Are there compliance/regulatory concerns companies need to be aware of when crafting a response to fake news?
chief executive, Epic PR Group: “If a company provides credibility for the fake news story by responding to the claims as fact before checking the validity of the news, it could be held liable for any positive or negative implications that come from the piece related to the company's stock price. Consult an attorney before releasing any statement to get ahead of the potential regulatory issues and stay out of trouble. If in fact the story is false or exaggerated the correspondence with your attorney can help you in the court of public opinion. Also, using a corporate social channel to state that the news source reporting the disinformation is ‘questionable’ will prompt your audience to further investigate the claims.”
Hugh Braithwaite, chief executive, Braithwaite Communications: “Many times the most effective defense of a fake news post requires specific details about a company’s products, ownership or relationships with other companies, countries or competitors. Those exact details may be a violation of certain contract terms or even regulations. The rule of thumb is to ask legal to bless any material statements, regardless of their use.”
Meredith L. Eaton, vice president, March Communications: “Companies should always be mindful of any compliance or regulatory concerns when responding to a fake news story. Any response needs to adhere to their industry’s guidelines and ensure things like customer data or privileged information remains protected. Extra care should be taken so companies don’t appear to be legitimizing fake news, especially news that might affect shareholder value or public perceptions.”
Does the source of the fake story or social media post determine the type of response? Is there a difference in how a firm responds to a politician making false claims? Does the response change if fake stories are part of a more coordinated campaign?
Leonard J. Ponzi, managing partner U.S.,
ReputationInc.: “Fakers are creating fake sites or managing to get fake news on legitimate sites. We need to educate news consumers to assess the legitimacy of information. Many news consumers know to look at the URL to get some sense of how reputable the source. At quick glance, your favorite news site’s URL appears correct--a trusted source--however on a closer review you see that it is spelled slightly different or an extra ‘.co’ is added at the end. If fake news manages to get on a legitimate high-profile site, your company should engage. A politician will likely have more visibility among your stakeholders and perhaps a wider net of influence that might have an impact. You need to respond to these to individuals differently. A coordinated campaign of fake news stories requires a coordinated set of responses that are linked to your company’s core narrative. Drive positive and accurate messages tied to your corporate story to defend your reputation.”
Mr. Braithwaite: "With so many credible-sounding news outlets, the source of the post is not as important as one would think. While people in the know may dismiss a ‘fake’ source, the public may not be as savvy, so a deeper assessment on the perceived credibility is wise. The real challenge is dissecting the fake news from the real campaign. The go-to response strategy is to call these fake components out without repeating the negative. Saying that ‘we don’t pump up our elephants with steroids to make them look healthier’ only adds more weight and life to that fake component. The best strategy is to frame your response against the highest-level issue. There is a saying in crisis communications: ‘When you’re defending, you’re losing.’ That is also true in fake news.”
Ms. Eaton: “Fake stories originating from sources like The Onion, that are clearly satirical, likely don’t warrant a response unless they catch on so much that the origination is lost. That's a growing concern in today’s social media climate since fake news on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms is very hard to contextualize. The more influential the person or group that’s making the false claim, the more credibility the response requires. Responses should still remain transparent, truthful and consistent, but perhaps also include an element of proof or documentation to refute the false accusations. A coordinated fake news campaign needs a coordinated response campaign in turn. For every medium the fake story hits, a response needs to follow that sticks to a calm, fact-based narrative without getting emotional or inciting a back-and-forth debate. Responses to coordinated campaigns may also need to go higher and broader, stretching to broadcast media and even paid strategies.”
Ms. Cehrs: “If it is a right-wing or left-wing news outlet with a clear agenda and slant, it may not be worth responding if you know the position you take will be taken out of context or manipulated. Retell the story in your own words with a corresponding media blitz on outlets that have a balanced approach to reporting. Have a public relations strategy ready to address follow-up questions and sensitivities that may arise.
“Companies that may be challenged by politicians must understand if they respond too strongly they will possibly create a bipartisan relationship with their stakeholders, which may negatively impact brand perceptions. Companies that have a corporate social responsibility position in place tend to do better in these situations than their middle-ground counterparts because their audience will anticipate their response--and that will in turn create more loyalty. The strongest bond you can build with customers is shared values, especially related to politics. For many companies, 2017 might be the year that forces brands to create a clear line in the sand related to what they stand for and believe in.”
Write to Ben DiPietro at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @BenDiPietro1.
Source : https://blogs.wsj.com/riskandcompliance/2017/01/20/caution-required-when-responding-to-fake-news/1041