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Fake news. You hear the term all the time these days, and for a good reason. It’s so easy for anyone to publish false or misleading materials online and make them look like legitimate news stories. This leads to confusion because people aren’t sure what’s real and what’s not.

As a result, companies can find themselves in a difficult position because false information can spread across the internet quickly and damage their business and the bottom line. Fake news can strike enterprises big and small. The best way to combat fake news is to have a plan to address it.

First, you need to understand the nature of fake news. It’s not spread by reputable journalists and traditional media outlets but by operators of slanted social media channels and opinion blogs. These organizations post what they want others to believe, not what the facts bear out. The information is then spread as far and wide as possible in hopes that no one will check their facts. And the sad truth is many people don’t fit.

To stop fake news or misleading claims from spreading about your company, you must constantly monitor it. One of the easiest ways to do this is with Google Alerts. You can set Google Alerts to send you an email or notification whenever your company name is mentioned online. If the news or mention is positive (or made by your company), then you have nothing to worry about. But if you are mentioned in a fake or incriminating post, you will want to know immediately. Every minute that post is online, more and more people are introduced to its false claims. You want to stop the information from spreading as soon as possible.

If you find a false claim online, you can request it taken down. If the source is unwilling or unable, you need to quickly send out a counter-message that refutes the claim and promotes it. This not only helps educate consumers before the fake news influences their judgment, but it can also help you “outrank” the fake news article in the search engines. This makes the original bad post harder to find and therefore less powerful.

Depending on how widely the fake or misleading news spreads, you may want to address the concerns of those who did see the post. This could be a message on your website or social media channels—or an email directly to your customers.

If you have been the victim of fake news or misleading online content, contact Tucker/Hall for a public relations consultant.