Stop the Lies! How Associations Can Fight Fake News

Posted by TMG on July 24, 2017 3:15:00 PM

We’re hearing the term more and more—fake news. Unfounded headlines and “news” that is, at the least, misleading (think all those sensationalized “clickbait” headlines in your Facebook feed) and, at the worst, downright false. The Internet has driven up the popularity of fake news as a tool for generating buzz and revenue. We are, after all, all scrambling for some attention online, and what better tool to accomplish this mission than an eye-catching headline à la National Enquirer?
Because of its shareability, fake news is notorious for spreading quickly and leaving its more serious—and legit—competitors in the dust.
While we’re all guilty of getting sucked in, fake news is having a serious, damaging effect on the integrity of information and the sound research on which it (should be) based. In this day of 24-hour news channels, social media journalism and sponsored blog posts, how can we keep up with what’s really going on? Associations offer, in part, the answer.
As vessels of knowledge and insight in their respective fields, associations have a vital role to play in filtering out all those sponsored blog posts and outright lies. In doing so, not only are they doing their part in keeping the general public properly informed, but they can position themselves as go-to resources for current and accurate information. In other words, fighting fake news is a robust strategic move as well as a moral one.
Where to begin? These are some of the things associations can do to reinforce their authority and credibility in the age of fake news:
Communicate your position: let the world know that you, as an association, are taking a stand against fake news. Formalize this position in the form of a declaration, and disseminate it to all your members. Take it a step further and publish it on your social media feed, which is a crafty way of already distinguishing yourself from the rest of the pack. Your announcement is sure to garner respect.
Implement rigorous citation standards. Sit down with whoever is responsible for your content marketing and determine how you will ensure that any information you share with members and the public at large is not tainted by sensationalism or misinformation. A big piece of this puzzle is verifying citations. Whether we’re talking about a white paper, a blog post or other content format, make sure that any references are rooted in fact and research.
Create an online library of resources: speaking of content, consider going beyond the monthly blog post and aim to create an online library of resources. While you can make some of these resources accessible to members only as an incentive to get people to join, do include a more general section for the public at large. Having people outside of your association consult your website for information definitely doesn’t hurt, even if they never become members.
Opt for generating more in-house produced research and insights. If you want your association to be that go-to source, you need to provide the information for people to go to! Does your association have a certification program? Certification programs not only boost your association’s credibility but promote high standards in your field. Associations should also look to develop benchmarking surveys to help bolster the flow of hard data that the industry and news media can turn to. By being the standard bearer for your industry, you have the unique opportunity to gather data from these benchmarking initiatives that break through the fake news cloud and protect the integrity of your field.
Amp up training and professional development programs. While almost every association has the major annual or biennial conference, why stop there? If budget permits, look at creating smaller, more frequent symposia or events that further develop your members’ knowledge. Let members contribute to your stand against fake news by allowing them to expand their knowledge and expertise.
Speaking of members, encourage and groom them to be spokespeople in their field. Members are probably the most undervalued tool for reinforcing an association’s credibility. Reach out to them and incite them to become thought leaders, either through appearances on panels and presentations at events, or even in their own work. As members build their individual credibility, you will, too. If you want to take it a step further, create a section on your website that announces your members’ availability for speaking engagements. When a member makes a significant appearance, or produces some interesting research, share this news with your social networks.
In short, when associations promote their credibility, fake news takes a hit. Yes, fake news is annoying and, at times, dangerous, but random complaining won’t change anything. Actively engaging in the fight can. Thanks to their resources and collective knowledge, associations have countless opportunities to be the confident and respected voices that people turn to in a world filled with noise.

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