How to get your agency to distance itself from fake news

20 January 2022, By Paula Valdés, Junior Account Executive at Canela

These are the five features of fake news that every agency should avoid in its communications.

Communications agencies are in constant contact with the media and are a source of information for many of the news we read every day, even if they sometimes go unnoticed.  This means that the communications we launch must be adapted to the journalistic style and trends of the moment. If in recent years the biggest news problem has been fake news, what can we communication agencies do to avoid contributing to this phenomenon and to promote the media we work with?

Fake news has certain characteristics defined by various authors, such as Blázquez-Ochando and Alandete, and it is precisely these features that we must avoid in our information:

1. Alteration of facts to varying extents.

This is the main feature of fake news: telling half-truths. Beyond the ethical implications of not staying true to the truth, it is important that the agency communicates all relevant information (and not confidential, of course), in an organised and, while being in line with the values of our clients, real. In addition to helping the journalist to write a complete piece, the agency will gain the journalist’s trust and, therefore, that of the readers.

2. Superfluous news narrative.

Fake news stories lack information, they do not develop issues in depth because they do not have enough data or sources to form a complete narrative. For this reason, there is a shortage of text and different unconnected topics are mixed together. When writing content, the agency must ensure that it has sources that support the facts beyond the clients, for example, through studies or surveys carried out by third parties. So-called Third Party Endorsement. We must also provide a response to the 5Ws in the content so that journalists can report with rigour and quality.


3. Primary emotional discourse with vocabulary and linguistic resources prone to misleading messages, exaggerations, hyperbole and circumlocutions.

We must not forget that, although emotions are one of the main tools of communication and allow us to connect with the public, as information professionals we must avoid resorting to loose language and linguistic resources that may cause misunderstandings. Moreover, this discourse is close to sensationalism and to practices that are not recommended from advertising and marketing, which should be avoided in journalistic information.

4. Headlines that are (too) short and shocking.

Capturing the audience’s attention is essential to convey a message; however, this should not mean sacrificing the truth. The clickbait phenomenon often involves manipulating information by trying to capture the reader with a single, decontextualised element. Using headlines and subheads and answering several W’s in the headline can help to ensure that attention and rigour are not lost.

5. Immediacy of information.

With the new channels, information is demanded more and more quickly and, often, part of it is left in the way. The planning of a release is key in this case: being in contact with the journalist in a constant flow of information and providing all available data helps to ensure that quality work is carried out from the very first moment. If the journalist has to turn to other less reliable sources due to a lack of information, it will damage the agency and its relations with the journalist, as well as contributing to fake news. Let us not forget that fake news includes truthful information in order to gain the trust of its readers.

The way news is made changes as information gains prominence on the web and the media adapt their production to online metrics, prioritising immediacy and clicks over rigour and verification, which has largely contributed to the massive distribution of fake news. However, new ways of reaching the public are not at war with quality. Agencies can apply practices that do not contribute to disinformation, but rather to a media ecosystem characterised by rigour and professionalism.

To learn more about how to identify fake news, you can consult this other Canela Insights article.