It was the year that “post-truth” earned word-of-the-year honors from Oxford Dictionaries; that fake news took center stage in the U.S. presidential election; and that the public’s distrust of the media reached new and unprecedented depths.
It was also the year that laid bare the echo chambers and information bubbles fostered by social media networks.
No longer do consumers need to search for distorted or false information. It’s served to them through their social media feeds by a growing number of “publishers”—today that means anyone with a smartphone or laptop—who are disseminating information meant to deceive or to attract clicks with no regard to accuracy.
For communication professionals, this new post-truth reality requires fresh thinking about crisis communication, and acceptance that the facts of a situation don’t necessarily matter as much as how consumers and investors feel about it and whether they choose to believe and share it.
“The official shoe of white people”
Recently, the footwear and apparel company New Balance found itself in an untenable situation after a misinterpreted statement spun out of control on social media.
In the days after the U.S. election, a New Balance spokesperson made comments to a Wall Street Journal reporter that the company agreed with President-elect Donald Trump’s position opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). New Balance, one of the few major shoe companies to manufacture in the U.S., has long viewed the massive trade deal as a threat to its bottom line.
The WSJ reporter’s tweet quoted New Balance as saying,...
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