We've been witnessing the erosion of societal cohesion over the last two years, much of which has been due to those with a particular type of agenda making the most of misinformation or deliberately sowing disinformation to meet their own ends. As communication professionals one of our ongoing tasks is to surface facts, give them room to breathe and to challenge people and places where facts are replaced with fakes.
Mistrust in organisations of all types is at an all time low and the Edelman Trust Barometer indicates this has led to an expectation that businesses demonstrate societal leadership - the key question is whether they are willing and equipped to do so.
As practitioners, are we suitably equipped to discern the facts from the fiction? Can we differentiate between a genuine misunderstanding or malevolent malinformation?
I thought it would be helpful to outline the three types of information that can cause real problems for organisations - and individuals should they find themselves at the mercy of the conspiracy theorists.
The image above covers the three different types and, depending on the type, you can plan your approach. Misinformation can be fixed with fact while disinformation needs a discussion and investigation - who is behind it, what's the intention, how best can it be dealt with. The last one - malinformation, needs to be part of your crisis response as its effect is likely to be significant.
As part of our routine listening and monitoring, we should be scanning - and planning - for all of the above and know the action we need to take should any member of the terrible trio be found.
About Think Forward
Think Forward is written by Catherine Arrow. It answers PR questions, highlights practice trends - good and bad - and suggests ways forward for professional public relations and communication practitioners.