The Impact of Fake News on Emergency Planning for Utilities

fake news

As you likely already know, “fake news” is a new buzzword that was made popular during the Trump presidential campaign.  In my opinion, the growing propensity of fake news (or less extreme variations like “alternative facts”) is an extremely alarming trend that can only serve to undermine communication efforts during times of crisis.  The reason is because, during outages, communication is a tool that utilities must utilize to update customers, and position their outage restoration efforts in the best possible light, manage expectations, and preserve customer satisfaction.  Any information that runs counter to that mission, especially false information, is problematic.

The Challenge of Fake News

This is both a leadership challenge and a communication challenge that utilities cannot take lightly.  Many, if not most people, cannot differentiate between legitimate and bogus news, especially during emergency situations when clarity of thought is compromised.  Fake news can be so damaging to a utility’s reputation that countermeasures should be included in the communication sections of emergency plans.  Communications must now include not only proactive components, but also reactive components – like responding to fake news reports.

Failure to account for this phenomenon could result in the viral-like spread of false information.  I don’t think I need to spell out why this is a huge effort in terms of the time and money it could take to recover from a widespread, reputation-damaging bogus news story.  So, do yourself a favor, if the mitigation of fake news is not part of your company’s emergency plan, add it today.

For more academic-like information on the leadership challenge of fake news, click here.

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