‘Fake news’ – literally meaning untrue stories masquerading as news – hasn’t officially been a thing for very long. It feels like it’s really just the past couple of years that the term has been bandied around in earnest, and that’s in response to a proliferation in these false stories circulated quickly and widely on social media.
But fake news has always been a problem, well before formal news outlets and social media were invented – basically since people learned how to lie, gossip and deceive. The reason it has become more of an issue today is due to the sheer number of publishers and platforms that the Internet has enabled. For every untrue article that is removed, or website shut down, more pop up to take their place. And this fake news spreads quicker and is seen by more people than it ever would have before.
This in turn creates a surprising challenge for businesses. In his Post-Truth Survival Kit, fake news expert David Patrikarakos advises people to “mistrust the mob” and to only read content from trusted news sources.
With people becoming more wary of the veracity of the online content they’re digesting, businesses have to work harder to authenticate their content and prove their trustworthiness.
On the other hand, businesses that can prove that their content is trustworthy have more of an edge over their competitors than ever, because having a reputation for providing honest and trustworthy information is harder to prove and even more important now than it might have been a few years ago. Furthermore, Google and other search engines and social media outlets have doubled down on policing false information and misleading content in order to better serve their users. So distancing yourself from false or misleading content will protect you and keep your content live online.
Ready to use fake news to your reputational advantage? Here are a few dos and don’ts…
- Earn your audience’s trust over time by steadily and consistently producing high quality content. This means planning, researching, and where possible supporting with expert opinion.
- Distance yourself from unreliable information by ensuring your article is supported by trustworthy sources. Build upon this by assiduously referencing your content and providing links to all the sources so that your readers can see for themselves that the content is reliable.
- Proofread thoroughly: spell check, grammar check, fact check and dot and cross each i and t. Read here about how to speed up this time-consuming but essential step in copywriting.
- Churn out lightweight list articles – this is more commensurate with bitty entertainment sites than serious content sources, and will ring alarm bells for many over-saturated readers.
- Use clickbait titles. Users are getting more clued up about signs to look out for fake news, and one such warning sign is clickbaity headlines, like those that begin: ‘Click to reveal…’ or ‘You’ll never believe…’ Ensure every heading is informative and true. Click here for more tips on headline writing.
- Write about topics you can’t back up with solid facts – you should especially avoid salacious or legally contentious material (for example a story about a competitor who ‘got it wrong’) – even if you’re using it as a springboard to promote better practice.
Distancing yourself from fake news: Next steps
Plan your content calendar for the year, making sure each idea can be supported by 2-3 reliable sources. When it comes to writing, be clear and concise with no room for misunderstanding. And finally, reference, reference, reference.Find out how to use #fakenews to your business's advantage Click To Tweet