In a world of misinformation, trust is slipping away between companies and their customers. But rather than putting out fires after fake news has already spread, businesses can act preemptively, taking steps to establish themselves as trustworthy and authentic in order to reduce the risk that any misinformation will be taken seriously.
- When fake news spreads about a company, it can damage its profits, reputation, employee satisfaction, and relationships with other business partners. Misinformation travels faster than the truth, with social media and algorithms all amplifying its impact. The deluge of fake news means that people are becoming sceptical of any information that’s presented to them, regardless of its veracity, and corporations are essentially guilty until proven innocent.
- Governments are struggling to cope with the onslaught of fake news and have yet to devise sufficiently robust regulations to tackle the problem. On social media, some approaches are being tested, such as adding disclaimers to dubious content, fact-checking, and banning the culprits’ accounts. Other potential approaches include prominently labelling accounts known to spread misinformation and periodically reminding users to think twice about the supposed facts they’re presented with.
- But as misinformation continues to proliferate, businesses must protect themselves. They should do so by engendering a strong foundation of trust with their stakeholders and customers, so that fake news isn’t taken for granted as truth at the outset. This trust will only be catalysed by actions rather than words, meaning business leaders should strive to enact fair and honest practices across the organisation. If good policies exist and are successfully communicated, people will be more likely to question any claim that runs counter to that.
- Ensuring data privacy and security is also key to fostering trust between businesses and their customers. Algorithms, often a black box, should also be more open to build stakeholders’ trust.
- When misinformation does rear its head, companies should only respond to enquiries that come in at first to prevent alerting more people than necessary and enabling the fake news to spread further. A correction should be issued from a specific person, who should be transparent and candid. If the misinformation is particularly damaging or is becoming very widespread, businesses should bring in an impartial, third-party source to repudiate the claim, such as an NGO.
Why does this matter for businesses?
- Governments and social media platforms’ response to misinformation has been inadequate, so businesses must take steps to protect themselves. They may be powerless to stop misinformation from spreading, but by establishing themselves as trustworthy and value-driven, they can minimise the risk that the lies will be believed in the first place.