4 Tips for Protecting Your Brand From Fake News

By Ted Birkhahn, President and Partner at Peppercomm
December 20, 2016

Pizzagate is just the latest example of why you need to stay ahead of inaccurate or malicious stories about your company

If you care about your company’s brand, fake news is a force to be reckoned with. Just ask the owners of Comet Ping Pong in Washington D.C., who find themselves embroiled in Pizzagate–a fake story that includes Hillary Clinton, child sex rings and a shooting in their restaurant.

Fake news is like a wildfire that erupts in a drought-ridden area during a wicked windstorm; be ready to respond fast with the right equipment and personnel or face the reality of scorched earth. All of which is made worse by the fact that so many now rely almost exclusively on Facebook and Google for their “news.” And the very nature of the beast is the spreadibility factor: these platforms are inherently designed to spread controversial or salacious content fast. Real fast.

Being prepared, knowing how to respond and successfully killing or mitigating the damage done by a fake news story is changing the rules of how, when and where we respond and engage.

Here are four steps to protect your business and its reputation:

1.) The first step is understanding that the game has changed. It’s no longer about lobbying an editor at a reputable newspaper to correct an error or misquote in a news article. Today, fake news is written and distributed by a guy in a bathrobe who doesn’t live by any rules. There are no legal or editorial recourses to take. It’s hand-to-hand combat in a world where most people either can’t tell the difference or don’t care if the news they are consuming and sharing is real or fake.

2.) Have a system in place to monitor and detect if your brand is being misrepresented by fake news. If you’re not actively monitoring what others are saying about your brand, you’re setting yourself up for failure. In the world of fake news, speed kills. Your inability to immediately detect a fake news story involving your brand could be a death blow.

3.) Create a system and company culture that enables you to rapidly respond when a fake news story breaks. Can you turn on a dime to respond effectively to fake news? The pace at which fake news can spread makes it necessary for companies to have a process in place that enables them to cut through internal red tape and respond in real time. Anything less will make it difficult, if not impossible, to stem the spread of misinformation and inaccuracies before real damage occurs.

4.) Where and how you respond is as important as what you say. Do you know the best ways to respond – including what to say, how to say it, and where to distribute it? Where and how a company responds to fake news is a critical last step. Engaging directly in a public forum with the fake news source is generally never a good idea. Instead, it’s important to think about the communications platforms and channels in which the company is already operating in and building a strong following.

Your message is only as good as the distribution strategy. For example, it may require some paid media to ensure the response is seen by the right people at the right time. There may be an influencer outreach component to help you fight the fight and perhaps earned media becomes an important avenue for conveying the truth and combatting the lies.

Companies must be aggressive, unforgiving, and timely in how they deal with fake news.

If the wildfire were threatening to burn down your home, you’d find the resources and will power to defend it vigorously. The defense of your brand should be no different.



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