Marketers: how to avoid fake news in your content strategy

Beyonce will play Nala in a remake of The Lion King, an Asda store in Greater Manchester was forced to ban sales of kiwi fruits to under-25s ahead of a Harry Styles gig and the Duke of Edinburgh is to feature in an episode of Desert Island Discs – one of these statements is ‘fake news’ from a deceptive satire site, while the other two are true. But can you spot which?

Fake news is now such a huge issue that the term has just been named the Word of the Year by the makers of the Collins Dictionary. The concept is a problem for everyone from President of the United States Donald Trump to the average person reading online content, but arguably most of all to marketers.

For content marketers especially, falling into the trap of fake news can cause potentially irreversible damage to a brand’s reputation. Here, we take a look at exactly what all the fuss is about and how marketers can avoid fake news in their content strategies.

And by the way, Prince Philip will sadly not be appearing on Desert Island Discs – that one came courtesy of The Daily Mash – but in recent weeks, it has been confirmed that Beyonce will be in The Lion King live action remake, while Harry Styles has actually had his personal safety put at risk by rogue onstage kiwi fruits.

What exactly is fake news?

Collins defines fake news as: “False, often sensational information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.”

Basically, it’s something that appears to be news and is being reported as such, but isn’t actually true.

Sites like The Daily Mash and The Onion have long been publishing satirical news stories, which are often shared widely across social media channels. Some fall for these stories, believing them to be real as they fail to check where they are from before commenting or reposting them – something that can be hugely damaging to brands.

However, the term has taken on a more serious meaning recently, fuelled partly by President Trump’s frequent use of the phrase when referring to news stories about himself that he does not agree with. In some cases, these are opinion pieces or stories that he is trying to deny, which creates something of a minefield for journalists and content marketers who are trying to report on events factually.

So, how can marketers figure out what is and isn’t fake news in order to protect their brands’ reputations?

How to work out what is fake news

Reactive content that responds to a news event is a great way for brands to boost their engagement levels, but content producers need to make sure what they are responding to is not fake news.

If you create a post in response to something that was meant to be satire and you haven’t realised, your brand will end up looking a little daft, as well as unprofessional and as though it doesn’t have a hold on its marketing department.

Always check where a news story has come from. A tweet that doesn’t seem in keeping with someone’s usual posts could be the result of a hack. Words that don’t seem as though they would come out of someone’s mouth could be quoted from someone else. A headline may be from a site that specialises in ‘fake news’ that’s trying to cleverly disguise this fact.

It only takes a moment to Google where facts have come from and search for the original article source. It’s much more wise for a brand to spend time doing this than on wasting money and other resources creating reactive content to ‘fake news’.

 Source: The Guardian, The Daily Mash, The Sun, Bilboard

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