3 Things Today’s Emphasis on “Fake News” Can Teach Us About Business Reputation Management


“Fake news!” Today, it seems to be the common cry when people don’t like what is being written or said in the news. However, it’s true that there seems to be more false news being put out these days.

Of course, in every fake news article there is usually a smidgeon of truth. It’s just that truth has been spun in whatever direction the writer wants it to go. The end result being that the piece essentially serves to further the author’s agenda.

You might be wondering, “What does this have to do with me and my business?”

In our modern-day world, reputation management is crucial for any business.

These days, more and more people research the reputation of a business – reviews, ratings, scores, etc. – before ever making the first contact. And certainly, before ever completing the first transaction.

So, what can we learn about reputation management from the “fake news” trend?

ONE: The more shocking the news, the farther and faster it spreads

Today, people LOVE to hit the share, like, and forward buttons. No more so than when the “news” they are passing on is scintillating or scandalous. No doubt you’ve seen that you can have hundreds or thousands of happy customers, and they might tell one or two others.

On the other hand, if you make a customer frustrated or angry, they will tell everyone they know—or can reach. Then, those people will tell everyone they know and can reach. Soon, it seems there is no one left who doesn’t know the story. Yet, it’s only their side of the story that’s being disseminated.

In short matter, this one negative experience becomes so widespread it becomes the only way many people know about your business at all.

TWO: The “story” grows each time it is passed on…

With “fake news,” each time the story is shared, it seems additional “facts” or details get added. Remember the “gossip” game that many of us played as children? In this game, you sit in a circle and one person starts a story. It gets whispered to the next person. And the next. And so on. Finally, the last person tells what they heard. It NEVER is even close to where it started.

Fake news is akin to that as well. It’s “fake enough” at the beginning. But because it was made up – designed to be exciting and scintillating – it moves through networks like wildfire. In the process, the story gets made even more dramatic (“faker”).

With a negative customer report or review, it’s pretty much the same. Often, when a single customer or client has a bad experience with your business, the story gets worse and worse the farther it reaches. Primarily, because the customer or client feels the need to embellish the story to make it shareworthy.

As it spreads, others feel this same need. If you aren’t aware of the issue when it begins or began, by the time you do become aware of it (or worse, are made aware of it), it may be a much larger problem to “fix.”

THREE: If it’s on the web, it’s true

The Internet has totally altered the standard of truth or proof. Fake sources can look completely legitimate. Furthermore, “experts” can really be total imposters who put on a good show. Publishing too, can be done by nearly anyone.

Since most people tend to believe nearly all of what they see or read, it doesn’t truly matter if the story (or in your case, the complaint about your business) is real or not. After all, if it’s on the web, it’s true. Right? Even if it as fake as the fakest news out there.

All this being the case, what can we learn about reputation management from the “fake news” trend?

  1. Keep an eye on the web, on a regular basis

Google let you establish “alerts” that notify you when people mention your business online. There are also reputation management or monitoring services that will do this – and more – for you. Either way, when you become aware of the issue quickly, you can jump on top of it quickly too.

  1. Respond to the news fast

Again, utilizing Google Alerts – or other monitoring service(s) – means you’ll know quickly when something is said about your company on the web. Thus, to make this genuinely work for you, once you see it, address it. If you feel a response is necessary (if the customer is asking for one or some other answer or explanation), respond as briefly and honestly as possible, as quickly as possible.

  1. Respond to the problem – not the person

With fake news, many people are tempted to attack the source. That’s a problem because it sparks emotion. Consequently, people take sides based on the source—some will take one side or the other because of who they know better, or currently “believe” more. Thus, the news itself is either deemed true or false based on factors other than the content.

What this teaches us, is that when someone is spreading something negative about your business, it’s important to only address the content—not try to discredit the source. That would be ineffective and counterproductive to your reputation. Furthermore, you would be expecting many “out there” who don’t know you or your business to take your side over someone who they can relate to – who is “like them” – a customer. Only addressing the subject matter, calmly, helps to build trust and respect and enables people to better consider the content in a more neutral light.

  1. Admit when the story is real—and make it right

Of course, there are times when an accused “fake news” story turns out to be true. Likewise, you might find times when negative things are said about your business, and they turn out to be true as well.

If this happens to you, it’s best to admit concession quickly and then do what you can to correct any issues and make them right quickly, as well. If you do this when you should, you will find that your reputation is very likely to be strengthened, instead of harmed—no matter what the original story was. Furthermore, people are more likely to believe your side in the future if what’s being said about your business then, is more fake news, than true.