Earning Trust in the Era of #FakeNews

This past summer, I attended Reuters’ Tomorrow’s News NYC panel, where the discussion centered on fake news, what it means, and how it’s changing the journalism and media landscapes. While I had hoped the topic would be a short-lived phase in the world of communications—it unfortunately doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

In fact, Monmouth University just released findings from their new poll, noting that the percentage of participants who believe fake news reporting happens at least “occasionally” has increased significantly, from 63% last year to 77% this year. So, while the topic of fake news is hardly a new discussion, it seems high time to share some insights I gleaned from both Reuters’ panel and my day-to-day work as a communications professional.

At this point, the term “fake news” means different things to different people. What is agreed upon, however, is that whether it is a sprinkling of misinformation in an article, a completely false report or an apparent editorial bias, it’s hard to determine what news is trustworthy. Luckily, as panelist and publisher at Mic, Cory Haik, pointed out, if you know the process behind how the news is published—it gets much easier.

Unfortunately, many news consumers don’t know this process. So, whether as brands, outlets, communicators or journalists—it’s up to us to prove ourselves as trustworthy. Here’s how:

  1. Be Transparent: With technology more accessible than ever, anyone can publish an online article. Offering readers insight into the world of fact checkers and copy editors helps distinguish your brand and prove your credibility. In other words, give your readers a glimpse into the work that goes behind publishing an article. Readers are much more likely to respect the content if they know it wasn’t posted on a whim.
  2. Become a Voice: While it is critical that you establish yourself (or your brand) as a thought leader to be taken seriously, make it known that you are also an advocate for your readers (or customers). Put yourself in the shoes of your audience—and work hard to represent them. This allegiance will ultimately benefit everyone involved.
  3. Live Your Values: As Christopher Graves, panelist and President of the Ogilvy Center for Behavioral Science, explained, the outlets we read and channels we watch are a part of our identity. Because of this, it’s important to associate (and even consider establishing partnerships) with those who share your brand’s values. Imagine a publishing house partnering with a nonprofit that supports literacy, for example. Proving you can walk the talk will go a long way in establishing credibility.

What’s your best tip for proving a brand trustworthy?

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Mary Barrett

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