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How Can PR Combat Fake News?


On Sunday, December 4, a man carrying an assault rifle walked into a family-friendly pizza shop in Washington D.C. and fired. He was there to “self-investigate” a disgraceful conspiracy theory that accused Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, of running a child sex slave operation out of the pizzeria. Instigated by a false news article, the story had spread via social media several weeks before. The restaurant’s owner, its employees, and even their children had already been subjected to death threats and online harassment in recent weeks.

A media and culture crisis

This terrifying incident is only the latest crisis fueled by fake news sites and online rumor mills. The untrue, vile abuse story and the social media users who perpetuated it are a tiny piece of a much larger problem plaguing our media and our culture. With the proliferation of fake news sites during the 2016 presidential election, politicians and pundits are despairing at the possibility of a “post-factual world,” – and wondering what role legitimate media outlets can play in combating it.


How PR can combat fake news?

The implications for PR are vast. In addition to the stupefied media, this issue has created a whole new kind of brand disaster – one beyond the experience of even seasoned crisis managers. How can we protect a neighborhood pizza shop whose online reviews include such slander as “They rape children” and “Shady cover up going on here. INVESTIGATE. INVESTIGATE. INVESTIGATE. shut em down ppl!”?

So how can PR combat fake news? Here are a few takeaways that businesses and their PR teams should keep in mind.

  1. Trust in the media is at a record low, and it is getting lower. Ensure that you and your clients are represented honestly and transparently in traditional outlets. Be prepared to argue your case in other ways, like social media and community advocates.
  2. Be vigilant in monitoring your social media and online presence. When a false story is written, time is of the essence. Contact legitimate media outlets, and ensure that customers know that the story is false. In addition, alert news aggregators and curators like Google and Facebook, who are under increasing pressure to stop false news.
  3. Take extra care to work only with legitimate news sources. Efforts to benefit from false news sites will certainly come around to bite you in the rear end.
  4. Avoid picking fights with trolls and online commenters.
  5. Don’t participate in the sharing or spreading of false news, in business or your personal life. It reflects poorly on you and your brand and perpetuates a major social ill.


This contagion will continue to assault our culture, our politics, and our public safety. Do your part in stopping the spread of these lies, and take precautionary measures to protect your interests. You never know who will be the next victim.


A version of this article was published on Spin Sucks.

3 Tips to Create an Effective Media List


The creation of an effective media list is an essential component to any PR plan. A media list is a compilation of media outlets including specific reporter contact information. As someone who is just beginning my career in PR, I find myself looking to the below tips when creating media lists from scratch. They have helped to direct my process and break down the task of creating a media list into manageable parts. Here’s hoping it can do the same for you.

Understand Your Audience and Scope

This is a crucial starting point for beginning your media list. Who is your client and who are they trying to reach? What industry are they in and what industries are do they want to engage? What kind of publicity are they looking for? The more specific you can be with these answers, the better. This gathered information should guide the media outlets you target, whether it’s print, online, broadcast, or some other form of media.

Similar to understanding your audience is determining the scope of the publicity you want for your client. Where do they want to be seen? Do they want highly localized media coverage? Regional or national? This will help broaden or narrow your focus on media outlets.

mobile social media


Check Twice and Use Twitter

Finding the perfect media outlet for your client will only be helpful if you pitch to the right reporter. Media databases like MyMediaInfo will have information about reporters and their beats, but they could be out of date. It’s important to cross check this information with other sources. This can be done with media outlet staff directories, such as The Oregonian. However, while some media outlets have detailed staff directories, others do not. You can also look up past articles written by a reporter to ensure they align with the content you hope to pitch.

Social media can also provide additional insight on a reporter. Check out their Twitter or other social media platforms to see the kind of content they consistently post. This can be a helpful indicator of what content interests them. Additionally, interacting with reporters via social media can help them get to know you which is beneficial when pitching.

Have a Little Patience

Sometimes finding the right reporter at the optimal news outlet can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Some clients may be highly specific and have less outlets that are applicable, while others may be broader. Be persistent with your research. Crafting a great media list can take time and that’s okay. Happy hunting!

The Power of the Telephone

picking up the phone

Picking up the phone

In today’s world, we use a variety of outlets to communicate with others and voice our opinion. From emailing, texting, tweeting, posting, pinning, sharing and liking, the ability to communicate is near limitless. The one thing most people have moved away from is using the telephone. Dial tone, number pad and ringing – it’s something that is becoming foreign to us. When it comes to us in public relations – the land of communications – I hate to admit it, but we are not much better. With all of the new social media and texting tools at our fingertips, it’s easy to understand WHY we’ve embraced these tools. They’re quick, easy and often get the job done. With that said, we have come to rely on these tools and have nearly abandoned the telephone. It is from that I think we could use a friendly reminder the importance of taking the upper hand and picking up the phone more often.


Taking the upper hand

I’m sure most people can relate to me. How often have you been confused or misunderstood by an email? Or, how many times have you waited for a text message or email response? I know I’ve had my fair share, which can result in a lot of wasted time and energy. I think it is a good reminder to everyone in communications that we need to exercise our expertise more frequently by picking up the phone. Whether it be to get clarity, help answer a question or to pester a non-responsive reporter, picking up the phone can only give us the upper hand.


Those of us in the communication industry who pick up the phone more often have the edge to get the answers they need and garner the results they want for their clients. Social media cannot replace phone calls. Emailing cannot replace a one-on-one conversation. An interview done by email does not live up to the standards to one done in-person or on the phone. A press release does not replace verbal communication with spokespeople. It’s plain and simple folks – picking up the phone will help you get the information you need without much of the guesswork social media can bring. Next time you have a question for a client or need to reach a reporter, pick up the phone and give them a call!

GMA Correspondent Shares Her Breast Cancer Diagnosis On-Air

I love when TV does good.

On Monday morning (11/11/13) Amy Robach of ‘Good Morning America’ shared her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment choice with viewers. It was a diagnosis she got after receiving an on-air mammogram in early October.

Amy Robach's breast cancer

The mother of two shared her breast cancer diagnosis on GMA, alongside cancer survivor and colleague Robin Roberts.

Her choice is to treat the cancer aggressively, opting for a double mastectomy. Details  on Amy Robach’s breast cancer are limited (she doesn’t yet know what stage or if the cancer has spread) but the 40-year-old Robach shared what she knew with Robin Roberts, herself a cancer survivor.

As Robach said, “I would have considered it virtually impossible that I would have cancer.” It’s a sentiment I would guess is shared by most people fighting the battle against cancer. It was this mentality that made it easy for Robach to postpone a mammogram, a procedure she only completed as part of a GMA assignment. An assignment she claims she actually resisted.

Amy Robach's breast cancer

The 40-year-old underwent a mammogram live on air in October for GMA.

Robach is now part of a strong team of women in media and entertainment that have made their cancer diagnosis part of their public persona. In addition to her GMA colleague Roberts, Robach can seek the wisdom of E!’s Giuliana Rancic, musician Sheryl Crow, and even Angelina Jolie. It’s not a club anyone would chose to be in, but I’m proud of these women for sharing their stories and using their platforms for good.

#Hashtags: The New Communication Tool #hmmmm #skeptical #hungry

hashtag abusers

Earlier this summer New York Magazine’s Jeff Wisler wrote a piece called “The 7 Types of Hashtag Abusers” which so brilliantly put into words a deep, personal animosity for hashtags that has been growing ever stronger in my heart.  Wisler puts hashtag abusers on blast, calling out several categories of misuse, including:

  1. The Hashtag Stuffer: The most common form of hashtag abusers. The Stuffer is incapable of simply sharing a photo of his July Fourth fireworks; he festoons it with #firework #fireworks #july4th #July4 #pretty #boom! #red #white #blue #1776bitches!
  2. The Verbal Hashtagger: Someone who actually says the word “hashtag” in conversation. Exhibit A: Kasey, the Bachelorette contestant, who charms women with phrases — spoken out loud! — like “hashtag marriage material” and “hashtag let the journey begin.”
  3. The Hack-tagger: Created by a company, brand, or political organization. The classic example is McDonald’s, who used #McDStories to ask for heartwarming stories about the golden arches. The result? A gleeful backlash of tweets like “Ate a McFish and vomited 1 hour later …. #McDstories.”
  4. The Gratuitous Event Hashtagger: You no longer go to the beach, now you go to the #beach, where we’re more likely to play with our phones than play in the waves. If you’re grilling burgers and dogs? Step one is to pour the charcoal, step two is to hashtag #bbq. It’s only a matter of time before, on Sunday mornings, the pious whip out their phones while at #church.

I thought I hated hashtags; I thought they were a lazy excuse to avoid full sentences and proper punctuation (is the pound sign considered “punctuation?”), and to string together totally unassociated thoughts and concepts. But Mr. Wisler has helped me understand that it is not the hashtag itself that I despise, but the misuse of it. The hashtag as a language tool is actually quite effective in efficiently communicating emotion and context

hashtag abusers As Julia Turner of the New York Times writes, “[T]he hashtag gives the writer the opportunity to comment on his own emotional state, to sarcastically undercut his own tweet, to construct an extra layer of irony, to offer a flash of evocative imagery or to deliver metaphors with striking economy.” With minimal characters hashtags can add depth, link and build communities, and fuel movements.

So, on the heels of Tuesday’s National Punctuation Day and in honor of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s fabulous #Hashtag skit, I ponder how hashtag abusers might someday slip them into journalism and literature. They’ve managed to slime their way from Twitter to Facebook to text message, spurring commentary in all aspects of media. The day when hashtags are used to cull data and add color to traditional news media might not be far off. Look out parentheses and semicolons, the pound sign is moving in.