The ache of fake
There’s faked news and then there is fake news. Recently, brand TOI had to fight off a faked news assault and take legal action when a tweet with a doctored headline on the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Modi and China’s President Jinping cast aspersion on its professionalism and the product quality.
Then there was the fake news about ITC’s Aashirvaad Atta. Videos on WhatsApp and Facebook alleging that the wheat flour contained plastic hit its sales as the consumer was wary after the news of ‘plastic rice’ and complaints and rumours from parts of India. ITC had to come out with TV ads to explain that the flour had gluten which made it sticky and stretchable.
Another form of fake news is when rivals circulate ads that make misleading claims about a product which it may actually not possess. According to a research, nearly 60 per cent of customers says they will disassociate themselves with their favourite brand if it peddles fake news.
As the con is only getting smarter and more organised, brands today need to be vigilant to any potential piece of information that can impact their relationship with consumers.
The fake news plague is afflicting social media platforms from Twitter to Facebook to Whatsapp to the internet and nobody is being spared. Fake news poses a bigger threat to brands which spend years and millions of rupees in creating their image. Such news needs to be nipped in the bud before the brand image and the bottom line get wiped out.
You need to keep an eye out for any fake propaganda about your brand or any advertisement that seems too good to be true. Be vigilant of places you choose to advertise, as it is being increasingly difficult to identify the real from the fake. There are sites that are virtually clones of the real and pose a threat to your brand value.
Fake news is a crisis situation for your brand. It’s difficult to predict your customer reaction when everyone turns to muddied waters of social media, where conversations set the impact scale. Here’s what you can do when people were just beginning to confirm the source and form opinions about your brand.
Relationship: Maintain an authentic and trustworthy relationship with each customer. Put the truth out instantly. Come clean if there has been an inadvertent error of judgement on your part.
Emotional connect: Your communication line must appeal to their emotions.It always works. This connect will help you tide over difficult times.
Be a listener: Watch out for negatives and quell the doubts. A proactive social strategy always works.
Communicate: If you have been responding to only negative comments then that is what you will get. It is imperative to acknowledge and respond to every good and not-so-good feedback.
Strategy: Create an effective crisis social media strategy with your social media and PR partners. Yes, they are the experts so ask them. Vet it and keep it ready!
Data suggests fake news travels faster than light and your reaction needs to be lightning fast as the consumer today believes in the dictum, guilty unless proven innocent rather than the other way around. None is safe, but there is a lot you can do by hiring real experts who will keep vigil and protect your brand image by staying a step ahead. They will act rather than react. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish because just like fake news fake social media experts can ruin the brand image.