[By Nisha Chopra]
We live in a world where skepticism needs to be practised consistently as we navigate the online world. In this technologically-driven era, it is not difficult for the average person to set up a phony website, write up inaccurate information, and share it all on social media until it goes viral for the rest of the world to consume.

While this has been an issue since the internet’s inception, it has gained much more attention and traction during recent months. This leads us, as readers and PR professionals, to question not only what is true and what isn’t, but also how to effectively communicate accurate information to target audiences.

The art of PR has changed drastically from mass persuasion to a niche profession of targeted messages directed at specific audiences. Now, the challenge is getting the word out amidst all the viral clutter of inaccurate information.

This clutter has been inherently visible in the current fake news scandal faced by the popular social media platform, Facebook. Over the course of 2016, Facebook trending topics included the Pope endorsing Donald Trump (he did not) and a Democratic operative being murdered after agreeing to testify against Hillary Clinton (also false). These were just two of the many fake “news” stories that were published this year.

Stories like these trend massively because Facebook has an algorithm that prioritizes “engagement.” And, unfortunately, a guaranteed way to get masses of people to “engage” is to make up outrageous scandals and stories about controversial topics and people.

Issues like this make our job as communicators even more challenging. We function in a world with various sets of beliefs, facts and opinions held by various audiences that we are trying to reach. This is made more complicated by the rise of social media, which gives us the ability to find any number of links and stories to support our viewpoints.

We can all fall prey to fake news stories, but as PR professionals there are always strategies we can implement to redirect our attention and minimize damage. To read more on these strategies, please click here.

(Photo by geralt via Pixabay)