Category Archives: Social media

Ethical public relations versus fake news

For over 20 years, Ethos public relations has described itself as an ethical PR agency. We might not have known it back then, but what we were really saying was that we were against ‘fake news’.

Ethos 20 logoIn recent years, a number of things have contributed to the term fake news being bandied about, almost every time someone disagrees with some information or an editorial stance. This is not at all useful and is only going to increase mistrust of information and expert opinion.

In the PR context, what we meant by ethical PR was not engaging in spin but focusing on the real news behind a story. For many clients, especially in the charity and social enterprise sectors, this is particularly important as they have meaningful stories to tell supporters and funders and we believe this is best done with real, honest case studies and stories that demonstrate the real impact of their work.

Back in the 1980s it wasn’t fake news that made us develop our honest approach but rather spin and ‘kiss and tell’ stories.

Unfortunately, the transformation to fake news from this was almost inevitable and was supported in part by some bad editorial decisions by the media along the way.

It’s easy to blame editors, but a free media does need to be protected, and probably almost everyone working in public relations can cite examples of where really interesting, pertinent and newsworthy press releases have gained no coverage, while less socially useful information gets on air or in print.

Journalists aren’t social workers, but they do need to take a responsibility to their community and reflect what is going on in a balanced and holistic way. We have always subscribed to – and done our best to adhere to – the NUJ principles in our dealings with the media.

In a pre-digital age it was true that air time and newspaper space was limited, but that’s hardly the case now. Real, good quality and verifiable news should be able to find an outlet on trusted media sites to balance the seemingly endless rise of so called ‘news’ sites peddling opinion as fact.

Social media hits new heights

Photo of Ethos public relations Twitter feedRecent news that YouTube now has over 1 billion users a month is another milestone in the remorseless growth of social media. In the autumn, Facebook hit the 1 billion users a month mark and Twitter celebrated its seventh birthday, with 200 million active users and 400 million tweets a day.

All this sounds incredible, but really it’s not surprising, as these networks are very addictive. I never thought I would say it but, for me, life without social media is now unthinkable.

Social media in all its forms is rapidly becoming today’s most accessed communication platform. News often breaks on Twitter, for example, minutes if not hours before it reaches traditional media and stories spread around the world in seconds.

Of course, with 400 million tweets a day, there’s bound to be a lot of trivia – from what you’ve had for dinner to what your pet has done – and I’m sure many of us get exasperated about the sheer volume of tweets, which it is almost impossible to keep up with. However, for organisations, it is still a fast and effective way to reach an interested audience.

Facebook offers the scope for greater depth and interaction and allows businesses to create a more personalised and accessible resource for customers and potential customers to refer to. Posting well-made videos on YouTube on the other hand is an effective way to engage your target audience and entertain them. A video can often have much more impact than a photo.

Sometimes I think to myself why do I need (and use) all these social networks? But, like most people I am sure, I tend to use them in different ways. I check my tweets for what’s happening in the world, I go on Facebook to “talk” to family and friends and get the latest news from organisations I support, and I use YouTube for listening to music and for entertainment (which often then involves seeing adverts and videos made by organisations).

With audiences now in the billions, only an ostrich would ignore the communication potential of social networks. Now where’s that dancing pony video again?