In December 2016, ABC news reported Barack Obama had banned the pledge of allegiance in schools. This story picked up 2,177,000 shares, comments and reactions on Facebook, according to BuzzFeed. The same source reported that a story originally published by WTOE 5 News about Pope Francis allegedly endorsing Donald Trump for president picked up 961,000 Facebook engagements.
Neither of these stories were true, but instead were part of the 'fake news' phenomenon. Australia has also started to feel the impact of fake news recently, most noticeably in controversies surrounding the anti-halal campaign. So, how will the rise of fake news affect communication professionals in Australia?
Check your sources
People no longer trust the news. The Reuters' Institute's digital news report for 2016 found that only 43 per cent of Australians believe they can "trust most news, most of the time," while only 39 per cent "trust news organisations and journalists most of the time". This means simply relying on media outlets is no longer enough. Instead, communication professionals should turn to independent think tanks and studies by educational institutions to back up their claims – just remember such surveys may also have their own angles.
More influencer marketing
An enormous proportion (92 per cent) of the world's consumers will trust a recommendation from another person, even if they don't personally know them, according to a Nielsen survey. With fake news meaning fewer people trust traditional media and advertising, it's no surprise influencer marketing is getting more and more attention.
This involves celebrities and social media sensations promoting products and services on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Fashion, beauty, health and fitness are some of the most prominent industries using influencer marketing, but other areas like tech and travel are also really starting to invest in this type of communication.
Reputation management is more important than ever
Fake news can cause both individual and corporate reputations to be ruined, all by something that might not even be true. For instance, many Trump supporters boycotted Pepsi because of a fake news story claiming the company's CEO, Indra Nooyi, had told them to "take their business elsewhere," something she never actually said. As a result, we expect to see communication professionals putting even more energy into reputation management in 2017.
The rise of fake news means communication specialists need to think hard about how they can keep the trust of their target audiences. For more information on new communication trends, please visit the Salt and Shein website.