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Building a communications strategy in the era of fake news

Fake news – or the reference to articles or stories published with false information that is claiming to be real news — is not a new concept. But while fake news has been around for some time, its recent proliferation has developed at an unprecedented due to the expanding use of technology.

Fake news has the potential to do irreversible damage to people and organisations, which is why government organisations must be extra diligent in ensuring the information they disseminate is credible. Granicus’ recent Digital Engagement Training: Staying Relevant in a World of Fake News (hosted in Washington DC) offered insight into how governments can maintain credible digital communications in the fake news era.

During the training, Vivian Schiller, Global Editor-in-Chief at Weber Shandwick, and Natalie Fedie, Vice President of Customer Success at Granicus, discussed how the fake news trend is affecting government communication departments and what they can do to counter the phenomenon.

How to prepare for fake news

Schiller explained that there are three ways government organisations can best prepare to tackle fake news:

  1. Assess and plan. It is critical that your organisation understands where their audience is getting their news and to audit that landscape. From there you can prioritise and develop mitigation strategies and identify a reputation risk management core group that will be able to counter instances of fake news.
  2. Equip and engage. Schiller recommended a proactive approach to your organisation’s preparations. “Practise training and rehearsing to ensure that your team is ready to engage at speed and plan socialisation before a crisis to align actions and approach key stakeholders across communications, HR, legal and compliance teams”, she said.
  3. Use values to drive decisions. “Your corporate values are the lens for which you should respond to fake news so you have to have a good understanding of them”, Schiller explained. This allows you to maintain an authentic and consistent brand in the face of adversity.

How to build the right digital communications strategy to combat fake news

An effective digital communications strategy is another way that government can work towards mitigating the impact of fake news and ensuring that audiences are engaging with credible content. “While government communicators are not necessarily journalists, you still have the same responsibility of publishing informative content for the public and stakeholders. And to combat fake news, there is nothing more valuable than controlling your message and communicating directly to your audience”, Fedie explained.

To ensure that your message cuts through the clutter of social media channels you need to make sure you are reaching as many people as possible through your digital communications channels – including email and SMS. This starts by leveraging your web properties to acquire subscribers and networking with partner agencies to cross-promote content and accelerate audience growth.

Another benefit to owning your audience and your content is having the ability to measure the quality of your subscribers and effectiveness of your digital communications efforts. Is your audience engaging with your content? Are you converting your call to action into measurable outcomes? What is the value of those outcomes in achieving your organisation’s mission? Developing a solid communications strategy that includes defining outcomes, expanding reach, choosing the right communications channels and content, will guarantee successful engagement campaigns, effectively minimising the impact of fake news.