4 steps to protect your organization from misinformation

The changing landscape for communications pros has many looking to shore up reputations and combat fake news. Here’s how to quench an online firestorm and safeguard your business.

The social media wave of misinformation has become a tsunami. How is your organization preparing?

M.I.T. researchers found that false information is 70 percent more likely than accurate news or information to be shared on Twitter. Those doing that sharing are human beings—not digital bots—looking to gain attention for themselves.

The same disturbing human-driven phenomenon is occurring on other social media platforms, including Facebook, where the most Americans consume some or all of their news and information.

Moreover, such false information often saturates topical online search engine results about individuals and organizations as it gains momentum through online sharing. As a result, individual leaders, businesses or organizations can see their reputations damaged, and even devastated.

The crucial remedy is quashing such misinformation before it gains momentum. Here are four proactive steps to shield your organization before falsehoods or rumors circulate widely:

  1. Know what’s out there. Stamping out misinformation before it goes viral requires early notice and the ability to respond swiftly. Organizations seeking to protect their brand image should set up an online monitoring program. It should be guided by the findings of a thorough analysis of the traditional and digital ecosystem where executive leaders and their organizations circulate or are discussed regularly.
  2. Have the facts at hand. Prepare and get approval of issue-based fact sheets on common rumors and potential falsehoods that could circulate about your business. Transparency can help protect your organization against falsehoods. FAQs or rumor/counterpoint lists can immunize the organization online from falsehoods, as well as forming the basis of any rapid response on social media and other online channels.
  3. Have a crisis plan and a messaging process in place. Prepare a communications protocol and a rumor/falsehood response review and approval process before anything surfaces. This will allow for a proper and timely response if and when the time comes.
  4. Identify your allies. Maintain a continually updated list of respected allies and supporters (employees, customers, suppliers, partners, influencers, etc.) should you need them to help counter rumors or falsehoods. Third-party supporters can be seen as more trusted messengers than leaders or other representatives of the organization under fire.

Clinton Riley is a vice president with JConnelly, a communications and PR firm based in New York. A version of this post originally appeared on the JConnelly blog.

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