“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”

Last week’s shenanigans in the West Wing reinforced what’s been happening across all pillars of society for the past few years: The rise of fake news and the demise of truth. There are lots of fingers to be pointed at lots of ersatz sources on both the Left and Right Wings of our highly polarized society, but I’ve yet to see an analysis of the potential impact of false news on corporate America.

Hill Holliday just filled that gap by surveying 540 Americans aged 18-61.

As you see from the infographic below, Americans have had it with fakery. And, woe betide the organization that is caught creating, or forwarding, fake news.

When asked if a brand they loved presented fake content:

–              59 percent of respondents said they’d stop shopping with that brand.

–              36 percent would stop following the brand on social media.

–              30 percent would delete the brand’s app.

Holy dire consequences, Batman! And holy opportunity for the chief communications officer (CCO) and her PR partners!

The Arthur W. Page Society in particular, and our profession in general, has long advocated on behalf of the role of the CCO and, positioned the “title” as being the conscience of an organization. Clearly, the CCO’s role has never been more important.

Cover-up unethical practices, share false, negative information about a competitor or boast that your product, service or company is something that it’s not, and the fallout won’t be temporary. Massive amounts of stakeholders will cut you off. Permanently. Your sales, stock price and reputation will experience a nuclear winter. And guess who many CEOs will blame? The CCO and her agency.

These are the times that try men’s (and women’s) souls, but it’s also the time for CCOs and their agency partners to rise to the occasion. If you see something that seems fishy, say something. Push back. Verify and re-verify. Refuse to lie or spread fake news. If you’re on the agency side, resign the account post haste.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single client that can afford a 59 percent decline in sales. And, I don’t know of a single agency that could survive the fallout of having aided and abetted a client organization in spreading fake news.


4 thoughts on ““Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”

  1. Pingback: What’s a poor Millennial to do? | Rep Man

  2. Pertinent points to be sure, Ms. B. But, some would argue that, thanks to the incessant barking of your dog in the background of every conference call, your words could be easily misconstrued as fake. How does one prevent a dog’s barking from distorting truth to fiction (or, vice versa)?

    • Bella is about as easy to quiet down as some elected officials. But her opinion, unlike mine, is always heard. And about as welcome 🙂

  3. Very interesting (and great infographic from AdWeek). I would love to see further research on how people are defining fake news. Fake Yelp/Amazon reviews would meet the definition pretty clearly. But are people seeing sponsored content as fake, for example, because it’s positioned alongside news? That would be more worrisome.