Report: More than half of PR pros are willing to create fake news

A Bospar study revealed that the majority of communicators shun unethical behaviors such as lying, cheating and stealing, but many are willing to write click-bait headlines and tell white lies.

PR pros tout truth and transparency for their organizations and clients, but more than a quarter of them will use dishonest measures to achieve their goals.

A survey of PR pros by Bospar and Propeller Insights revealed that the majority of PR pros (roughly 75 percent) believe that cheating, lying, stealing and taking credit for other people’s work are dishonorable actions. Nearly the same amount (72 percent) said that creating “fake news” is wrong.

However, 28 percent of PR pros are willing to manufacture news if push comes to shove.

In addition, more PR pros are willing to potentially cross an ethical line when it comes to particular elements of fake news: More than half are willing to tell white lies (54 percent) or use click-bait headlines (55 percent). Fifty-one percent don’t think it’s wrong to sensationalize news that is otherwise dry or boring.

This mindset can cast PR pros in a negative light and further erode relationships between consumers and brand managers—as well as PR pros and reporters.

Cision released its 2018 State of the Media report in April, which revealed that fake news is one of journalists’ top concerns. Fifty-six percent of reporters said that fake news is making readers more skeptical about the content they read.

The majority (71 percent) also said they thought readers have lost trust in members of the news media over the last year, largely because of skepticism over fake news.

“The profession has never been under such stressful times,” Cision’s chief executive, Kevin Akeroyd, said.“…[B]rands and journalists must work together to tell engaging, credible and accurate stories that will resonate with the public and continue to help regain trust.”

PR pros’ responsibility encompasses more than just not telling lies or stopping the tactic of sensationalizing news.

Katie Kern, marketing and PR vice president for Media Frenzy Global, wrote in a blog post that communicators must be diligent in watching news stories and correcting false information:

Because misinformation can spread quickly on the web, it’s essential that PR use media monitoring services that can send real-time alerts, media experts say. Because of the viral nature of social media, PR must be quick in correcting misinformation when it appears.

Tabitha Jean Naylor, founder of SuccessfulStartup101.com, wrote in a Business 2 Community article that PR pros must make trust a priority—and to accomplish that aim, many should embrace influencer relations.

Naylor wrote:

… [Y]our PR strategy must incorporate influencers within your market who have already established a high level of trust and credibility within your target market.

Influencers can help you fight the scourge of fake news, because they have spent years gaining the expertise and authority that consumers find valuable.

And they are also a trusted secondary source that shares your company’s vision, which can go a long way toward mitigating the distrust consumers feel about a lot of content they read.

Gini Dietrich, founder and chief executive of Arment Dietrich, also said that building a strong community around your organization can help you defend your brand against fake news—especially when a crisis hits.

However, none of these proactive measures will help PR pros who ultimately resort to spreading false information to reach their goals.

“The best PR people will ensure their clients get coverage that supports their business objectives, and that includes securing stories that won’t explode later due to a serious ethics violation,” said Curtis Sparrer, a principal of Bospar.

What do you think of Bospar’s report, PR Daily readers?

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