Internet usage continues to rise globally. Many publications want to take advantage of this by fighting to build traffic and thereby increasing their revenue. Catchy headlines seem to work wonders but some resort to fake news as the battle for likes, shares and retweets intensifies. In light of this, brands need to be vigilant with their media management so as to eradicate the adverse effects that fake news can have on their business. Recently we saw WhatsApp taking strides to curb the spread of fake news. Let us look at some of the ways that your business can use to avoid the spread of fake news.
Own your social media handles
Social media has the potential to spread news to billions of people in a matter of seconds. Imagine if that news is fake. This may damage your brand in no time. Brands, no matter how small, should have their own social media pages. You can use your pages to post key updates so that your customers are not misled. When Simbisa Brands started charging in US dollars at Chicken Inn and their other operations, they communicated via Facebook and Twitter explaining why they had made this decision. That way, they avoided a lot of speculation that would have spread because this move was a largely unpopular one. There is no better way of getting the information than from the horse’s mouth and your Twitter handle or Facebook page may be just what you need to talk to your customers.
Nowadays, anyone can just create some content and purport to have received it from your company. One way of dealing with this is to use company letterheads whenever you communicate. If your letterheads are managed well, access to them is restricted to authorised personnel and chances of their abuse are slim. Although some criminals are able to create fake letterheads, this can be dealt with if you post all communication via your pages. Some companies go as far as using certain fonts on their official communication. This is also helpful in curbing the spread of fake news.
Another way of minimising the proliferation of fake news is to ensure that you communicate clearly. Your brand should have set lines of communication where certain individuals are authorised to make statements on behalf of the company. The larger corporates actually employ communications teams to handle their communication expertly. This ensures communication is consistent and unambiguous. Your customers need to understand what you are saying at all times. Recently, we have seen the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) posting regular updates to their members who are on strike. This is probably because a lot of fake news surrounds their negotiations with government. This is a commendable way to handle their business as fake news may taint their image.
Verify your facts
If you are a publication, you need to check your facts before publishing a story. A simple phone call may do the trick. Also, if the company you are reporting on has a website or social media pages, this may be a good place to check the authenticity of a story. By ensuring that you report truthfully, you eliminate chances of being sued or the embarrassment of being forced to publicly retract your story. Loss of credibility may be difficult to repair.
It is advisable to seek legal or other recourse whenever you are a victim of fake news. Prosecution of fake news peddlers will serve as a deterrent to would be offenders. Again, the big companies can afford legal representation, something which smaller businesses may not be able to do. However, if you are small, naming and shaming fake news peddlers may be enough deter them. Law makers need to be able to recommend stiffer penalties for those found guilt of spreading fake news.
While a complete end to fake news is too far-fetched for now, the above ideas can limit its effects on your business. Ultimately, the cost of spreading fake news will increase and many will ditch this avenue. Fake news is undesirable and should be eliminated at all costs.