Imagine a story so ridiculous that it’s almost hard to believe. But one person believes it and posts it. Then it starts making the rounds. Then a second outlet picks up the post. Now you have an event getting ready to happen. What do you do?

Insist that a false story be removed. If it isn’t, be ready to reply.

We did this for a client recently before the news got out of hand – a false post from what was believed to be a member of a group turned out to be a throw-away comment in a Reddit post. After proving it with multiple screen captures, the post and links were removed. In this era of “Post First, Ask Later,” you’d better be ready.

Here are simple steps to the art of asking for corrections:

  • Insist a story be removed if it’s false. In the era of incentivizing writers who get paid for the most eyeballs, this is essential.
  • Insist a story be updated online if it has misleading information or doesn’t provide balance. It is about your reputation after all.
  • Offer the “what’s missing” item in email so you can track back.
  • Follow up the email with a phone call, or even a second email and ask for confirmation of receipt.
  • Don’t ever assume an email has been read when sent to a reporter. An inbox is a busy place. Attachments get stuck in spam.
  • Make yourself available and follow up.
  • Our media friends have an obligation to also make sure you are who you say you are – and make sure you are the provider of correct information when asking for corrections. Make sure links and content are available, including any online and quick links to official sites.

While clients always worry about fallout, good reporters don’t get mad when you point out an error. In fact, they’re quick to make the change and update copy especially if they’re doing follows to a crisis. Remember to also go to point of origin for the initial error. As quickly as wrong information can be distributed, you can’t always easily clean up the trail of online crumbs.

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