WSJ interviews Hugh Braithwaite about crisis response to fake news

Crisis Communications, Media & Journalism

WSJ interviews Hugh Braithwaite about crisis response to fake news

Crisis Communications, Media & Journalism

Since the 2016 election, “fake news” has become one of the most talked about issues in media. While the discussion has mainly revolved around hoaxes and misreporting on politics, more than a few businesses have found themselves in the crossfire.

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed our founder and CEO, Hugh Braithwaite, to get his advice on how businesses should respond if they are victims of fake news. Read the full piece here, and see excerpts of his comments below.


Companies that find themselves victimized by a fake news story can suffer financial and other harms every bit as real as those caused by actual events. Are there any steps companies can take to protect themselves—or at least prepare themselves—should they become the subject of a fake story or social media post that goes viral?

In the first part of this two-part series, crisis management executives discuss the need to be ready to respond.

What steps can companies take to protect themselves—or at least prepare themselves—should they become the subject of fake news?

Hugh Braithwaite, chief executive, Braithwaite Communications:“In each crisis scenario, the leadership team should assess the impact level–low, moderate, high–of each crisis factor as a tool to determine the necessary level of response. In developing the response to any falsehood, the key is to not repeat it. Do not repeat the falsehood. This goes against all natural human instincts but the research is unanimous: Repeating the negative in question can add more emotional or SEO weight and may be just what the fake news authors want.”

How does a company plan for a fake news event when it doesn’t know what that fake news event will be? What strategies come into play?

Mr. Braithwaite: “Planning for the uncertainty of fake news is not that different from planning for uncertainty in any crisis. A good reputational risk assessment should cover the obvious incidents and issues that track directly to the core brand promise. A food company would naturally focus on all food, safety and environmental issues; a financial services firm would zero in on fraud, cybercrime and regulatory issues. Both should also cover those things that fake news items love best: leadership misdeeds, salacious discoveries, outrageous internal rumors and cultural topic tie-ins.”

Planning for the uncertainty of fake news is not that different from planning for uncertainty in any crisis.

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