A Rumor Can Ruin Your Brand: New Report Urges Prepare Now for Misinformation Crisis

Cision’s new report, “PR in the Age of Misinformation,” is a call to immediate preparation for the consequences of potential future adverse events. It dives into the risk and fallout of misinformation in our digitally connected, technology-enhanced, instantly viral world, along with planning to prepare for, navigate, and, if necessary, manage a worst-case scenario.

Preparation involves great detail — and a concerted and continuing effort — including knowing the risks, nurturing the playing field, being vigilant, and being ready to respond.

The report defines misinformation as “false or inaccurate information that can spread and mislead audiences and consumers.” It can include clickbait (designed to draw engagements), conspiracy theories (grand but evidence-lacking explanations), deep fakes and AI (fake-generated images, videos, audio, etc.), and fake news (intentional misleading or hoax information).

Of interest: 56% of a Reuters Institute/University of Oxford study said, “They were worried about identifying the difference between what is real and fake on the internet when it comes to news.”

More chilling: False news can spread up to six times faster than accurate news, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Who’s at risk? Companies and brands of all sizes, business leaders, and private individuals. No one is immune to the risk and impact of misinformation.

Cision advises a four-step program to “battle” misinformation, beginning with building and maintaining a solid and trusted brand image. Such a program not only provides direct and immediate benefits for a company’s reputation and messaging but also provides a foundation to help shore up against the effects of possible damaging misinformation.

Consistent (always-on) attentive monitoring/listening, storytelling, and engagement strengthen audience relationships. Then, if (when) a crisis does strike, use authenticity to combat the misinformation messaged by internal leaders, employees, and trusted third-party resources.

Step 4 is readiness, the creation, and ongoing to-keep-current management of a formal crisis communications plan, including team, channels, and resources.

TW’s Take:

“A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts on its shoes,” as Mark Twain often gets the credit for stating — and did so well before the Internet and social media. Today, we can measure the travel — and swiftness of impact — in the speed of electrons.

In essence, brand reputation that may take a generation to earn can take moments to destroy.

Battling misinformation requires continuous brand building, media channel listening, and complete and ready crisis communication planning. Either cannot succeed independently, and neither can be implemented in real-time. Both must be ongoing, invested, enterprise-level undertakings that benefit the current and future health of one’s brand.

Download a copy of the Cision report at PR in the Age of Misinformation.