“Russia is fake news”
We all know who said this…even if you don’t know who said this you KNOW who said it.
So while I did cover the alternative facts aspect of the BS that continues to spew from the Orange House and administration, I would be remiss if I didn’t cover the fake news epidemic. And just in time for Annenberg’s 27th Annual Kenneth Owler Symposium: The Future of Truth.
While you were at home watching the results of Shonda Rhimes making the ridiculous decision to make a whole episode of Scandal without Olivia Pope,
A medium sized group of Public Relations professionals and students gathered in the auditorium of the Wallis Annenberg Auditorium to hear thoughts from some of the leaders in Public Relations on the epidemic of fake news, the 2017 Global Communication Report, and the blurred lines between paid/earned content.
The panelists, speakers and everyone involved with putting together this report are highly esteemed and intelligent in the area of Communications and are in the top ranks of the P.R. industry.
Keynote: Paul Holmes — Founder and Chair, Holmes Report
Moderator: Fred Cook — Professor of Professional Practice and Director of the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations
Julie Sugishita, Corporate Communications Manager, Oracle
Matthew Harrington, Global Chief Operating Officer, Edelman
Ellen Ryan Mardiks, Vice Chairman, Golin
Matt Furman, Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer at Best Buy
Irene Bischofberger, USC Graduate Student & Intern at BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP
The irony that this symposium was named “The Future of Truth” was brought to our attention immediately as Holmes proceeded to apologize for his mere presence. He informed us that the original speaker was supposed to be former White House press secretary and current McDonald’s Chief Communications Officer Robert Gibbs was entangled in a predicament because of fake news. Apparently Gibbs has no other responsibilities as a CCO other than to attack Trump’s tiny hands on Twitter….
Holmes addresses some concerns that many PR practitioners have when it comes to making fake news something to actively fight against, with the main one being that there is a long history of fake news and has always been around. What’s changed? He claims that one thing that has changed with the times is the rise of social media that leads to an epistemic closure, leaving people to only listen to their own bubbles of news and opinions. The second thing is the breach of credibility within the media channels that PR professionals use to get their content seen. This, in part, has led to a diminished need for the content/messages to get a lot of reach and an increase in the need for credibility. This massive change in the information landscape brought Holmes to give a 7 point plan to battle fake news.
- Have a carefully calibrated and strategical plan for when fake news happens.
- As an industry, support initiatives within social media realm that are designed to tackle and diminish the importance of fake news.
- Unite. The entire Public Relations industry needs to come together and take a stand against deception.
- Start promoting media literacy. Get into high schools and colleges and give them tools to process and separate untrue information from factual information.
- Instill in people real critical thinking skills. I mean 40% of Americans believed Donald Trump when he said that 5 million people voted illegally. Come on.
- Start studying and appreciating scientific literacy, but most importantly encourage regular citizens to develop their scientific literacy skills as well. It is not okay to pretend that 97% of scientists have confirmed that climate change is real just to increase your bottom line.
- Commit to intellectual honesty.
What it all seemed to boil down to was credibility. Whether they discussed how Public Relations professionals are seen as “spin doctors”, the ethics of consumers not knowing the difference between whether content was paid for or earned, or how media channels have lost trust among Americans. All the panelists had different views on the issue of credibility in its many forms and how it will affect the PR industry. On one end there was Matt Furman who thinks that “the rise of fake news will create an immense need for more Public Relations specialists that are able to handle crises.” On the other end there was Julie Sugishita from Oracle who believes that “transparency is important and customers need to know when a message is coming from a corporation,” when it comes to consumers knowing the difference between paid and earned content. As Paul hammered home multiple times, it is important for the entire PR industry to come together as a unified front and fight for the truth.