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Vigilance, reaction are keys to staying ahead of fake news

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Businesses and brands need to be on high alert for fictitious news stories or content with their name on it.

Consequently, companies targeted by makers of fake news are hiring professionals to do damage control. Marketing and ad firms can provide clients with ways to set up online monitoring systems to flag websites and content that mention a company’s name in a work of fiction – and then pumping out positive content to counter the negative news.

“Social media has made [fake news] a heck of a lot worse,” said Todd Heft, owner of Heft Media in Bethlehem. “Companies need to monitor their online reputations and be aware of any incorrect, misleading or outright fake information published about them, because the damage in some cases can be wide and deep.”

Heft said one way for businesses to stay informed about fake news stories carrying their name or brand information is through Google’s search engine. Google Alerts can notify businesses anytime their business is mentioned online, especially through news articles.

Heft’s firm and other advertising and marketing agencies said they can provide key strategies to boost a company’s reputation before fake news is leaked, as well as techniques to assist businesses or brands that are victims of fake news.

REACT QUICKLY

At Day Vision Marketing Inc. in Allentown, owner Danny Youssef said he tells companies to maintain a consistent reputation online and elsewhere. He advises businesses that they must be willing to establish loyalty by being truthful and open with their customers.

“You can request reviews online. If a company has 5,000 perfect reviews and one bad one, then that one negative review is less believable,” Youssef said. “So you have to build your reputation up front, ahead of the fake news.”

Youssef said that, since fake news is circulated most often through social media, companies only have a short window of time to respond to fictitious content. If a company sits on a fake news story too long, it makes it hard to challenge what is out there.

He suggested companies buy ad space or targeted ads on the same website where the negative news is being distributed and to use the media as resources to inform the public of a bogus news story.

RESEARCH FIRST

Joe Mrochko, vice president of account services at Strunk Media Group in Kutztown, said fake articles online or elsewhere can very quickly destroy a company’s reputation.

He said he tells clients to research a story before believing it, and to get a third-party involved to determine how the public will perceive the false information.

“It cannot be overstated that social media is the culprit,” Mrochko said. “Companies have to do some legwork to debunk false stories.”

CHECK THE WEBSITE ADDRESS

Jason Pijut, creative principal of Killer Interactive in Orefield, said he knows how fast inaccurate stories go viral. He said people need to be able to spot fake news, and one way is by paying attention to the URL or web address that posted the stories.

Websites posting trash are frequently created to mirror websites of well-known, reliable news sources.

CNN, for example, posts news at www.cnn.com and not www.cnnnews.com. But people see cnnnews.com and think it is a trustworthy source for accurate stories.

“People fall for it, and it also depends on who is reporting it. Some reporters are tasked with finding faking stories,” Pijut said. “They will tell you some things but leave out other details to put a negative spin on it.”

NOT RELIABLE SITES FOR NEWS

At Day Vision, Youssef said a reader should always check the date of publication. If a story is released with an old date, sometimes that is a red flag.

When reading a story, people should also note if it appears to have a lack of sources cited or if it mentions a company but does not seem to give many facts about that company.

Youssef and Pijut also suggest setting up GoogleAlerts so companies can stay informed every time their name is thrown into cyberspace.

Ad agency officials all seem to agree that Facebook can be a fantastic marketing tool but is designed to give people a biased viewpoint.

Joellen Reichenbach, president of Select Sales, Creative Marketing Solutions in South Whitehall Township, said Facebook should not be viewed as a source for dependable news. She advises clients to check their facts before they believe a story, do their homework and do not just react right away.

RESPONSE BY SOCIAL MEDIA

Heft said that, while there is no denying the part that social media have played in generating fake news, sites such as Facebook and Google are starting to fight back with tactics to curb the garbage on their sites.

Heft said Facebook announced it was hiring human fact-checkers, and Google recently launched a new campaign to get its audience to help detect malicious content and report it.

“Anyone, literally anyone, can set up a web page in one day and start creating fake and misleading news campaigns,” Heft said. “… It’s all about drawing a lot of eyeballs.”

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