12 Apr 2017

Social360 caught up with Dean Clarke, Head of Group Digital Communications at BAE Systems, to discuss fake news and what corporations can do to prepare themselves.

Social360: How has your in-house communications function adapted itself to incorporate the world of social media?

DC: Like any new communications medium, platform or tool we take the time to understand its possible applications for us. Social media allows us to reach a large proportion of our audiences more quickly and effectively. We have pursued a strategy of peer-to-peer engagement to increase reach rather than non-organic follower growth. We have multiple social media accounts across areas of our business as well as channels that work together to tell a coherent global story while being region, subject or platform specific.

Social360: Do you use your corporate social media channels to disseminate information to your audiences and if so, how critical a part of your communications strategy is this?

DC: Yes. It is a major part of our communications mix. It is most often used to promote website content into specific social media platforms or audience bases. We use this to “own the message” in terms of reach and engagement.

Social360: Has fake news affected your social media strategy? If so how?

DC: Fake news is not new. It’s just much easier for someone to promote fake news more effectively now and to have it mixed into real news as media consumption habits and methods have changed. Our strategy of message ownership through organic peer-to-peer engagement stands up to fake news as much as it does bad news.

Social360: What measures do you have in place when misinformation or fake news is used against the company?

DC: We have comprehensive traditional, social and broadcast media monitoring and alerting. We are aware of all news, fake or otherwise, and are able to deal with it appropriately. This could be via our media team contacting a journalist for a redaction on an incorrect element in an article through to a response on social media with supporting information to counter any misinformation.

Social360: What is the greatest threat that fake news poses to your organisation?

DC: Like most organisations, our communications/PR teams are in the reputation business. Fake news is a risk to that reputation.

Social360: Do you see the fake news situation improving or worsening?

DC: Fake news is the new buzzword to describe an issue that has been around for a number of years. It is important to be distinct, and not class critical or conflicting views as fake. Fake has to be factually incorrect – misinformation. Roll back the clock a decade and to influence the news agenda you had to spend a lot of money to buy a major newspaper. Now coverage can be purchased much more cheaply via digital and social marketing. As consumers of news we are used to a bias on negative stories. The difference is now is a single tap of a phone screen can take that news and position it with like-minded people. This creates viral bubbles of communication that are hard to intercept, slow down or stop.

Social360: What role can employees have in countering either bad or fake news posted online? Do you give your employees guidelines as to how to respond to online posts?

DC: Employees are often the best advocates of your company. We offer comprehensive guidelines and advice to our employees to help them stay safe online both in a personal and professional capacity. Vigilance and pride combined with this guidance is a powerful thing!

Social360: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the role of traditional media alongside social?

DC: There will always be a reliance on traditional media. The industry has been through huge change from a delivery or channel perspective and now the fight is in the information itself. If I was running a traditional media organisation, I would be investing in fact checking capabilities and employing the best digital and marketing minds to help cut through the noise.

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