The National Press Club’s 2017 Communicators Summit focused on creating and delivering effective content in the era of fake news. The panel “Trust, Truth & Telling Stories” discussed what’s required of journalists, politicians, and organizations to manage credibility and maintain under the current administration. Here are five key discussion takeaways for the PR industry.
- Online news landscapes changed at the cost of consumer trust.
The landscape of web news has changed radically over the past two decades. For the first time, Americans prefer mobile news browsing to desktop. But what does this mean for content creators? Online consumers read everything with skepticism. According to Katerina Matsa, senior researcher at the Pew Research Center, polls show that most Americans think fake news creates confusion.
- Trust is tribal.
Matsa revealed that only five percent of Americans believe social media information is trustworthy. This rate jumps to 95 percent when the same posts have been shared by family or friends. Richard Levick argued that the first step to overcoming tribalism is effective and multidimensional conversation. This means developing content and strategy with several viewpoints in mind, bringing in experts with diverse backgrounds and learning to evaluate information critically.
- This is the information revolution.
Levick explained that how people get their information is not as important as where they share it and the empowerment that comes from their republishing. Past generations were accustomed to operating in an information republic—descending information through key media outlets and members of Congress. Now we are now in a hyper-democracy. To break through the clutter, we need to determine who the key influencers are.
- Accountability fights fake news.
Mark Greenblatt, senior national investigative correspondent at Scripps News Washington Bureau, recommended owning up to mistakes. A policy of honesty and transparency is the only route to repairing trust in the government and media. Levick also claimed that democracy and capitalism require open conversation. We cannot censor journalists for criticizing public officials, but we can scrutinize the credibility of their content.
- Learn to balance privacy and transparency.
All of us will be hacked—it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” Levick advised being thoughtful in all communications, especially strategy development. You may not want your client’s war room solutions to be public information, however, once the truth is established, transparency is imperative.
Looking forward: What can the PR industry do to break the fake news cycle? Firstly, acknowledge that mistakes are not fake news, they are human. If there is an error, own up and move forward. Lastly, teach these same principles of accountability to clients, both in crisis and proactive communications.
This post was co-authored by Emily Seeley, an Intern at LEVICK.