PR firms and their clients are guilty of peddling “fake news”

Since the birth of modern day public relations, publicists and their clients have been guilty of peddling fake news for profit.

If it's not newsworthy, it's not news.

Fake news. It’s one of the highest trending topics on social media and the subject of great debate amongst those who care about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, ethics and current affairs.

But what exactly is “fake news”? Ask ten people and you’ll likely get ten different answers:

  1. Fake news is news that’s fabricated
  2. It’s hoaxes
  3. It’s misinformation, deceptive
  4. It’s propaganda, disinformation
  5. It’s the manipulation of facts
  6. It’s decontextualised reporting
  7. It’s incorrect reporting
  8. It’s sloppy reporting
  9. It’s legitimately fake (satirical)
  10. It’s not news.

What’s true is that the fake news is not a new phenomenon.

Since the dawn of publishing, the press have been called to task when found to contravene the principles of ethical journalism: Truth and Accuracy, Independence, Fairness and Impartiality, Humanity, Accountability.

And since the birth of modern day public relations, publicists and their clients have been just as guilty of peddling fake news for profit. They do so by bombarding the media with press releases and media pitches that are not news.

It happens each time they go through the motions to “get some PR” about something which is just not newsworthy.

It happens when they disseminate a press release or media pitch chiefly to satisfy one of their own KPIs or performance metrics.

It happens when they’re lazy.

It happens when they neglect to find the news hook that will pique the interest of the media, or their target audience.


If you work in corporate communications, corporate affairs, public relations or marketing, do your part to curb “fake news”.

You can do so by reflecting on what makes something newsworthy.

  1. Scale – does your story stand to affect a significant number of people?
  2. Impact – is the issue about something that will have a meaningful impact on those affected?
  3. Conflict – is your story controversial?
  4. Novelty -is your story about something new, groundbreaking or quirky?
  5. Timeliness – does your story tie in with some other current affair, announcement or event?
  6. Proximity – is your story about a local issue?
  7. Change and Trends – does your story involve a change or trend – and can you illustrate that with statistics or examples?
  8. Prominence – does your story involve a high profile individual or event?
  9. Currency – are you contributing a new angle, perspective, or information about an established issue?
  10. Human interest – is your story about other people – their achievements or how they overcame adversity…?

Remember, if your story doesn’t contain any of these elements it’s probably not newsworthy. Pushing it out to the media would be tantamount to peddling fake news.

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