We’re living in strange times and I’m not just talking about the pandemic. People are fabricating news. Bots are amplifying inaccurate content. And brands are becoming the target of false news and fake news. If you’re working with social media, how should you respond? My advice from the digital front lines is quickly. But that doesn’t mean you need to panic. Whether you’re dealing with misinformation or disinformation, realize that you don’t need to do everything at once. Here’s how you can prioritize your digital response.
Now – Be Reactive
Listen to what people are saying about your brand and pay attention to the issues they care about. Is your organization mentioned in a news story that lends credibility to a false narrative? Does your company feature in a conspiracy theory that’s gaining traction on social media? If a disinformation campaign threatens your brand’s ability to operate, then it’s time to put the communications team on alert. Develop a holding statement and respond to direction questions in a way that communicates empathy and action. Use tools like FotoForensics to evaluate where images may have been altered. Activate your dark site and create Q&A content with schema markups to help boost your SEO.
Next – Be Proactive
Social media abhors a vacuum so don’t let your brand’s voice get drowned out. Be honest and get in front of the story to create consensus around your position. If people are actively sharing brand disinformation, remember to point them to reliable sources of information. You’ll also want to consider running digital ads to get your messages out to as many people as possible. Of course, if your brand reputation has taken a hit, then your messages may be met with skepticism. Taking from the African proverb that says, “it takes a village to raise a child”, I’d like to submit that it takes a village to build trust. Have open discussions with your employees and equip them to tell your side of the story. Work with influencers and experts to spread your brand messages and counter disinformation.
Later – Be Predictive
Measure and evaluate the outcomes of your brand’s digital response. What was the impact of your communication efforts? What lessons did you learn? Use these insights to plan for the next crisis. Even better, tap into analytics to predict the next crisis. Combine data from social media, online news, search engines and surveys to understand how issues become crises. How have people responded to previous brand announcements? What are the gaps between your brand values and the issues people care about? What can you learn from similar crisis situations in your industry or sector? With the right assumptions, a predictive model can help you determine if a response is necessary and give you an idea of what aspects of an issue to focus on.
Responding to a misinformation or disinformation campaign can be daunting. Just remember, you don’t need to do everything at once. Stay calm and phase out your brand’s digital response. Be reactive, be proactive and then be predictive. You’ll help your brand regain control of the narrative and maybe even come out stronger at the end of it.
If you’d like to learn more about our crisis and issues communications, please get in touch with me at Alan.Yeboah@leidar.com.