Last week in our #FAKENEWS series, we talked about how fake news started and where it came from.
In the last part of our 3-part series, we are sharing some tips and tricks about how you and your business can avoid falling victim of fake news.
Whether we know it or not, we encounter fake news every day. So what can you do to prevent it?
Deciphering fake news from real news
It’s important to understand the signs of a fake news article. Here are some tips and tricks to deciphering the real from the fake:
- Use a fact checker such as FactCheck.org or Snopes.com. These fact checking sites debunk false stories.
- Get inside the head of a real journalist by reading the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Ethics Guidelines. Once you understand how they operate and why, you’ll be able to develop a critical lens and see signs of real news amongst the crowd of fake news.
- Keep an eye out for the “Sponsored Content” banner. Some news outlets offer a premium area on their website for purchase. While sponsored content is usually harmless, anyone can buy those slots.
- Think about the validity of the news outlet. Check the URL to ensure it’s authentic and not a fake news source that’s spelled in a similar way.
- Read beyond the headline. Check for any holes in the story using a critical eye.
- Click on hyperlinks. Ensure they accurately validate the claim they are supporting
- Research the journalist or author of the article. Do a quick Google search to see the history of the writer and to see if the person exists. Don’t be surprised to find fake news cites a fictitious person who has never won a Pulitzer Prize like their bio says.
- Verify sources. Quotes in fake stories may sound legitimate, but research the validity of each source.
- Report fake news articles and websites. Don’t let your friends and family be flooded by fake news.
How businesses can avoid becoming victim of fake news
Fake news has the potential to ruin a business, like the pizza place Comet Ping Pong in #Pizzagate. Avoid a potentially devastating catastrophe by following these guidelines:
- From the beginning, tell your audiences who you are, what you do and what they can expect from you. This will ensure your audiences know it’s really you and not a fake account.
- Highlight your unique selling proposition (USP) and differentiating factors to stand out amongst the weeds. Businesses that have an active online footprint create a transparent history. If an issue arises, readers can verify the facts on your website.
- Know that your audiences are hungry and judge instantaneously. Some people don’t take the time to read content. Rather, they are drawn in by clickbait. Produce honest, high quality content for your audiences. Honestly is always the best policy.
- Do regular Google searches about your company. Finding articles early is the best way to avoid a potentially catastrophic situation.
- Content is being shared rapidly. This means that any edits or corrections made to an article may not be seen by readers. It’s important to keep in mind that being first isn’t as important as being accurate.
- If you let your customers down, they won’t forget and they will tell their friends. Be prepared for this and have a strategy to react to online criticism.
- Remember your audience’s expectation is to read real news. No one sets out to read fake news. Ensure your business has quality authors, writing accurate stories with concrete data.
- Traditionally, reputable news sources include newspapers and broadcasters rather than social media. Keep that in mind when writing a piece that could be controversial if you plan to share it on social media.
- Some readers have a perception that real news is not free, therefore all free news is fake. Create a positive online environment that readers will trust even if your content is free.
- Ensure your employees are trained on your brand. Employees can be the first point of contact and it’s important they know how to respond so that they will represent your businesses’ brand.
- Report fake news articles and websites. Protect everyone online and do your part to ensure real news is circulated.