With evolution of technology and communication platforms, the role that PR play in the dissemination of a company’s information has evolved, as has how the information is conveyed and how pertinent and/or sensational the information is.
As it stands, news and information can almost be made up on the spot and shared at the touch of button, with thousands of people across the globe. The negative consequence of this is that many of these people will not fact check what they see or read, and will simply continue to spread the information, resulting in a thread going viral. The result of this is the damaging Fake News phenomenon, which negatively affects people, companies and countries worldwide.
South Africa has been a launch pad for many fake news stories lately, often with highly detrimental effects to those involved.
In November 2016, Gauteng’s highways were flooded during an abnormal rain storm that saw people and cars left stranded awaiting rescue. During the days after this, a number of fake weather news stories flooded social media causing undue panic – people kept the children at home, they stayed at home, transport patterns changed and emergency services were called to non-emergencies, wasting time and money all round.
More recently and on a more personal level, one of South Africa’s best loved power couples, Basetsana and Romeo Kumalo, have been the victims of a fake news article. Not only has this negatively affected the Kumalos wholesome brand image, but their children have become inadvertent victims as they no doubt heard about the salacious news from the friends and peers at school.
In country where we’re only beginning to find our feet following the apartheid era ethnic separation, race relations are still a huge challenge for us to overcome. The fake news phenomenon that feeds the race rumour mill has not helped the cause either and companies need to be especially careful of what they say, and how they say it, and it is here that digital marketing and PR agencies need to begin to have much closer ties.
Most notably international fashion brand, H&M, published an image in 2017 that was perceived as racist, and had ramifications across the world, including the rampant pillaging of their stores in South Africa.
They admitted they were trying to break into a new market, however their publication of the image beggars the question as to how much research they did into the target market. Had they consulted with PR agency knowledgeable about the audience at the micro level, the entire incident may never have happened, and H&M could have quietly launched into the market.
It is here in this arena of on-the-ground knowledge that marketing/digital agencies need to work closer with PR agencies in order to form strong break-through-the-clutter messages that convey information that is pertinent rather than sensational.
PR leaders need to know a little about a lot, keeping a proverbial eye on all trends, technologies and stories impacting the communication of the clients – and they need to be prepared to tackle them head on with the required amount of diplomacy.
They need to be able to do this across all media but, especially, digital media where the flow of information is fast paced and ever changing.
For more international trends the full report is available here, https://annenberg.usc.edu/sites/default/files/KOS_2017_GCP_April6.pdf
Elsabe Booyens is the Founder and Director at The Fried Tomato Co. Elsabe is a highly accomplished communications, marketing and events specialist. After 30 years in the industry and senior roles in various corporations and local government she has experience in all aspects of marketing & PR. Her experience base covers from entertainment, sporting, music, film, gaming, local government and travel sectors. She was largely responsible for the launch of the City of Johannesburg 2010 marketing strategy and the City of Johannesburg FIFA 2010 World Cup composite logo and inner City regeneration projects.
The Fried Tomato Co is a small PR Agency offering a comprehensive range of public relations services, designed to enhance your presence and visibility across markets. From PR strategy to press conferences, releases, media management, reputation management, crisis communication and speeches.
Our team of specialised public relations professionals are known to be some of the best in the business, and have been delivering customer satisfaction for a number of years within the public and private sectors