The era of misinformation is shifting the role of brands in our society, and thereby, the role of PR and communications. Now more than ever, consumers are increasingly looking to brands as sources of information as well as change-agents and conversation-shapers.

James, Wright, Global CEO of Havas Red, joins Megan Keogan in this episode to discuss the shift from brand storytelling to fact-telling amidst the rise of misinformation.

“In recent years with the rise of misinformation, we've seen how storytelling can become quite dangerous,” Wright says. “I used to say there's a distinct difference between storytelling and telling stories, but now I question whether we should be storytellers at all.”

In their research, Gallup and the Knight Foundation recently reported that more than half of Americans believe national news organizations intend to mislead, misinform or persuade the public. In a moment when there is such distrust in mass communication, what is to become of brand storytellers? More specifically, what could a new era of purpose entail for PR and communications professionals?

“We need to generally recognize that PR has a power that could be used as a force for good and for bad,” says Wright. “And the rise of fake news in particular has really challenged the traditional role of storytelling, not only in our industry but also in society.”

Increasingly, consumers are turning to brands as sources of information as well as change-agents and conversation-shapers. Because of this shift that spans across industries and sectors, companies are being forced to ask themselves what they stand for.  

“If you look at the rise of misinformation, and disinformation, it's quite daunting,” he says. “With the technology that we've got today, it's become exponentially more sophisticated, and it can be spread so fast. through a multitude of different channels, and that can have kind of a profound impact on society.”

Whether they like it or not, Wright says brands are in the business of fact-telling, which means that the role of marketers and communicators must evolve to ensure that brands are communicating authentically and meaningfully in everything they do. If the battle is to win the hearts and minds of people from the information they consume, he says, then communicators need to be the custodians of how that information is presented to key stakeholders, including media.


The PRovoke Media Podcast is produced by Markettiers.

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