Misinformation means media relations are more vital than ever
Just when you thought it was safe to turn on the TV, someone goes and calls a General Election. Akin to prizing the gates of Hades open, all hell has broken loose since, reminding brands that retaining quality media relations with respected titles is crucial.
Events of the last fortnight should be enough to prove my point. There have been car crash interviews and headlines abound on all sides of the political spectrum. Nevertheless, the Conservatives switching a press Twitter account to FactCheck UK, and launching a website carrying a fake version of the Labour Manifesto, have rung huge alarm bells.
It’s hard to think of a bolder or more irresponsible attempt by a mainstream party to spread misinformation. But perhaps we’re reading the situation wrong. Boris Johnson’s campaign team could and should have expected to be called out on both, quickly. News reports have been unforgiving, with commentators ranging from journalists to former Tory MPs speaking out against these latest — and most blatant — lies.
Consider this, though. Over the last half decade we have seen how disrupting the flow of factual information, misdirecting the public and throwing chaos into the comms mix can have a monumental effect. From Trump’s Presidency to the EU Referendum. So rather than believing they could pull the wool over the country’s eyes, is it too conspiratorial to wonder if the main goal wasn’t to negatively impact on public trust in all information?
Media relations matter if the media is respected
It has long been understood that misinformation can have two outcomes. On the one hand, in its most traditional form — propaganda — the desired outcome is for people to believe what they are told. But what if the real goal is to be so blatant with fabrications they are outed, causing people to question everything they hear, read and see?
The latter is a far more contemporary concept, one borne in the internet age. But its validity is proven by the woeful levels in ‘mainstream media’. Once bitten and all that. However, the latest Edelman Trust Report shows an upturn in audience trust in media titles that have a strong track record for reporting. Engagement in News Media is up by 22 points this year. The ‘informed public’ are now utilising sources more, and there has been a 12 point increase in public trust of respected and reliable sources.
The surge in subscriptions for US newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post following Trump’s inauguration offered early signs of things to come, then. Having been made only too-aware of how many mistruths and falsities were being spread, people clamoured for access to trusted sources. By comparison, the level of trust in social media has seen a sharp decline over the same timeframe, and this looks to be accelerating.
So what does this mean for brands and their marketing, media and comms mix? From where I’m sitting, all this reiterates the importance of solidifying and maintaining media relations with professional organisations.
If trends are much to go by we are looking at more reliance on quality publications, networks and websites in the face of misinformation. So don’t get left out in the cold this winter. Placing stories, comments, products and services on the pages and programmes that count is more vital than ever.
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