Ten Steps to Take When Your Brand is the Victim of Fake News

Fake news can strike any brand at any time. It hit ours recently. Consider this a playbook for what to do when fake news hits your brand. 

For clarity, I’m not talking about how to respond to a story in which facts were misinterpreted or taken out of context. I’m not talking about editorials, either. I’m talking about a completely fabricated story that has no basis in fact and is damaging to your brand.

When fake news hits, it will almost certainly spread via Facebook first. Follow the steps below and you’ll make it through as unscathed as possible.
  1. Make sure the fake news story is actually fake. Don’t proceed with the next steps unless it’s truly fake news and has no basis in fact.
  2. Draft a brief statement (3-4 sentences) to communicate four things:
    • You are aware of the fake news story 
    • It’s truly fake news
    • You are working to take down the story
    • You are contacting each person who has shared the story online and asking them to remove their post
  3. Communicate to your employees and internal stakeholders, using the statement drafted in #2. Ask them to use the statement to respond to customer questions they receive.
  4. Contact the website on which the fake news is hosted, explain the situation, and ask them to take the article down as quickly as possible.
  5. Search Facebook for the fake news article and flag every post as fake news. For step-by-step instructions, see this link. Ask as many of your co-workers as possible to do the same. You may need to do this for several hours as the article spreads.
  6. Contact every person on Facebook who has shared the fake news link. You may have to comment on the posts with your personal Facebook account if the poster hasn’t tagged your brand in his or her post. If you have to use your personal account, simply comment, “I work for [Brand] and I wanted you to know that this is a fake news article. Would you mind deleting this post so that it doesn’t spread any further?” Facebook will only allow you to post on a limited number of pages within a certain amount of time. Once you are blocked from commenting, start messaging people privately with the same message. This is why you need as many helpers as possible.
  7. If the fake news is spreading via Twitter, reach out to people who have posted the article on Twitter in the same way as described in #6, but you should be able to do it from your brand account.
  8. You may want to put out a public statement to the media, on your website, and/or social media pages about the fake news story, depending on the severity of the situation. Or you may just want to wait to be contacted before saying anything publicly. That’s up to you. If you post a statement on your website, consider running a short-term Google ad targeting your brand terms so that when someone searches your brand name on Google, your article is the first that appears at the top of the search results page.
  9. You may want to contact relevant members of your email list with the statement you wrote in step #2, if the situation calls for it.
  10. Review your response procedures once the fake news has been squashed. What went well? What could have gone better? How can you prepare now to handle things even better next time?
There’s never a lack of ideas. 

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