Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around fake news and how to rid today’s news channels of it (read how social platforms are curbing fake news here). While not operating directly in the political scene, lately I have felt some repercussions…enough to where I wanted to think through how we, as PR practitioners, can maintain the integrity of the tech news world. I don’t think for one minute that we (or any other media segment) is immune to such widespread criticism.
It’s in the PR rep’s job description to craft compelling stories to “pitch” to the media. More often than not, a reporter places implicit trust in the information that we share. But our role in ensuring the truth is represented in a story doesn’t stop there. We must remain a part of the conversation long after the “bite” to assist in the writer’s storytelling process. It’s this active participation that helps ensure a quality end product.
I’ve come up with four good rules of thumb for being an active participant in a writer’s story development to ensure reporting accuracy:
- Speak the truth – This should be really obvious. Always stick to the facts from the first point of contact all the way through to the publishing of the article. This also means that you need to research your answers and get back to the writer posing them as opposed to guessing or speculating on the spot. On occasion, your answer might not satisfy the writer. But if it’s the truth, you’re doing the right thing.
- Challenge errors – Speaking the truth also means calling out errors in fact. This can be during a discussion, over email or after an article is published. (You might think asking for a correction is awkward, but know that letting a writer run with an error is far worse…)
- Keep good company – The phrase “You are as good as the company you keep” applies here. Choose your story sources wisely as they are a representation of your business. This could be customers, partners, analysts and more. Think about how they will portray your story before passing them the mic.
- Admit mistakes – If you’re wrong, admit it and quickly. I’d recommend starting with an apology. Then explain how you’re going to fix it or do better the next time.
Fake news has taken a serious toll on U.S. politics. But that’s not the only media segment that’s been plagued by distrust. Hollywood reporting (think The National Enquirer) is routinely in hot water for fabricated stories (you’d think the threat and action of a lawsuit would promote better reporting practices!). May these and similar examples of carelessness remind us all about the integrity of our work and importance of our reputation.