How your crisis plan can help combat Fake News

fake vs fact

You know what Fake News is, right?

It’s all those made-up stories on Facebook and social media that are designed to make people, political parties or companies look bad.

Politicians have also been known to create or, at least repeat, “facts” that are anything but true (while decrying ‘fake news’ from other sources simply because it makes them look bad).

Sometimes these fake news items even get picked up and repeated by the mainstream media. A study found that the Reuters news agency has in the past been a significant distributor of fake news generated by Russian sources.

You are wrong.

Or at least, partly wrong.

A fascinating study from Monmouth University earlier this year revealed the term ‘fake news’ is a more complex issue that merely politicians or countries spreading whoppers to make their opponents look bad.

Just 25% of respondents said that ‘fake news’ applies ONLY to stories where the facts are wrong.

A huge 65% said that it also applies to how news outlets make editorial decisions about what they choose to report.

Think about that for a moment.

That news item in the New York Times could be 100% factually correct.

But many people will still say it is fake news because the newspaper chose to run that story – as opposed to others that were available to be reported on that or other topics.


This speaks to one of the themes in our recently published ebook, ‘The New Rules of Crisis Management, about the decline in credibility of the mainstream media and how it is no longer effective in holding organizations under scrutiny.

In that Monmouth study, more than 3-in-4 Americans says they believe the mainstream media reports fake news.

So how on earth can a crisis plan anticipate and provide resources to combat ‘fake news’ when it affects our own organizations?

In ‘The New Rules of Crisis Management’, experienced crisis expert James Donnelly of the global agency Ketchum, suggests three areas of focus:

  • Validating “truth and facts” have become more urgent.  Today, lies travel at lightspeed.  Organizations must maintain strong monitoring and analysis systems that funnel to the central crisis management team as fast as possible.   Myths, misunderstandings and fake news examples that damage your central crisis response strategies and goals should be flagged and actions to correct those narratives should launch as soon as possible.  
  • Having allies has never been more critical.   When the talking-heads strike, it can be very helpful for an organization to ask its third-party allies to engage with media to help tell the other side of the story.  This requires ample pre-planning and ongoing engagement to make sure that credible third-parties are updated on key topics in advance of a crisis flashpoint. For example, some companies have baked a “relationship matrix” straight into their crisis plans, with scheduled assignments for internal contacts to reach out to these allies at least once a year on a variety of subjects.
  • Maintaining message consistency across all channels is important.  Today’s media and public will scrutinize closely if you say one thing to media and say something a little different through your social media page, your internal communications to employees, your customer care channels, etc.   The words may change, but the core sentiment must consistently reflect the organization’s values, mission and resolve to address this crisis.