Tackling fake news: How can you preserve your e-reputation?

Published on 16/06/2022 by Emilie Audubert and Eduardo Garcia

Though generally considered a feature linked to the development of digital technology, disinformation online also concerns the world of work. In this article, Capterra discusses the importance of monitoring your online corporate e-reputation when tackling fake news.

How can you preserve your e-reputation and tackle fake news?

With the advent of digital technology, Internet users have a tool offering ever-faster, large-scale communication. The circulation of data on the Internet, especially via social networks, allows the dissemination of informative messages in real-time to vast numbers of people. But if it’s fake news, it can also be a source of misinformation.

According to a study from Ofcom almost half of all UK people say they get information via social networks, the context of the pandemic has taken the spread of false information to an entirely new level. This trend has even led the WHO to create the specific term ‘infodemic’ to label this type of phenomenon and help prevent its spread.

Fake news affects many different individuals in society and does not spare the business community. So what risks are e-reputation businesses exposed to when confronted with fake news? What best practices can they employ to preserve their online reputation? Find out more in this Capterra article.

What is fake news?

A term used to define false information circulating through modern media, fake news is a phenomenon that came into the scene long before the advent of our digital society. It first began to emerge alongside the appearance of hand-written newspapers, resulting in announcements affecting the general public, such as the example of erroneous illnesses affecting George II being published in the 17th Century, to damage his public image.

Nowadays, the sharing of digital information can create new kinds of misinformation. While some of this content has no malicious intent, it can still be taken seriously by the general public. However, other kinds of content may be designed to harm the image or reputation of a third party. Fake news can thus take many forms.

What are the different forms of fake news?

Among the various different categories of fake news, we can identify the following:

1. Satirical content

This includes parodies and non-malicious content, based on invented or even absurd events. Even if this content is primarily created for humorous purposes, its distribution may soon take it beyond the control of its original creators. One example here is the Volkswagen brand hoax, where false rumours of a name change eventually caused the brand to issue an apology through its spokesperson.

2. Targeted disinformation content

This content is based on the principle of virality, i.e. the rapid repetition of an unfounded rumour on a massive scale via the Internet and the media. Also known as fake news, this content targets groups who are particularly sensitive to this type of information and may thus share such posts as credible. Nutella is one company that has been the victim of this phenomenon, with the brand having had to deny a false rumour which claimed its products were contaminated with salmonella.

3. Manipulated content

This type of content uses intentionally garbled and altered information (fake images, or even deepfakes), with the aim of harming a third party. The Walmart company was recently confronted with such a situation, with the publication of a false press release using its brand identity which announced a partnership between Walmart and Litecoin cryptocurrency.

4. “Clickbait” content

This concerns articles using misleading headlines about real facts, aimed at encouraging users to investigate the content. Popularly known as “clickbait” or “click trap”, this technique, which is simply used for unscrupulous advertising purposes, aims to arouse the curiosity of the reader without ever providing or justifying the information it reports.

The risks for a company’s e-reputation

While the pandemic context continues to offer fertile ground for the spreading of false information, companies are faced with extra challenges related to the protection of their e-reputation. Defined as the combination of the image conveyed by a brand and displayed to Internet users, a company’s e-reputation can be impacted at different levels by uncontrolled information.

The downside of programmatic advertising

Used as an advertising strategy, programmatic advertising is employed by companies to automate the online promotion of their products and services. A company can thus define a target according to certain criteria, while programmatic ecosystems, such as Google, are responsible for disseminating that information to a range of sites for which it manages advertising space.

Programmatic advertising works according to an auction system, whereby the advertiser with the highest bid can see their content become more widely distributed. However, the advertiser often has little control over the editorial framework the advertising then encounters: Brands can sometimes only look on helplessly while their advertisements become associated with disinformation sites.

Fake news can have a real economic impact

According to figures published by the University of Baltimore, global stock market losses linked to the impact of fake news in 2019 amounted to nearly 39 billion dollars (about 32.5 billion euros), while 17 billion dollars of company losses were attributed to financial disinformation (about 14.5 billion euros).

While the World Economic Forum has now designated fake news as a major risk factor for the economy.

As Anaig Nouvel, marketing director for Immodvisor puts it: “A bad e-reputation directly impacts a company’s turnover. For example, customer reviews can not only make or break sales, they can also impact workforce morale, engagement and recruitment. So a good e-reputation becomes the source of virtuous economic development, and generates commitment within the brand community (including partners, suppliers, etc.) and within the workforce.”

When customers lose confidence in company messages

Yext’s annual report, “Searching for Trust”, highlighted various issues surrounding how people respond to brand communications. In the context of fake news, nearly 52% of them thought brands were responsible for distributing false information, and 51% said they did not trust the information companies place online.

Several factors can explain Internet users’ mistrust:

  • The sheer volume of information communicated online does not facilitate the visibility and credibility of the information companies provide. A sizeable majority (71%) of participants said they felt overwhelmed by the abundance of online information.
  • A climate of mistrust towards institutions and organisations can invite Internet users to become more aware of unverified content. The UK followed other European countries increasingly having less trust in their institutions (NGOs, companies, government, and media).

Ensuring the consistency and visibility of their message is thus essential for companies, as Catherine Cervoni, press, media and influence relations advisor attests: “There is no magic: “You are what you post”. This is as true for a business as it is for an individual. A company has a vested interest in defining an editorial line for its social networks. Beyond the communication that concerns its product/service/business universe, this will allow it to choose the territories in which it wishes to invest and which correspond with its own values.”

Advice for SMEs on how to manage their e-reputation

State bodies, as well as certain commercial players, have taken online communication measures designed to combat the problem of disinformation. For example, the UK parliament have prepared an online safety bill against the manipulation of information, while platforms such as YouTube, often used as a channel for the distribution of unverified information, have explored different measures to optimise their content moderation.

Whether or not the evolution of these frameworks helps companies to combat disinformation, certain good practices can still allow them to optimise the management of their e-reputation and anticipate risks. As  Fabienne Billat, Influence Communication and Digital Strategy Advisor points out: “If a crisis occurs, it’s a sign that a company has not yet developed a sophisticated  strategy to safeguard its reputation, and more generally to control its digital communications. Crises develop upstream. If an organisation has anticipated several scenarios, it can then quickly put in place the necessary resources to avoid it, or at least to rapidly dampen their impact.”

Read on below for some tips about how SMEs can manage their e-reputation.

Constantly monitor your online reputation

Monitoring the status of your e-reputation can be an essential tool to help you analyse areas for improvement. One of the first steps is to identify the channels mentioning your business and thus identify the type of message in which your brand gets mentioned. Some tools specifically dedicated to e-reputation monitoring can help you optimise this process.

 Anaig Nouvel’s advice about corporate e-reputation
Anaig Nouvel’s advice about corporate e-reputation

 

 Anaig Nouvel also recommends:

  • “Tip 2: Communicate: create “positive” content and ensure it is having an impact (targeting, virality …)
  • Tip 3: Respond to each and every opinion expressed by Internet users with a web presence: forum users, social network comments, customer reviews, etc. Never leave a comment unanswered, especially negative ones.
  • Tip 4: Be proactive and gather opinions from all your customers, so those who are satisfied get a chance to express themselves. Don’t let those who are dissatisfied – often the ones who leave unsolicited reviews – be the ones who shape your company’s reputation.”

Carry out an audit of your e-reputation

Monitoring your online presence can help you answer the important questions: Who is talking about your business online? What type of content is being delivered? And what is the status of your e-reputation as compared with your business rivals?

Once you have gathered all the information related to your e-reputation, an audit will help you focus on those areas where improvement is a priority. For example, this could help you to create risk reports to improve your e-reputation, a task which can be implemented via dedicated software.

Define an appropriate e-reputation strategy

Collating all the data about your online presence can help improve your online reputation strategy. Reports based on your monitoring and audits should help you effect targeted improvements.

You will then be able to define the essential criteria of your e-reputation strategy, such as the adoption of tools to manage your presence on social networks and target particular points of dissatisfaction expressed by your customers or identify the points likely to impact your search engine listings according to the results of your personalised analyses.

Corporate e-reputation advice from Fabienne Billat
Corporate e-reputation advice from Fabienne Billat

 

Fabienne Billat also suggests: “Any monitoring should not be limited to aspects of reputation alone, but should also include strategic information about your business sector, thus demonstrating the value and interest your online presence can generate.”

Focus on trust to combat disinformation

While an e-reputation strategy is essential to preserve your company’s image and to help you anticipate any possible crisis communications, a key factor is maintaining a trustful relationship between your company and all the stakeholders involved in its e-reputation.

Your company ambassadors, employees and commercial partners are valuable allies who can help you preserve your brand image.

Catherine Cervoni business e-reputation tips
Catherine Cervoni business e-reputation tips

 

Catherine Cervoni continues: “At a time when we are ever more sensitive to brand ethics and when a digital tsunami can trigger uncontrollable mob responses, it is better to remain on your guard and explain such e-reputation challenges to your primary ambassadors: your company workforce.”

Ensuring your staff are sensitive to your corporate culture and its values is an important avenue to explore, using solutions such as employee engagement software.  You could also consider using regular surveys to test the degree of satisfaction among your customers and stakeholders. It would help, for example, to establish this criterion as a KPI to be monitored alongside your other business objectives.

Maintaining a good e-reputation thus requires effort at each level of your company, and involves both internal and external relations, in order to optimally manage online information about your business.

Looking for reputation management software? Check out our catalogue!

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the authors

Content Analyst for Capterra, on the lookout for the latest technological and strategic trends for SMEs. Specialized in e-commerce, passionate about podcasts and pugs.

Content Analyst for Capterra, on the lookout for the latest technological and strategic trends for SMEs. Specialized in e-commerce, passionate about podcasts and pugs.

Content Analyst for the UK. Providing research and digital tech tips for SMBs. MA in Journalism. MA in Diplomatic Studies. Animal loving, sea revering, Mancunian

Content Analyst for the UK. Providing research and digital tech tips for SMBs. MA in Journalism. MA in Diplomatic Studies. Animal loving, sea revering, Mancunian

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