We kid, but fake news is a real issue. You can’t read the news without seeing a story on fake news. Ironic. But what happens when fake news about your client is being used for clickbait?
Clickbait, as defined by Webster Dictionary, is “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.” Fake news, or deliberate misinformation being presented as fact, is used by some fraudulent websites to lure readers.
Social media giants are doing their part to fight fake news. Facebook released a user guide on how to mark a false news story and 10 tips how to spot fake news. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales just launched a collaborative effort between journalists and community contributors to offer a free, trusted news source. Google, the world’s largest search engine, is rolling out a “fact checker” tool for its news results which will help legitimate news sources counter false claims. Yet despite these efforts, fake news continues to grow.
Stratacomm was recently on the front lines of this issue. While working on a client’s media analysis, we found several negative articles peppered with false statements and attention-grabbing headlines on a questionable website with a URL very similar to a legitimate publication. Fake news. Clickbait. So, what to do?
- Determine if there is a reporter or editor listed on the site.
Sometimes mistakes happen. Reaching out to a reporter or an editor with a correction is a simple fix. But if it’s true clickbait, there is probably no byline or contact information. For our client’s issue, only a mysterious “Staff” was credited and there was no contact information on the website. Even our media intelligence software Cision was no help. Dead end. What next?
- Decide if you should engage.
If the “outlet” has minimal traffic, it may be best to just ignore it. News sources are not equal and with the decline in ad spending, some marketers are getting sneaky. One particularly egregious blog targeted our client and its competitors. We believe this website (and many like it) is published by one person who drafts short and often incorrect articles as clickbait for ad revenue. We counseled our client to ignore the site and have since blacklisted this publication.
- Continue vigilant monitoring.
In our experience, one fake news article leads to more. It’s like roaches – when you see one, you know there are more hiding. In this case, once we found the initial article, we dug deeper for additional ones and found two nearly identical “news” sites that shared the same layout devoid of contact information. Those additional sites were quickly added to the blacklist. Dedicated media monitoring is one of the best ways to stay on top of fake news stories before they become an issue.
As communicators, we can help ferret out the fake news sites and delegitimize them. Don’t fall for clickbait and blacklist the sites. Share with colleagues in and outside of your organization and be adamant about helping our credible media friends rise above the fray. The only way we are going to win this media battle is to help legitimate news outlets and reporters earn back the public’s trust.
As the cliché says: it takes a village. So remember, the next time you’re tempted to click on that outrageous story you can’t believe is true, please don’t! Scroll by, and spend your effort on real news.
Jessie LeTarte is an account executive in Stratacomm’s Detroit office.