Build Trust: Avoid Fake News, 27th November 2018


Sophie Broom, corporate affairs and campaigns manager at RSA Group kicked off this event on 27 November 2018 with two startling facts:

  • 6 in 10 links get retweeted without the sharer having read beyond the summation
  • People believe fake news at least 20% of the time

But wait a minute…what’s the source and is it source credible? 

Is the purpose propaganda and has a ‘clickbait’ headline been used? Fake news sites don’t always look flashy – they’re after clicks and that can generate advertising revenue.

And are the facts being reported by other credible sources.  Just because the story might be trending, doesn’t mean it is true.

These are just a few questions we should ask ourselves before sharing stories and information we find online, said Sophie.

Will Moy, director at Full Fact said a lot off the research into misinformation is ‘rubbish’ but did cite the Reuters Institute for Journalism as one useful source into the issue of fake news.

Both Will, and Sophie agreed that we live in an era where it is hard to escape made up stories.  Fake news writer, Christopher Blair, makes a living from it and describes what he does as an ‘art form’.  The authors of such made up stories often cover themselves legally by using disclaimers on their sites.

What can organisations do to avoid sharing stories as part of their social media public relations activities.  Sophie offered these tips:

  • If the headline is too good/too bad to be true, it probably is
  • Check the source and beware that fake sources often mimic trusted news sources by hijacking icons such as the BBC News icon
  • Read beyond the summation
  • Use a website such as Snopes or Red Pen to help you understand the accuracy of a news story
  • When issuing your own news stories, check that they won’t get mistaken for another (possibly fake one) by searching your keywords to find out what else is out there
  • Set up Google alert so that you can see what people are saying about your news story/related topic
  • If media report any inaccuracies, ask them to correct the disinformation before the story is spread.

Lucy Cording, Director of Digital Engagement at Kekst CNC Communications says that crisis preparedness is widening to include issues around social media manipulation.

She gave a summary of some of the changes that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have made to protect themselves from criticism regarding the spread of false stories and has this advice for public relations:

  • To protect what you put out on social from being criticised, keep your organisation’s social media guidance updated
  • Look at the guidance companies like Facebook are giving their users (the advice on use of photographs and tone of jokes/irony) as this can be helpful.

‘Seeing is believing’ came to mind when Will Moy reminded us all the dilemma that Heineken found itself in back in 2012 when it was accused of sponsoring a dog fight event. The cause?  A photograph that was shared on Facebook showing a dog fight that took place in a nightclub in Mongolia with Heineken branded banners lining the fighting ring.  Was the picture genuine?  Yes. Was it photoshopped?  No. So, the story must be true? No.

A check with Snopes explains the cause – the management forgot to take down the banners at the end of the promotional event, so the branded banners were still there the next day when the dog fight took place.

Will Moy, director of Full Fact Will believes ‘misinformation damages your (organisation’s) wealth’ and this can be seen by crisis that develop by the spread of inaccurate information.

OFCOM’s News Consumption in The UK Report 2018 shows that TV is still the most used platform for news today by UK adults (79%) yet the proliferation of channels of information in a fake news era means that many people are starting to distrust everything.  Will said that the dilemma for public relations professionals is how to get people to trust things that deserve to be trusted when they are starting to distrust everything.

Will offered these tips:

  • Pre-empt disinformation by getting your own high-quality information out first because once people’s beliefs have been set by fake news, it is harder for the organisation to change those beliefs
  • Rebut quickly, clearly, simply, consistently – and persistently.
  • If you can’t rebut or if the rebuts aren’t being effective, then take the conversation on e.g. with a new story using new research or story angle

A special thanks to speakers:

Sophie Broom, corporate affairs and campaigns manager at RSA Group @rsagroup

Sophie was named as one of PR Week’s ’30 under 30’ PR professionals to watch and is chair of the CIPR Marcomms Group.  RSA is a multinational quoted insurance group which operates consumer brand More Th>n in the UK.


Lucy Cording, director of Digital Engagement at Kekst CNC Communications. @LucyCording

Lucy has headed up digital engagement at CNC Communications since 2016 and works across the company’s client portfolio.


Will Moy, director at Full Fact. @FullFact

Will is a Marketing Academy scholar who appears regularly on TV, radio and at events to discuss Full Fact’s work and factchecks, as well as giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry and select committee inquiries.  He has been director at Full Fact since 2010, fact checking information through three

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