Can PR Solve the Lack of Public Trust in the News Media?
There was a time when people trusted the news without any doubt as to its veracity. The phrase “I read it in a newspaper, so it must be true” was not uncommon. But as stories leak on how much control governments exert over the media, and often how little research is done before sensational stories are published, people now trust the news media less and less.
News media companies could certainly employ better PR practices to boost their image. However, there are far more important changes they can make to improve their reputation and rebuild trust.
One of the main problems civilians have with news media is the frequency with which inaccuracies pop up in featured pieces. This has caused many big media agencies to retract stories that were not accurately reported, or verified, over the years. Subsequently, this creates distrust in the public, as what news media publishes as headlines today could very well turn into retractions and apologies tomorrow.
To reduce the likelihood of this happening, news agencies should ensure stories are founded on more than speculation and rumors, and if they are, they should clearly say so. Readers appreciate quotes from reputable sources and verifiable statistics from studies to substantiate claims. Should the claims prove untrue, then at least the news media reported according to the information they received, which takes the burden of ‘being right’ off the reporter and places it on the sources of the story.
Agencies should also do their due diligence by hiring dedicated editors who do more than check for grammar and spelling. Editors should do research to verify claims made in the articles, or request proof from the journalists who make them.
Branding News Media as News
One of the reasons news media also inspires less trust comes from the blurred lines between entertainment blogs and news websites. Entertainment blogs like EliteDaily and Buzzfeed now report news, and reputable news websites like CNN and the NY Times now write blog posts one would expect to see on Buzzfeed, like CNN’s What a Shot! 51 Amazing Photos from the Olympics.
This makes it increasingly difficult to differentiate currently reputable websites from those which are not. After all, are the people writing about Melania Trump’s nude photos the same ones reporting on politics, crime, and natural disasters around the world? The pressure to fit in by creating headlines that attract people not necessarily looking for news has caused many online news media companies to take to reporting gossip. This is the quickest way to lose credibility. PR specialists could help news companies to reclaim their niche and brand their blog posts separately for entertainment purposes.
Make a Crisis Management Plan
No matter how much emphasis a news brand puts on focusing on the news and verifying all claims, something might slip through the cracks. Sometimes the news agency is able to catch it before the public does, and other times they do not. In any case, news media companies should put a crisis management plan in place so they don’t fumble,should a misreported story cause trouble.
To further prove its dedication to reporting accurate stories, more news media agencies should include the editor or report’s contact information and encourage readers to report any inaccuracies or provide any tips or updates they are aware of.
No one expects the news to be 100 percent right 100 percent of the time, but the public can certainly respect a genuine attempt to try.