply allowing us to reassess our approach. What does this mean for PR, though? Stay tuned for part two – Rebuilding.
At C&B, we always let the facts do the talking. Why would our industry reflect anything else?
Fact checking is key. I spoke about the birth of fake news and the negative impact it is having on the PR industry – How do we trust journalism again?
It’s all about the community. For a brand, building trust and establishing its pseudo ambassadors is crucial to what it does in the communication industry — communicate and influence. Consistency, for example, is one of the most impactful strategies to maintain prior to addressing and refuting fake news. Ensuring that a brand offers credibility through its communication is vital to establishing its presence and influencing its audience to be part of the ‘cult’, per se.
In the era of fake news and #AlternativeFacts, it is of utmost importance to understand the responsibility of fact checkers. They provide absolute realities as they scrutinise the truth and offer validity to journalistic claims without the intention of undermining others.
Taking Facebook, one of the largest social media networking platforms as an example, it’s always a challenge to identify fact versus opinion. A study conducted by Walter Quattrociocchi’s team worked around the premise that people feed off of scandals or pre-determined world views and seek to verify what they claim to know. The study covered over 413 groups on Facebook with names like ‘ScienceDaily’ and other candid names that offered one-sided opinions. People tend to join such groups in search of information that confirms their beliefs. Based on the research, the team reached the conclusion that online fact checking is a risky business.
Sometimes, online fact checking is the only source available as our disposal. As much as I hate to admit it, libraries are a thing of the past; Google and Wikipedia are leading the charge now. When it comes to Google, the links we refer to need to be reliable whereas with Wikipedia, the content is open to alteration and editing by any user.
Weigh your fact checking options well!
Riya Vatnani is Account Manager at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, an independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. | www.cbpr.me