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How Can We Manage Today’s Media Misinformation Crisis?

This post is brought to you by RockDove, a proud sponsor of PRSA.

Let’s begin with a pop quiz. What is misinformation as it pertains to journalism?

  • a) Deliberately misleading posts on Facebook.
  • b) Newspapers getting the facts of a story wrong.
  • c) Anything a public figure does not like that a rival or the media said.
  • d) Anything a public figure does not like that they themselves said the day before.
  • e) Newspaper’s choice of a news story, even if the facts are correct.
  • f) All of the above.

Astonishingly, the answer is: f) All of the above. This speaks to one of the new rules of crisis management in the digital age.

We have to understand the changing role of the media in a time when people question the validity of the news if it doesn’t support their own beliefs. A study from Monmouth University earlier this year provided an insight into this idea: Just 25 percent of respondents said that fake news only applies to stories where the facts are wrong, while 65 percent said that it also applies to how news outlets make editorial decisions about what they choose to report.

This lack of trust in mainstream news sources is a crisis that communicators can help control. In “The New Rules of Crisis Management,” an e-book on best practices authored by crisis specialists and published by RockDove Solutions’ crisis management platform — In Case of Crisis — Ketchum executive James Donnelly offers three response strategies:

  1. Keep monitoring the truth. Today, lies travel at the speed of light. Organizations must maintain strong monitoring and analysis systems that funnel to the central crisis management team as fast as possible. Myths and misunderstandings that damage your central crisis response strategies and goals should be flagged, and actions to correct those narratives should launch as soon as possible.
  2. Maintain your allies. When the talking heads strike, it can be very helpful for an organization to ask its third-party allies to engage with media to help tell the other side of the story. This requires ample preplanning and ongoing engagement to make sure that credible third parties are updated on key topics in advance of a crisis flashpoint. For example, some companies have baked a “relationship matrix” straight into their crisis plans, with scheduled assignments for internal contacts to reach out to these allies at least once a year on a variety of subjects.
  3. Ensure your message remains consistent across all channels. It is not advisable to say one thing to the media and say something different through your social media page, internal communications messages or customer care channels. The words may change, but the core sentiment must consistently reflect the organization’s values, mission and resolve to address this crisis.

Chris Britton is COO of RockDove Solutions, based in Sterling, Va.

Download your free copy of “The New Rules of Crisis Management” here.

Find out more about the award-winning digital crisis management platform, “In Case of Crisis,” at the RockDove website.

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