Skip Navigation Accessibility Statement

The 2024 State of the Media Report

Get actionable insight from 3,000+ journalists on what they truly want and need from PR teams.

Don’t Fall for April Fool’s: 5 Ways to Combat Misinformation About Your Brand

We live in a fast-moving media landscape, where rumors and misinformation can surface and spread quickly across social media channels. This, coupled with consumers being more skeptical than ever, means brands face challenges in maintaining their reputation and managing public perception.

PR and communications teams know that they must play a crucial role in combatting any emerging false narratives and establishing their brand as a source of truth. Allowing misinformation to spread unchecked can lead to reputational damage, erode consumer trust, and negatively affect the bottom line. By keeping an ear to the ground and rapidly addressing false claims, brands can stay ahead of potential crises before they spiral out of control.

What other immediate steps can PR teams take do to ensure they’re ready to tackle the issues at hand? Here are five ways to combat misinformation.

Proactively Build Your Brand Equity

The value and perception of your brand are crucial to any long-term growth and success. However, this relies on safeguarding against misinformation that could lead to a crisis. Teams should think proactively, building out an authoritative, trusted brand image long before any crises emerge.

An “always on” communications strategy will consistently convey your core values and show transparency and authenticity. Instead of relying on reactive PR crisis measures, organizations can place a clear focus on telling compelling stories across owned and earned media channels on an ongoing basis.

Effective brand storytelling should emphasize key messages and mission-driven initiatives through press releases, bylined articles, social media campaigns, spokesperson commentary, and third-party validation. This style of brand journalism helps shape audience perception and provides a foundation of trust that’s essential to fighting misinformation.

Empower Your Brand Advocates

In a misinformation-driven crisis, your reputation can be managed by putting weight behind credible voices and those viewed as experts in their field.

As outlined above, proactive work is critical to brand resilience – and it’s not just about what you communicate but who is behind the communication. Audiences are more likely to trust brands that have built up goodwill through a history of transparent communication and proven commitment to their brand values.

According to the 2024 Global Comms Report, the three types of influencers communications leaders find most valuable are everyday consumers, corporate executives, and employees. PR teams should tap into each of these cohorts, who can vouch for your organization in a credible, authentic way. By promoting positive stories through genuine voices, you can cut through the noise of misinformation.

Both your organization's employees and its high-level corporate executives are critical to combatting misinformation, so arm them with the right talking points to address the issues at hand. Your internal comms teams play an important role, too. They can ensure that your execs and employees are kept informed of any situation, know where to go if they have questions, and know how to respond should a member of the media contact them.

Consumers yield the most influence overall, so if you've built up adequate brand equity they will stand by you and come to your defense in a time of need. Journalists are also key influencers, so building these relationships and having a 'go-to' list of contacts who you trust to tell your side of the story will help you push back against misinformation.

Make Use of Media Monitoring and Social Listening

Tapping into conversations across traditional media, social media, forums, and review sites will give communications teams the scope to identify trends, insights, and gaps that reveal how audiences perceive their brand – and how those perceptions are changing over time. 

Media monitoring platforms like CisionOne can help here, getting you ahead of misinformation by wading through the large volume of content generated by newspapers, magazines and myriad online channels. It can give both high-level insights and drill down into brand mentions and sentiment to uncover what they mean.

With the right monitoring in place, you can also get visibility into the most effective ways to communicate your crisis messaging and reframe the narrative. These tools can help you identify the channels where your audiences are most active and find influential journalists talking about your brand or related topics. From there, you can work to change the current story around your brand.

Ensure You’re Not the Source of Misinformation

Even the most well-intentioned brands can create problems of their own accord. Crossed wires could lead to a misworded (or mistimed) social post that hits the wrong note with consumers, gains traction, and suddenly you’re facing a backlash and a call for a boycott of your brand. The results can be disastrous – but they don’t have to be. What you do next is critical.

If your company is at fault, own it. Trying to cover up a mistake or deny it will only do further damage. Though you want to act as quickly as possible to diffuse the situation, you also want to avoid a knee-jerk reaction that you may regret later. 

Take time to craft a thoughtful response, and ensure stakeholders are brought into the process to get more perspectives. Let your audience know what you will do to both correct the error and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Most importantly, make sure you follow through on your commitment to do better. Audiences may be willing to give a brand that makes a mistake another chance; however, if your promises prove empty, your audience won’t be as forgiving the second time around.

Make Misinformation Part of Your Crisis Comms Plan

Every organization should have a robust crisis communications plan in place. Deploying it can help minimize potential damage when your brand suddenly finds itself at the center of misinformation. Here’s a recap of what you should consider when incorporating misinformation into your overall crisis comms plans:

  • Establish a “crisis response team” with a mix of internal advisors who can craft and issue statements, and spokespeople ready to talk to the press about misinformation
  • Identify all the necessary channels through which to distribute your crisis communications - such as your company press room, blog, emails, and social media pages
  • Identify a group of third-party advocates and partners to validate your position and reinforce facts
  • Curate a dedicated list of relevant media contacts who can help disseminate key messaging to relevant audiences quickly
  • Implement a post-crisis review strategy to analyze what was handled effectively and where there’s room for improvement

The Bottom Line

While the spread of misinformation presents comms teams with challenges, brands that keep themselves grounded in ethical, audience-focused PR practices – and proactively monitor what’s being said about their company – are best equipped to counteract misinformation that threatens to hijack public perception. Investing in proactive brand storytelling, real-time listening, authentic engagement, and crisis readiness provides a strategic advantage for responsible brands navigating difficult situations.

For more insights about misinformation, download our e-book PR in the Age of Misinformation.

Learn more about CisionOne today or schedule time to speak with an expert.

Simon Reynolds

Simon is the Content Marketing Manager at Cision. He worked as a journalist for more than a decade, writing on staff and freelance for Hearst, Dennis, Future and Autovia titles before joining Cision in 2022.