Fake News: The Aftermath

Picture this: it’s 2016, elections are coming and fake news is at an all-time high. Your aunts, uncles and grandparents say things like “It’s true. I saw it on Facebook!”

Feeling nostalgic? Do you remember how glorious (by “glorious,” I mean awful) it was? In case you don’t, or you blocked it out of your memory (because honestly nobody would blame you), I’ve included a few of my favorite fake news examples from the last few years below.

  • The blue pill or the red pill or… the blood of babies
  • Rage on
  • He blessed the rains and paid for planes down in Africa
  • There was only room for one on this ark

Remember those aunts, uncles and grandmas I mentioned above? I wasn’t being dramatic about their willingness to believe news found on social media sites. As it turns out, a recent study from Science Advances showed an increase in fake news correlated with increasing age. The average adult 65 or older shared seven times more fake news than those between 18 and 29.

So where is fake news today? Is it still around, or did the end of 2016 wash it away like a bad fake tan?

While the high volume of fake news in 2016 was mostly due to a large and polarized election, it left lasting consequences that marketers have worked to move past. The introduction of fake news left a taste of skepticism in the mouths of consumers, with one study showing that more than 58 percent of people associate online advertising with it, and another revealing a drop in public trust in 2018.

In an industry that depends on building trust with consumers, this classifies as a crisis for marketers. Not to fear though. I’m one for lists, as you saw above, so I made one for the ways marketers can rebuild and maintain trust:

  • Stay up to date: Know what’s going on this month, this week, today and how people are responding to news, breaking or otherwise. If you stay ahead of the curve, you can self-correct or change tactics before it’s too late.
  • Personalize your content: Consumers supply companies with an endless stream of information on a daily basis. Using that information to personalize advertisements and other content shows consumers that you, as a company, are listening and want their experience to be the best it can.
  • Be transparent: Be honest about your products or services. Tricking consumers into purchases will only diminish their trust in your company and its brand.
  • Ask the customer base what they think: Give supporters, followers and customers a chance to voice any questions, comments or concerns. They will feel heard, and you will get some important insights.

The industry is working through this rough patch, but changing perceptions and generating positive feedback is what we do. Consumers trust ebbs and flows, but following these best practices is sure to keep it flowing. But then again, 2020 is only 8 months away. Will fake news make a comeback?

Elle Glatz is a PR & social media coordinator at MCC. Her responsibilities include creating social media plans, securing media opportunities and developing press releases for MCC and its clients. Elle received her bachelor of science degree in public relations from The University of Texas at Austin. When she’s not training to become a communications guru, you can find Elle at the nearest movie theater with an ICEE in hand or eating at any restaurant with “taco” in its name.

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