The Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections put fake news firmly in the public’s consciousness.
But while the fake news phenomenon took many by surprise, those working in politics must have recognised that its forerunners – spin and smoke and mirrors – have long been around.
The difference now is that the rise of social media and search engine algorithms means false stories can now spread faster than ever and have a far wider impact with voters and consumers far beyond the Westminster and Washington villages. As communicators, it’s important we are aware of this, and the risk it poses to brands and organisations.
To explore this further I recently hosted an event on behalf of WIPR at Teneo Blue Rubicon for members to debate if we’re living in a post-truth age where lies always win or whether truth can still triumph?
The event brought together a panel of experts from across the industry, including:
Here are five insights from the panel which will help readers decide whether fake news really is a threat to democracy or something people will learn to recognise and tune out.
So as communicators what role do we need to play? There will never be a substitute for great story telling. Our opportunity is to lead by example with such good genuine stories that we curb the demand for falsehoods in the first place.
It’s also our opportunity to celebrate and embrace the zeitgeist that is creating such a fertile breeding ground for fake news, truth and terrific content alike. Engagement in media, especially digital and social channels, is unprecedented. This was on my mind as I left the panel session. As communicators we can and should embrace the truth and also embrace the interest and curiosity consumers have now in news of all kinds. There is a glass half full in my world.