Most of us are guilty of flipping through the supermarket tabloids at the checkout line, being drawn in by the controversial headlines that blur the boundaries of true media reporting.
Certain media outlets have taken liberties with news reporting for many years, but ‘fake news’ has been thrust into the spotlight like never before in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election. With the surge in fabricated stories and websites that at first glance look like credible news sources, there are potentially serious problems for communicators in the healthcare space. The proliferation of fake news may create confusion for consumers in what they believe to be true, and therefore undermine the value that accurate media delivers. Patients or caregivers looking for disease information may see a hoax headline about the therapeutic area and jump to conclusions without first seeking out reliable sources.
In addition, the deluge of hoax headlines in the news landscape will make it even more important that we bring news to only trusted sources and credible news outlets. Building those relationships will be critical to ensuring accurate information is being shared among trustworthy sources.
Our ability to control fake news stories in less credible outlets may be limited, but there are some things in our control, including:
- Monitor closely and take action where you can – keep a close eye out for any hoax stories related to your disease state or company. Although a fake news outlet won’t correct a false story, you can reach out to other sites that may inadvertently share the article and clarify at that point.
- Have a strong search program (SEO and SEM) in place – ensure your credible content outranks fake news sites.
- Pulse out ‘myths versus facts’ content – if fake news around your disease area or company is gaining traction, publish content that clarifies the facts versus fiction on your own social channels and/or work with advocacy groups or medical experts to do the same.
- As always, partner with trusted reporters – particularly around issues, provide reporters with transparent and timely information and ensure you have a strategy for course correcting any inflammatory headlines on social channels.
As fake news continues to gain prominence, we as healthcare communicators, need to understand the potentially larger problems that are bubbling under the controversial hoax headlines and help our clients navigate through the increasingly complicated news landscape.