Earlier this year, Firebrand Group asked a group of top marketers and innovators about their big ideas for 2017. For the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you insights based on those interviews. First up: Laura Pevehouse, Chief Blogger for Dell. 

Big Idea: Brands need to own their owned media

From fake news to made-up massacres to alternative facts, it can be hard to trust the information floating around on the interwebs. This isn’t limited to the realm of current events — brands are also at risk of being fake news targets.

Laura Pevehouse, Dell’s chief blogger, agrees, noting that “while fake information being shared as news is not really a new thing (think of the Pepsi syringe hoax of the early 90s), the speed and distance that it can travel now has never been seen before.”

Rather unfortunately for Pepsi, it appears to have been the victim once again of fake news: several (debunked) news stories incorrectly quoted the CEO telling Trump supporters to “take their business elsewhere.” Pepsi choose not to address the news stories directly, instead letting Snopes and other media outlets do the fact-checking. But the speed with which the story was taken up and spread via social media shows that in these situations, brands must act quickly and decisively to quash insidious rumors. As Pevehouse says, “By the time journalists are able to do research and conduct interviews to determine if your company is actually doing something scandalous… the audience has read the initial tweets, absorbed them as truth and moved on to the next story.”

Defending against fake news

Not only do brands risk being targets of fake and misleading news stories, but they also run the risk of being associated with those types of content. Ads from leading brands such as Kellogg’s, Geico, and Fiat Chrysler have popped up on fake news sites as a result of programmatic advertising placements, and without the brands’ knowledge.

This is a huge issue for brands, as it can seriously affect their image and brand identity. So how do you combat this? According to Pevehouse, a brand’s “first line of defense against fake news” is owned media. A piece written “within hours” and then posted to the company website “can become one of the sources news media reference in their stories”, which will in turn “increase traffic to your owned media and improve future search results with credible backlinks.”

In other words, owned media is a way of transmitting your brand values and identity to the public, even if it’s being used for damage control. As misinformation proliferates, it’s up to brands and their defenders to ensure that their message remains true and consistent — a lot of work, but for significant reward.

For more on this topic and many more, download our 20.17 Big Ideas eBook here.