Public Relations & The Rise Of Fake News

The communication landscape has fragmented.

There is no doubt the online world has transformed the ways in which we interact, process and share knowledge.

Digital Disruption

Social media channels are the key driver of change in this shift. They are powerful tools in allowing information to be distributed at light speed – faster than any traditional print or broadcast media outlets.

Increasingly, however, this sharing of information has become as disruptive as it once was opportunistic.

Anyone with a smartphone is now able to contribute to knowledge online. Snaps, tweets and posts go viral via digital disruption if they are provoking enough and fabrication of stories to increase readership and manipulate influence is far from uncommon.

Citizen Journalism

Experience in this way becomes perception, and perception – ‘truth’. This gives rise to all sorts of implications such as ‘fake news’.

So, in a world where real-time online posting has become a platform for ‘citizen journalism’, and content is no longer being created and curated by the media who have editorial guidelines and ethical policies – can this content truly be seen as credible?

Sensationalism vs. Sole influence

Many people talk about the anti-establishment sentiment, which of course given the results of Brexit and Trump’s victory, have naturally instilled; mass hysteria, growing anxieties, security panic,
cultural fears and a depletion of confidence amongst the electorate. The major world economies are pessimistic about their long-term economic future.

With this said – it is fascinating that the outcome of Brexit and the US election was unexpected. The latter of which involved US voters ignoring the warnings about electing Trump in respected media such as; The New York Times,  Washington Post and The Economist. Top tier media no longer has the sole influence and clout that it used to – a direct result of this fragmented communication landscape.
Studies show that ‘fake news’ was gaining significantly higher traction and record sharing stats in comparison to legitimate coverage – perhaps due to its exciting and sensationalised nature. They also suggest that the US election result was influenced by a widespread belief in fake news among Trump supporters.

What Does This Mean For PR?

In this perpetually evolving collaborative realm of engagement, it will be fascinating to see how we are going to get past this as public relations professionals. Being inundated with ‘fake news’ leads to bad decision-making for everyone; from the electorate to global business leaders.

Ensuring that our clients are accurately heard amidst the saturated overload of information is our job. We authenticate sources, stories and read beyond the headlines so that the coverage we
achieve provides a platform of integrity in shaping public opinion and building long-term brand equity.