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The Impact Of Fake News On Marketing/PR

by Becky Nolan

Following the huge rise is fake news stories in the mass media and online, a number of questions have arisen around the impact it’s played and will continue to play on the marketing and PR industry. Will people switch off altogether? Does it call for a more regimented industry? Is it our responsibility to educate people on fake news in this ‘post-truth’ era? There are many issues that arise for marketers following the rise of fake news, including managing brand reputation, ad placement, and content marketing.

As an industry overall, it’s clear that we need to ensure that there are thorough controls and systems in place to protect brands from fake news and to sift out the individuals and companies that create and distribute fake news.

Fake news damages the PR industry as it damages the trust that the general public has in the media. To combat this, journalists and marketers need to make sure they’re fact checking every claim they make.

Brand Reputation

A massive two-thirds of Facebook users (66%) get news on the site and nearly six-in-ten Twitter users (59%) get news on Twitter. When fake news stories are published and spread across social media, brand reputation is at risk. In 2016, Kellogg’s made the decision to pull advertising from publisher Breitbart, a company who are vocally right-wing and supporters of Donald Trump. Breitbart declared war on Kellogg’s and a campaign was started to boycott Kellogg’s, with the hashtag #DumpKelloggs was shared widely, along with a petition to ‘ban bigotry from the breakfast table’. Breitbart shared information about Kellogg’s that was blown out of proportion and backed by limited research. The anti-Kellogg’s petition gained over 75,000 signatures in a matter of hours and stocks dropped steadily.

Content Marketing

During the United States election, there were thousands of fake news stories published all over social media. Many Trump supporters on Facebook and Twitter accepted these reports at face value and took them as genuine. Given the rise of fake news, it’s becoming increasingly more important for content marketers to check the integrity of their content before publishing. Link to sources, check technical information with experts and don’t be tempted to make stuff up on subjects you’re unfamiliar with. Content marketing spreads further than just providing information. It’s a way of developing trust between a brand and its clients. Trust is reinforced if readers feel that the content they are reading is accurate and truthful.

Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of marketers, ad agencies, tech firms and media companies to help prevent the spread of fake news online. Business practices need to be examined and extra measures need to be taken to ensure the validity of the content we’re sharing.

Ad Placement

Marketers and advertising agencies need to do everything they can to ensure they aren’t funding or supporting this fake news phenomenon. When companies use broad targeting methods, their ads can often show up in unexpected places. In AdWords, you can take extra measures to prevent your ads appearing on fake news sites and other questionable websites using Site Category Options. These allow you to exclude sites, content or ad placements where you don’t want to show your ads. In order to uphold and protect brand reputation and image, companies need to be extra vigilant with their ad targeting to ensure, as much their ads are going where they’re intended and as far away from these fake news sites as possible.