Blog : fake news

Fake News!

Fake News!

“We are living in an era of fake news” said a Downing Street spokesman as the UK Government unveiled the new national security communications unit to tackle disinformation.

President Trump announced the Fake News Awards on Twitter, the Pope just denounced “snake tactics” from those who spread fake news, and social media platforms are being threatened with sanctions if they don’t hand over information about misinformation campaigns.

This isn’t an episode of Black Mirror set in a disturbing dystopian future-universe. This is real life in 2018.

During times like this the public needs reliable sources of news more than ever. Major, trusted news outlets remain our bastions of the truth as organisations like the BBC, Press Association and Reuters pour resources into fact-checking and strive to present a balanced, unbiased story.

It will be interesting to see how they fare as Facebook begins piloting new algorithms to prioritise content from publications that people rate as trustworthy. The most trusted sources will rank higher in news feeds to help the truth rise to the top. While there are only tests in the US now, Facebook plans to roll it out internationally in the future.

In Norway, four of the country’s most influential media organisations have already formed a ‘fact-checking collaboration’ called Faktisk. It will manually fact-check Norway’s media and social media, public debates and politicians’ comments before ranking them with a truthfulness rating from one to five. The software is open source, so other media companies can use it too.

Fake news is no longer a joke. Around the world publishers, governments and social media platforms are under increased public scrutiny to address the issue. The race is on to find the best way to spot and flag fake news.

Will the UK Government be the first to crack the code? Only time will tell.

PR in 2018 – Forget a List of Resolutions, This Year is All About The Resolve to Evolve and Authenticity

PR in 2018 – Forget a List of Resolutions, This Year is All About The Resolve to Evolve and Authenticity

New Year’s resolutions often begin with a nod to some wrong-doing. Personally, I don’t think starting with a negative is the best way to encourage a genuine change or action; consequently, I’ve never paid too much attention to NY resolutions.

In the spirit of being different, and in true Yogi fashion, I have looked at two positive intentions for 2018 that will help make the change it brings exciting, filled with opportunities, and jam-packed with unforgettable authentic storytelling.

Intentions for 2018: Resolve to Evolve AND Be Authentic

My nine-year PR career has spanned across London, Dubai, Sydney, and now bounces between Edinburgh and London. It’s been an exciting career in an ever-changing landscape and one thing I have noticed, regardless of country, is that if there is one common feature to be found in the most successful PR professionals and companies, it is adaptability. This year more than ever, we will need to Resolve to Evolve.

The second came more easily. Fake News is no longer a funny line regularly quoted by Trump. Public trust in traditional media fell to an all-time low last year with people increasingly favouring their friends and contacts on the internet as sources of news and truth. Those sources are also being pulled into question and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. Media, influencers, brands – ALL will have the spotlight on them and there won’t be room for mistakes. Transparency and honesty is going to be key and ALL will need to get onboard and Be Authentic.

I have outlined a few touchpoints where these intentions are going to really matter.

Influencers

The term ‘influencer’ isn’t new to your average Joe, let alone any professional working in media. That said, it is an ever-evolving medium of communication and brands are still trying to understand the best ways of sourcing and working with influencers, measuring their value, and understanding where they sit amongst more traditional media platforms. Perhaps more importantly brands are also still trying to understand where the value of micro-influencers lies vs your more traditional celebrities.

Last year saw a huge shift in activity across the globe with influencers becoming prevalent in above the line campaigns for massive corporations including P&G, Diageo, ASOS and Estee Lauder. They are no longer restricted to below the line activity and this trend of dipping into both will no doubt continue to grow if Celebrity Intelligence research stands to be true. But… it will be the will of the people – particularly Gen Z – that truly dictates what happens to influencers this year and we need to prepare to react and move with them at a fast-pace. The one thing that won’t be shifting is the Gen Z demand for authentic ambassadors – influencers who spread themselves too thinly or indulge in unauthentic partnerships for cash will quickly suffer the consequences.

Paid Vs Earned Vs Owned

The lines have been getting blurry with regards to all brand created content and where it sits; perhaps even more importantly and relevant – who makes it! PR agencies are no longer focused on earned content alone, and have slowly over the past two or three years been working our way into producing more content for paid and owned channels. This year will be hotter and more competitive than ever with agencies who used to work to strict specialisations crossing-over into new remits and hiring in a parallel manner.

PR agencies have a pretty strong position in this blurrier landscape because we’ve been story-telling to the biggest cynics for years – journalists. That said, it’s also important to note you don’t want to be the ‘Jack of all Master of none’ – know where your strengths are and work with other specialists’ agencies or professionals when you know they can realistically do the task better! Working with other agencies can also be enjoyable, and beneficial and doesn’t always have to be a competition to show who is best. The most important element is again, creating authentic content that fits in a relevant and holistic way.

Artificial Intelligence

PR professionals will also need to evolve this year with new technology as it arises – everything from virtual reality to augmented reality and artificial intelligence will play a role in how people source, create and share content.

Audiences demand a lot from consumer brands today – more than ever I’d say… look at how hard retailers are having to diversify in store experience to get footfall! One clear route to brand loyalty will be using technology to better understand the consumers’ needs and equally to develop innovative and unique sensorial experiences that take interaction with brands to new levels. I don’t think PR’s will ever be made redundant– thankfully there is no replacement for human creativity and interaction and PR is still about story-telling and evoking emotion. Whether it’s laughter (the new Kiwi police advert) or perhaps that warm fuzzy feeling (the new dancing on ice ad) – until robots can truly make audiences feel and Be Authentic– you’re relatively safe!

Fibs over facts: why is faking it making it?

Fibs over facts: why is faking it making it?

 

Whether in the form of breaking news that pigs really can fly, political manipulation or clean eating ambassadors claiming nutritionist status, fake news is one for us all to watch in 2017.

Often tricky to spot, bogus and bizarre headlines are halting the thumbs of social media scrollers worldwide and feeding us a variety of fibs. From stirring up a finger-wagging frenzy of political scandal to helping websites cash in by luring in traffic with “clickbait”, audiences are becoming all too easy to fool with online content.

Since the Brexit vote last year and most recently the inauguration of the new US President, we are beginning to see the rise of “alternative facts” in our newsfeeds. The press’ purpose is to guide us with quality information and of course to encourage democratic opinion and debate, but when the president’s own media adviser declares war on it, it’s not hard to see how vulnerable audiences are becoming completely suspicious of the media; people want to source and share information that mirrors their own views and beliefs.

So why all the fuss now?

Digital = shareable, and pretty much anyone can be their own author. Recent surveys conducted in the US have found that people are getting their news from social media sites 62% of the time, and 80% of students are unable to identify a real from a fake story. Why bother looking any further for a source when credible-looking headlines can be shared in one click? And to add to that, we as content consumers are doing less and less actual consuming before we share. A study last year found that up to 59% of links aren’t even being clicked on let alone read until the end before sharing in our own feeds.

And it’s not all politics and propaganda – Richard Branson recently learned about his own “passing” from the release of a fake news story which subsequently prompted the creation of an RIP Facebook page. The page cranked up over a million likes, an indication of how unconfirmed news can spread like wildfire. Branson spoke out to the official media to reassure the public that he is not only alive and well, but he is now calling for police intervention on the rise of fake news reporting.

The good news is that the government are now working on establishing an industry-standard definition of the phenomenon, whilst also delving into what platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter can and should do to look out for the not-so-social media-savvy among us. It will be interesting as well as useful to see how the psychology behind it works too, and how online adverts might be adding to what has also been dubbed as an “epidemic”.

PR will be crucial for guiding businesses through the “post-truth” minefield, and as well as the media, we all need to tune in to the evolving sources we get our information from and regain trust in journalism. It’s great that the likes of Facebook have now accepted a level of responsibility for protecting its users from fake news scams with its flagging feature, but I hope that both the media and general public call perpetrators out on their bluff to make sure it doesn’t reach a point where we’re all living in conflicting realities.