As a public relations professional, I spend all day either trying to get my clients in the news, or for most, keeping them out. We often think our company or product would make a good news story. It is my job to determine if it is relevant, timely or entertaining enough to pitch to a news outlet or digital influencer.
These days, with newsrooms offering early buyouts or shutting down completely and reporters working on multiple stories at once, while expected to leverage social media to mind sources or post stories first, my job is becoming more challenging.
So all this news about fake news is disturbing. Today I tell every client about the challenges our media faces. If they are serious about getting their message heard, then often times, I will tell them to tell it and share it themselves, over their digital and social media properties. Then, we can refer a reporter to their site for more information or insight on any given issues.
However, for the average viewer and consumer of news, it is becoming more challenging to determine a real story from a fake one. Here is a list of how to figure it all out.
- Determine what is news. Today we are all journalists. You can bypass the traditional media editorial filter to curate your own set of news that fits into your schedule, world view or both. Take a look at the President-elect who’s first address to the nation was on YouTube and not the traditional media.
- Today we choose to get our news in any way we want. Through social media, word of mouth or traditional news outlets. There is no shortage of options, perspectives and view points — and in the end, we choose what to believe. So consider the source and the medium. To determine fact from fiction you have to look at where the story is coming from and who is telling it. There is no filter without the press.
- Everything is social. Just because a story gets shared a thousand times or a video watched over a million times, does not make it real.
- The message still matters. We are still listening and it is important to find a message that creates an emotional impact or in someway connects with the person you are trying to influence.
So what can we do to stop chatting about all this fake news?
- Stay traditional — If it is not being reported on a trusted site or in The New York Times, Detroit News or on Fox 2 news — It’s not news. You can follow sites that you believe in if they are not traditional sites perhaps but just because it might seem believable check the sources and background the person doing the reporting.
- Remain skeptical and ask questions. That is the power and purpose of the press — To hold our leaders accountable and to ask them the difficult questions. Often times, that is what leads to positive policies affecting Americans or sending bad people to pride.
- Know the difference between news and sponsored news and entertainment. Today the lines are blurred so find the line. The FTC is starting to hold advertisers and media companies accountable. But beware of what you are reading or watching. Even a story on Forbes.com or Fortune.com or Inc. or Entrepreneur can be authored by someone who is not a professional journalist.
- Support the media and become their source of information. The media industry is hurting. Newsrooms are laying off good reporters or shutting down. TV networks are changing and we need to do more to help people like you. We need to subscribe to the paper, print or digital, advertise more, share your posts and become a resource on issues where we know you can make a difference.
The world around us is changing. Not necessarily because of an election, but how to use and interact with technology. We need to be smarter, wiser and more connected to the world around us to know fact from fiction. We need to be vigilant and question where our news and information is coming from and who is telling it. Believe what you want but know for every issue there is always more to the story being told or the pictures and video being shared.