Defending reputation in an age of misinformation: 5 things communicators can do

We all know that social media is a powerful tool for both helping us connect and disseminating information. But here I want to talk about its dark side.

Algorithm-driven fake news. Wild conspiracy theories. Threats to democracy itself. If someone wanted to, they could wreak havoc on your brand without ever having to hack into your corporate network.

Disinformation and misinformation are starting to emerge as a corporate threat – Metro Bank and Wayfair are among those that have recently suffered as a result of such activity. These days, reputation plays out 24-7 across multiple, layered channels.

It’s unlikely that any self-regulation by platforms and legislation from governments will be enough to deal with this threat. So what can communicators do to defend the reputation of their brands?

Here are five places to start.

  1. Use ‘truth storytelling’

As this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer confirmed, many people don’t know where to get reliable information. There’s an opportunity for companies to fill this trust vacuum by publishing engaging stories on their respected accounts. 

Take an honest, transparent approach to corporate activity. And focus on people and real-world impact to craft a consistent flow of storytelling aligned to corporate values. Look at Microsoft, for example, and their open, authentic blogs from president Brad Smith and CEO Satya Nadella.

  1. Build owned content

Don’t build your house on rented land, the old adage goes. By telling your own story first, on your own platforms, you have a better chance of building and then influencing audiences. It’s not just direct outreach that works – the halo effect can amplify content on your own channels, spreading it far beyond those who share your values and beliefs. 

Spread your comms – and risk – across multiple and mixed proprietary channels. And don’t ignore traditional news outlets. They’re great spaces for PR partnerships that chime with your content. So alongside your owned content, continue to support publishers and journalism with stories and promotions.

  1. Be transparent

Transparent organisations are using public-facing digital channels to build trust and engagement with their internal people, many of whom are now working remotely.

More than ever, staff want connection. They got used to engaging with brands meaningfully in their personal lives – now they expect that at work, too. Ensure your messages chime internally and it’s more likely they’ll be shared both within, and outside of, your echo chamber.

  1. Lead from the front

Your senior people must deliver – and even more importantly should embody – coherent value messages delivered with dignity and humility.

Let’s get back to a respectful discourse that embraces honest dialogue – pin your views to your brand and your profile to counter the facelessness that can often be found on social media.

Social media can help the C-suite make that human connection. Take a look at Schneider Electric and its CEO for a case study in living values at every level.

  1. Embrace upskilling

The digital world evolves fast, so communicators need to adapt to keep up. Evaluate your digital maturity and identify any gaps against your strategic comms priorities. Find new techniques, tools and platforms. And connect with tech teams to counter misinformation before it darkens your door.

Monitor as many platforms as possible, even with simple alerts. Half of the population get their news from social media, so we need to actively track emerging stories rather than waiting for false information to spread.

And it’s not just the tech department you need to cosy up with – make sure you’re close to your marketing team too. Consider more diverse ways to get people to see your messages, asking how you could use SEO, new platforms, improved metadata or targeted AI to spread your comms risk and improve audience targeting.

By building trust and transparency in this way, the comms function can lead the way in creating bold, open and honest digital conversations that help brands face down hate and negativity with kindness and respect.

 

READ MORE:

Coronavirus has prompted a return to authenticity in communications. It could change how we work after the crisis

How the right kind of content can help build trust in your brand

If you would like to know more about how Formative Content helps tell the brand stories of some of the world’s biggest B2B organisations, please email gay@formativecontent.com

About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Gay Flashman - CEO, Formative Content
Author:Gay Flashman - CEO, Formative Content