How to Avoid “Alt Facts”

corporate communications professional viewing news on intranet
Fake news. Alternate facts. Let's face it, communicators can be accused of being "spin doctors." It's time to be as transparent as possible and even transparent about when you can't provide information (and why).

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alternate facts aren't factsDemocrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green Party, Republican. Progressive, Liberal, Fiscal Conservative, Compassionate Conservative, Tea Party. Or maybe you have no interest in politics whatsoever.

Whatever your political persuasion, you’re discussing “alt facts” and “fake news” with co-workers and friends. If you’re in communications, especially internal communications, you’re especially discussing them. Why? Employees sometimes consider information from internal communicators as spin or “alt facts.”

Earn Trust

Edelman conducts yearly research on trust – it’s a trust barometer of who people trust and don’t trust. The results for 2016 showed a “trust gap.” In the report is a quote that sums it up, “… trust must be earned.” That’s true for businesses, too; employees lack trust in their companies.

Ultimately, that means employees may not trust the messages you convey.

Read the blog or use the infographic for some quick tips on eliminating “alt facts” or “fake news.” It’ll help earn employees trust.
If you share this graphic, please include attribution to ElevatePoint.


1. Be an advocate.

Being an advocate is all-encompassing – it’s at the heart of gaining trust. You’re a partner to employees and executives. Sometimes you’re a conduit. Sometimes you’re a translator.

Everyone in internal communications loves it when employees are engaged. Not every executive understands the value of engagement, though. It’s important you help draw the correlation to productivity, cost savings and revenue – your organization’s goals.

To start this you can:

  • Build relationships with your leaders. If they know you, they’re more likely to trust you.
  • Set up regular meetings with your executives focused on what employees are thinking, especially during times of major change.
  • Bring up the hard questions, the ones you don’t want to, gently. Even discuss rumors.
  • It’s important your executives know it’s not a game of gotcha; you’re there to help. If they feel safe, they’ll trust you to help them do – or communicate – the right thing.
  • Ask your executive to address these rumors and questions.
  • Support your executive by working even harder to meet leaders face-to-face, helping to get the truth through.
  • Be timely, trying to address the hard rumors and questions when they arise.

2. Listen and encourage feedback.

It seems like such an easy thing to do, but work is busy. You know employees need a voice, and a way to provide feedback. Here are a few ways to make raising issues and questions safe:

  • Ensure executives are listening to employees through a variety of communication vehicles, especially face-to-face. Make face-to-face a priority. Send them on the road employees at multiple locations.
  • Enable employees to ask questions online, anonymously. Although it may make executives nervous, it’s a great way to get them to ask the hard questions – the ones everyone’s thinking.
  • Ensure you’re Make time for people outside your circles and time zone. Make time especially employees at other locations who are the most likely to feel disconnected.
  • Provide social networks that you monitor, and where you can answer questions, too.
  • Use these discussions as points for communications. Show employees you’ve heard them. Be specific – for example, use employees’ quotes in your internal communications when they give permission.
  • Acknowledge brave employee questions … and mean it. It’s hard to stand up at an all-employee meeting and ask the CEO a question. Consider giving recognition to those employees who are courageous enough to do so.

3. Be sincere, direct and clear.

Everyone can sense authenticity — yours and your executives’. It’s important to use your most “authentic voice,” it’s who you are. If you’re the peppy gal in the office who’s always wearing a smile, let employees see that. If you’re a shy nerd who knows every line of Pride and Prejudice, let them see that. It’s rapport. It’s something people can identify with that — your human-ness. If they know where you’re coming from – your values and what makes you tick — they’re more likely to trust you.

Encourage your executive to show himself or herself, too:  their values, their personality and what makes them tick.

Other considerations to be sincere, direct and clear:

  • Encourage your executive to write for himself or herself when it matters most. Although you’re probably a great ghostwriter, sometimes it needs to come from the top. Consider if you are ghostwriting from an executive whether it really needs to come from him or her. For example, many times — it can come from you.
  • Don’t leave the tough announcements to email. Make face-to-face communications a priority.
  • Get managers on board. If you know the only way to mobilize them is your executive asking, make it happen. Sometimes it’s worth expending political capital.
  • Talk about why. Things happen for a reason – layoffs, selling parts of the business, acquiring companies. Let employees know why it’s happening.
  • As you’re sharing why, give context – what’s happening in the world, statistics and more. Give real facts, backed by science.

What about your ideas?

What have you done in your organization to be transparent and instill employee trust?

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ElevatePoint news enables real news to be targeted. Your employees see what you want, when you want them to see it. It’s faster and easier for you, too.

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