In an age of misinformation, as PR pros, we must fight fake news head on. We recently had a fantastic panel discussion to tackle this very subject that featured:
- Karah Davenport, VP of Stratacomm
- Mary T. Henige, APR, Fellow PRSA, Founder & Chief Consultant, Magnetica Communications, LLC
- Andrew Hetzel, APR, VP, Corporate Communications, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBS)
- Rosie Jahng, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Wayne State University
Where should an organization’s moral conscience come from?
Andrew shared that the CEO should project ethics from the top down and be the ultimate champion of ethics. Mary added that PR is a management function, so PR pros must reflect what the public (and all key audiences) are feeling and saying in order to be effective liaisons.
How do you combat fake news?
Karah indicated that key stakeholders need to be knowledgeable of the facts – not opinions – at all times. That way, they can communicate with every audience, on any issue, with the facts, key points and confidence. Mary cautioned not to overreact, particularly when the source doesn’t have a strong following. Instead, identify key audiences to communicate the truth in addition to your organization’s spokespeople. Andy echoed the need for there to be a resource where others can get truthful, factual information, such as the BCBS blog. This way, if misinformation ever spreads, BCBS can point to its informational research.
How can PR pros proactively fight misinformation?
Andrew indicated that, even if the voice of the fake news is louder, listening is the first step, in order to prepare and accurately counter the fake news they’re projecting. Karah added that people listen to people, period. Adding a personal touch and information that comes from a person is the strongest marketing recommendation that anyone can receive. Having people inside and outside of your organization to speak your organization’s truth is crucial
How can younger pros help fight fake news?
- Andrew: younger pros and older pros should make it a priority to learn from one another – everyone has a role to play in order to get the right information out at the same time.
- Karah: younger pros offer a fresh perspective and different expertise into niche audiences and can combat misinformation accordingly.
- Mary: Sometimes it’s difficult to maintain a ‘sense of ease’ during frightening fake news, older employees can provide calm and experience to younger employees and work together for cohesive solutions.
Many thanks to our fantastic panelists and to Beaumont Health for hosting us.
What is your organization doing to fight fake news? We’d love to hear from you!
Megan Bonelli (formerly Peterson) is a Senior Account Executive and Franco and a Detroit PRSA board member/blog committee chair.