“Why don’t we just make it up?”
A key plank of many a public relations programme is activity which comes under the ‘news generation’ banner. In the absence of natural news from a company or brand, the PR team will look for ways to develop insights, creative hooks or research findings into story angles which will appeal to an audience. A key consideration for most campaigns and communications teams is, of course, that these must be based in reality.
There have been plenty of exceptions on the way of course, some more serious than others. It was always unlikely that Freddie Starr really did eat a hamster, and whatever the merits of the Brexit argument, NHS managers were probably not ever convinced that they would be seeing £350mn extra each week once outside the EU.
However, the recent phenomenal increase in ‘fake news’ poses a serious threat to us all in that it undermines the already waning trust which consumers have in once widely respected media. The widespread use of the term ‘post-truth’ signifies a certain acceptance of the fact that we are being fed more and more nonsense as news.
A key advantage of public relations has always been that your message is delivered by a trusted third party to an audience which respects them, or at the very least, believes that what they are saying is fundamentally true.
If your story is sitting in amongst a load of content with no basis in reality, is there any point in ensuring that your angle is credible? The hope must surely be that we will come full circle and consumers will once again turn to those organisations they trust to keep them informed – and these sources represent all viewpoints. Whether these will be the same organisations as in previous generations, or even today, is an entirely different kettle of fish.
Written by Brandon Stockwell, Director