In 2016, Facebook clashed with an army of fake news sources spreading false information across the social networking platform. While Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg maintains that Facebook is not a news company, more than 60 percent of adults get their news from social media and the “trust factor” amongst friends augmented the virality of shocking stories with sensational headlines. Because 66 percent of people trust opinions posted online, the result of circulating fake news wreaked havoc on public opinion.
But Facebook is fighting back. Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it will pioneer a journalism project in hopes of curing the fake news epidemic. Some of the highlights of The Facebook Journalism Project include:
- Building new features – Facebook promised to collaborate closely with media outlets to produce new storytelling features, promote local news and helping media outlets grow their subscriber base
- Providing training and tools for journalists – Facebook will partner with Poynter to provide classes for journalists on how to discover and disseminate news on Facebook
- Providing tools and training for the people – Facebook is working with the News Literacy Project to educate the public on how to make decisions on what sources to trust
In sum, Facebook’s holistic approach to fighting fake news will, hopefully, lead to a new age of journalism and more engaged news audience in 2017.
What PR Can Learn from The Facebook Journalism Project
The lessons for PR pros are vast following The Facebook Journalism Project announcement. Below are three applications for those in the PR industry:
- Truth trumps clicks. There is power in the ability to influence what millions will read and discuss over the dinner table. And, as we know, with great power comes great responsibility. As the mouthpiece for the organizations we represent, we must hold the public in high esteem. We owe it to our clients, our media contacts and the general public to clarify, not confuse, and to pursue truth over sensational headlines.
- Social media isn’t optional. A PR pro’s work does not end once a story has run. Today, journalists are expected to maintain and grow a social media presence. Ask your client or organization’s social media manager to post a placed story and tag the journalist a few times over the course of a week. This will not only increase eyeballs on the story, but also strengthen your client’s relationship with the reporter.
- Vet, vet, vet. In an age where anyone with a computer could position themselves as a media outlet, vetting is crucial to the role of PR. Use discernment when building media lists and do your research on journalists you wish to pitch. Don’t be afraid to do your own fact-checking when comparing sources.
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