The effects of fake news aren’t limited to politics. Disinformation from rumours and coordinated campaigns can threaten companies’ reputations and profitability, and even influence financial markets.
For example, conspiracy theories around the effects of 5G led to mobile phone towers being destroyed, and delays to the infrastructure rollout by telecoms companies.
What steps should organisations take?
Firstly, it’s important to catch fake news quickly – in the social media age it doesn’t take long to spread. According to a rece nt study, fake news generates 83% more page views than legitimate information. There are tools available to monitor company mentions online which, combined with human intelligence, can help you tackle false and potentially damaging information before it escalates.
You can also reduce your brand’s exposure to audiences who are more likely to share disinformation by being selective about where you place advertising. Unilever and P&G have made public commitments to stop their ads from appearing alongside misleading content, and to stop funding platforms that help spread misinformation.
Finally, it’s worth considering how your organisation might be contributing to the environment that enables misinformation. Successful marketing relies on capturing people’s attention and sparking emotion. Sensational news stories generate strong emotional reactions, specifically anger. Anger is what makes misinformation go viral. Some business models rely on exploiting human emotion to maximise profit, which only continues to feed the disinformation machine.
Tackling misinformation within an organisation
It’s also easy for misinformation to spread within an organisation. To tackle this, there are three key areas to focus on:
- People: Give staff the knowledge and tools to make sense of information that drives decision-making. Teaching data literacy is crucial.
- Processes: Find ways to stem misinformation before it escalates. This can be achieved through open channels of communication.
- Data: Provide enough data from trusted sources, collated in a single source of truth. That way, staff can be properly informed when making decisions.