What does Fake News mean for brands?

The term ‘fake news’ was something that was almost unheard of 5 years ago, however, ironically, the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2016 was ‘post-truth’.

As online news and indeed social platforms have grown, so as has the opportunity to distribute fake news stories. This can be extremely damaging for an associated organisation’s brand reputation which can be difficult to build and maintain at the best of times.

For example one brand, in particular that has suffered from Fake News claims recently, is New Balance. They received a very negative backlash after the claim they were the brand that provided the ‘official shoes of white people’ was falsely released. This stemmed from a mis-quotation from an interview which the internet seized and repackaged incorrectly: ‘New Balance offers a wholesale endorsement of the Trump revolution.’ In turn it led to ‘right-wing’ groups praising it as a brand for white Americans, and anti-Trump groups burning their New Balance shoes and posting the ritual online.

For a global brand such as New Balance, fake news has proven to have had a very damaging effect as it has now been added to boycott lists and has a tarnished reputation globally.

How can you protect your brand from fake news claims?

Build a community of loyal followers and positive advocates of your brand.

If you have a loyal following of fans, then they will act as brand advocates and speak up on your brand’s behalf against fake claims or headlines.  “If a brand tries to go on the defensive, it can sometimes have the opposite effect, but if a brand’s community defends it, it’s much more credible” – Martin Waxman, President of Martin Waxman Communications.


Make sure you have planned for a fake news story about you being released.

Create a ‘crisis plan’ of action in advance, so that if a negative story does emerge, your brand has a plan in place. One way of staying ahead of the game is by using a media monitoring platform; this can help by notifying you whenever your brand is mentioned. This way you have the opportunity to immediately respond, if you feel this is appropriate.


Ensure the people you are working with also have good solid reputations.

A lot of audiences will judge brands by association. Therefore, if the publications, influencers or journalists you are seen to be associated with are known for not being reliable or who don’t value their status as trusted truth-tellers, then they will tarnish your reputation by implication.


Make sure you verify and check facts.

This is an important rule to maintain through any press releases, articles or content that you yourselves are releasing. Ensuring that you are maintaining a high standard of content in retaliation to false news claims creates a more credible brand voice for your followers/fans to engage with.


Encourage your followers to be conscious of what they are sharing and where their information is from.

Wherever possible, try to encourage your followers or audiences to be vigilant when it comes to sharing articles, to ensure that they are only sharing content amongst themselves that is actually credible.

As of the 13th of April 2017, Facebook has published ‘tips for spotting fake news’. These will appear in the News Feeds of users in 14 different countries. These are some simple, straight forward clues for the average Facebook user to look out for when trying to identify how genuine a news story is.


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