How to mitigate the risk of crisis in the face of fake news

6 December 2018
How to mitigate the risk of crisis in the face of fake news

How to mitigate the risk of crisis in the face of fake news

In this age of the Internet and social networks, corporate communication is one of the major concerns of business leaders and senior executives. At the speed at which information is currently circulating, it has never been more important to monitor your communication, to ensure that your follow-up on social networks goes as planned. Many companies have already been trapped by a lack of attention once the communication is launched, a lack of attention having failed to identify some flaws in the same communication, and therefore not to anticipate the future turmoil. The position of Community Manager in companies is not currently developing for nothing in such an exponential way: companies have every interest, in order to communicate on the Web, to have at their disposal one or more people whose tasks are essentially focused on the implementation and management of digital communication.

However, in addition to the above, there is another major risk facing companies that implement digital communication: the risk of misinformation. In the past, examples of a company that has been falsely robbed in the public arena are very rare. On social networks, and as we said earlier, the speed of transmission of information is truly incredible. In a few minutes, you can transfer information to your entire entourage, who will do the same, and so on, until you reach hundreds or even thousands of people across the country. We are finding more and more examples of these companies that have been the victims of misinformation, and concern seems to be rising in the minds of executives of large companies and SMEs alike. Keep everyone calm: we have the answers to your questions and concerns about this risk of misinformation.

As a company manager or executive, how can I protect my company from the risks of circulating false information against me? How can we successfully mitigate the risk of crisis in the face of the massive amounts of information that malicious people can transmit on the Internet and social networks? All the answers to these questions in the following lines and paragraphs.

Digital communication in the face of major obstacles

The risk of a crisis in the implementation of a digital communication campaign is, therefore, very high. A company that communicates on Facebook, Twitter or any other social network takes the risk of communicating to very different age groups whose perception of the message sent may vary greatly. Thus, a particular, negative reaction to the message sent will suffice to make the entire Web go up in flames and undermine your company’s efforts. All this to highlight the particularity of communication on the Internet and more precisely on the most widespread social networks currently in France but also in the rest of the world.

We all have in mind examples of errors encountered in the implementation of a digital communication campaign. All companies are led to make mistakes, especially on the Web and on social networks where users are watching for the slightest flaw in an attempt to harm a particular company. But the real risk that we have seen appearing for some time now is the risk of the transmission of false information about companies. The latest example to date is the American fast-food chain Bagelstein, which has been the victim of misinformation widely relayed on social networks and, in particular, on Twitter. A false rumour that forced the company’s French managers to explain themselves and shed light on a case that was beginning to take on negative proportions for the company. We will return to this matter in the following paragraphs.

Thus, digital communication has recently established itself as a driving force in the development of a company and is now proving to be a source of risk. Many obstacles are now emerging for companies wishing to implement an entire communication campaign on social networks and more broadly on the Internet.

The Bagelstein case or how to bear the full brunt of the consequences of false information released on social networks

A false press release, chain reactions on social networks and more precisely on Twitter, a quick or even immediate recovery by the interested media, a crisis communication that becomes essential within the affected company… These are the ingredients of the soap opera that interested all specialists in corporate communication and digital communication: the Bagelstein case! A real soap opera as the twists and turns were numerous and the important consequences for a company that we had never seen so much in the foreground before. Unfortunately for the American fast-food chain, it is above all a nasty buzz, a “bad buzz” that the managers are not about to meet again.

A brief summary of the facts before going any further: it was on Wednesday, December 7 at around 3 p.m. that the problems began for the American company, which would have done well without such a bad buzz. Following the physical and verbal attack, a few days before, on a manager of a Bagelstein shop in Rennes, it is true that the situation was somewhat tense in the Breton capital. But it was really after the publication on Twitter by the Collectif Féministes de Rennes 2 of a letter signed by the American company, a letter in which we read statements such as “Bagelstein is not sexist, it is an ethical company” or “Yes there are 3 types of women, bitches, whores and annoyers”, that all this unfortunate business was started. Shocking sentences that quickly spread across the social network to the little blue bird. The letter being signed, supposedly, by the hand of the giant of a point of sale Bagelstein on Rennes, a real viral phenomenon was observed. In just a few hours, more than 4,000 tweets or retweets were used to share the subject of the delirium. The image of the American company was therefore largely damaged by all the publications on the social network where people generally like to chirp rather than to destroy a company.

In an attempt to put an end to the fire, Bagelstein’s digital communications managers first tried to respond comment by comment to their critics. But very quickly overtaken by the incredible number of tweets, they were forced to publish a denial on the company’s national account. A simple “Dear friends of Twitter, know that this letter is in every way a FAKE, hole story. “which obviously did not calm the assembly down: only about 80 retweets of this attempt to calm down. Critics have only gone further to downgrade the image of the American company which, although it may well be a fake letter, has not adopted the best way to react. But the real problem in this case is that it is true that the tone generally used in the communication of the American company is very often to be taken in the second or even third degree. The group’s communication managers very often take great pleasure in using irony to make their company talk. This did nothing to help solve the problem encountered in the Breton capital. It is important to recall this here to be as complete as possible, although the subject that really concerns us is not Bagelstein’s general communication but rather the ideal solutions to avoid the pitfalls of false information that would circulate on your company.

A permanent monitoring of your digital communication

Obviously, the first advice that comes to mind here is this: digital communication requires constant monitoring, like the oil on the fire. A company that uses social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many others), but does not take the time to ensure that the content published on these social networks evolves, would be a company that really plays with fire. The Internet, as a whole, has enabled a real revolution in corporate communication, but the acceleration of information transmission is also a parameter that must be taken into account to take advantage of this substantial core.

Obviously, and as part of the implementation of your company’s communication, do not hesitate for a single second to take all the time necessary to establish, in advance, your communication plan, but also to monitor its successful implementation once it has been launched. You will always have a wise and cautious look at the evolution of your company’s communication and you will always be ready to react in the event of the spread of false information about you. The trap in which Bagelstein fell is a trap in which all companies can one day fall.

It is up to you, company managers and senior executives, to take all the necessary precautions to avoid this major pitfall and ensure that your company never has to face this risk in the face of false information. The risk of “fake news” as we now say, is a central, major, immediate risk. A publication on a social network, a media brief, a tweet, the posting of a fake press release, a post on Facebook… Anything as insignificant as it may be can turn your company’s near future on its head if you don’t take the time to put out the fire as soon as possible. Moreover, and if it is necessary to counter the threat of a fake news, do not hesitate to commit all the necessary means: the future of your company depends on it! Crisis communication is nowadays a solution that many companies must consider in order to be one step ahead of the future, here is something you should remember when reading this article.

Your customers are on social media and are using them on a daily basis. It is important that we keep them engaged and connected to your brand so that you’re always their first option.

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