How to Consume and Make News in the Post-Truth Era
Guest Post by Scott Kaminski
Facts have rarely been up for debate. Until now, that is. These are strange times that we live in where previously undisputed notions and truths are now regularly and commonly called into question. As both consumers of news and communications professionals, we all need to know how to navigate these previously uncharted waters.
A little perspective here can go a long way. The fake news business – and trust me, it is a business – is driven in much the same way that real news operates and profits: via ratings, impressions and clicks which drive advertising revenue.
How Do You Take Your News?
Whether you’re a fan of traditional news sources (television, radio, newspaper, etc.) or non-traditional news sources (social media, search engines, podcasts, etc.), there are certain actions you can take to ensure that the news being reported to you has less bias and more truth.
Check Your Sources
Where you get your news is now just as important – or in some cases more important – than the story being reported. If the source is reputable then you should be okay. A good place to start is by checking the domain and URL. If anything seems odd or out of place, think twice. Also, If the outlet is trying to bombard you with ads before you make it through the article or packed with clickbait (think miracle skin treatments and elixirs to cure all that ails you), then you’re probably not in the right place. If a potentially sketchy link was found via Facebook or Twitter, you can always report them in an effort to ensure no one else falls for whatever story the outlet is trying to peddle.
Ask Good Questions
As an old journalism professor of mine used to opine, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” Regardless of what you’re reading or told, you should always be seeking validation from other reputable sources – no matter how good the story sounds. While some may see this as a form of paranoia, it’s sadly a byproduct of the age we all now live in. Additionally, if someone is quoted in the article, look them up and see what their background is. If the article contains no quotes whatsoever, it should be a warning sign. Always, always question what you are reading. If it sounds too amazing to be true, it could very likely be false.
Fight the Good Fight
Know that fake news is going to make it into Google search algorithms and your social media feeds, whether you like it or not. But there are actions you can personally take to combat it. First and foremost, support reputable media sources with your readership (and, if you can afford it, your wallet). While many people prefer free, legitimate media newsrooms are shrinking or outright closing at an alarming rate and the only way to keep good journalism alive is with your hard fought money. Don’t click off the paywall, get out your credit card and click through instead.
Conversely, when it comes to outlets which share overly salacious or obviously fake news, simply don’t take the bait. Refuse to give them your eyeballs and ad impressions. Or, even better yet, seek out and align yourself with homegrown outlets such as Sleeping Giants which seeks to cut ad funding for sites which share fake, overtly racist content.
How to Make News in a Fact-Hostile Environment
For marketers, communications and public relations folks, congratulations: your job just became much more difficult. Your message – and your news – now has to make it through even more clutter to reach your intended audience, prove its value and all-around be better to be effective and achieve your goals. But there are ways in which you can rise above and get the engagement your story deserves.
Offer Real Value
It may sound overly simplistic to include here, but you need to ensure that everything you, your agency and your business puts out in the world offers value. Hollow news releases sent just for the purpose of fulfilling someone’s ego in the C-suite is the exact opposite of how you want to operate in today’s environment. The news you produce should be well-written, purposeful and have a direct and measurable benefit to your target audience. If it’s good enough, it will picked up in other venues, shared via social media and bookmarked for future reading now and in the future.
Ride the Waves
While this option may not be a viable option for everyone in every industry, you may be able to offer content which adds perspective and commentary to an already trending story. This concept, called newsjacking, is a tactic championed by marketing strategist and best-selling author David Meerman Scott. It’s a method successfully employed by a variety of companies both large and small to beat both their competition and the fake news bots to capture readers, clicks and leads.
The constant and consistent production of quality content to promote your organization can cure many ills. If you’ve got the time, talent and capacity to commit to it, sharing your expertise, educating people about your products and services is a brilliantly simple way to stay relevant and top-of-mind with your audience. Positioning yourself and/or your company as the leader in your field or industry will allow you to factor into the algorithms, rise above the fake news and successfully get your message across.
While this idea may be obvious in addition to what was stated above, it bears special mention: Ensure that your message is quality enough that people simply have to like, comment, interact with and share it – even if your project or news is for a certain, narrow niche. The engagement will yield true fans and real dollars every time. Also, wherever it makes sense, join the conversation via social. Push your message and continue to set yourself apart from your competition.
Scott Kaminski is a client-side corporate storyteller who currently manages marketing communications and public relations for Häfele America Co., a manufacturer and distributor of hardware, organizational and LED lighting solutions. A former U.S. Navy print and broadcast journalist and Philadelphia native, he is a lifelong student of writing and connecting with audiences by practically any means at his disposal. Connect with him on Twitter.