Coffee & Conversation: Communications in the age of “fake news”
By Matt Tidwell, Ph.D., APR
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of moderating a recent KC IABC “Coffee and Conversation” panel discussion (one of KC IABC’s terrific new membership benefits, by the way). We had a small but hearty group of communicators representing diverse backgrounds including education, technology and non-profit. The topic was certainly topical – communications in the age of “fake news”.
While we all agreed that this was a subject very worthy of our attention as professional communicators (even at 7:30 in the morning), I can’t say that we solved the world’s problems with fake news (actually, we probably identified more problems). But, we did congregate around a couple of major observations that perhaps can help our IABC colleagues. Here’s a sampling:
- Define the term. Misinformation and “faked” stories have been around forever and have always been a challenge for organizational communicators. In the aftermath of the Trump rise to the presidency, however, the term “fake news” has been co-opted to cast doubt on all media and speak to the credibility of media outlets in general.
- Erosion in public trust in the earned media space. Since earned media and media relations are a big part of all of our jobs, this trend is an important one to watch. Many of us were familiar with yearly studies like the Edelman Trust Barometer and agreed that, if instruments like that continue to show an even greater erosion in trust in the news media (it’s already bad enough), that could lead to implications for our communications planning in the PESO (paid, earned, shared, owned) model that many of us use.
- Diligence as reputation guardians. We know that much of our job involves serving as guardians and protectors of our organization’s reputations. Companies can get caught up quickly in fake news firestorms. We have to be more diligent than ever to make sure that we clarify what is real and move swiftly to combat sketchy or inaccurate information when our organization’s name might be involved. This fits in with our role as crisis communications planners.
The consensus was that these observations might make our jobs tougher. But, as we all agreed, the silver lining might be enhanced job security for all of us.
– Matt Tidwell, Ph.D., APR
KC IABC member
Program Director for Integrated Marketing Communications Master’s Program
The University of Kansas