Franchise Update Magazine Issue II, 2017 - Page 74

GROWING YOUR SYSTEM Market trends Fake News and Franchising A chance to build trust and understanding BY DARRELL JOHNSON O ne of the more concerning les- sons we learned from the 2016 election is the power of “fake news” to change perceptions and draw attention toward or away from an issue. Notwithstanding the political damage these stories attempt to create, they also can lead to tragic consequences for ev- eryday people and businesses. Some are done to influence popular opinion, others just to make a buck. It is the latter reason that got me thinking about the ramifica- tions and possible steps franchising should consider taking. I see a parallel between the battles with fake news and the misunderstandings of the franchise business model. Putting aside any political motivations, many fake news stories are simply based on a profit motive. Fake news is nothing new and has been used, probably for centuries, by companies to boost their own perception or undermine their competition. What has changed is the speed at which fake news can spread. Companies like Facebook and Google touch billions of people daily. Their al- gorithms are designed to capture activity that generates ad revenue; the more activ- ity, the more the ad revenue. Nefarious computer specialists use bots to create false activity, and the fake story, accom- panied by advertising, is off to the races. Facebook and Google have said they will crack down on fake news websites. In other words, they will try to do the right thing, even though it will hurt their rev- enue. I’m sure they mean it, but even with the best of intentions, will their actions be effective in a bot-driven world? That clearly is being answered with a resound- ing “No,” given all the misinformation we have today. Facebook and Google are not the guilty parties in creating this disease, although they may be criticized for host- ing it, however unintentionally. Creating 72 Franchiseupdate ISS U E II, 2 0 1 7 and hosting are two different issues, and creating seems to me the greater evil. All news “sources” face the same prob- lem: How do they provide credibility in a world that demands rapid reporting? Years ago when a well-known national news anchor was retiring and was asked what his greatest accomplishment was, he said he was most proud that Americans didn’t know his personal political views. I see a parallel between the battles with fake news and the misunderstandings of the franchise business model. A strong argument can be made that news became biased because it couldn’t satisfy the objectivity required to create trust within the time that people wanted the news. It takes time to fact-check a story. If we could provide in-the-moment news that has been properly fact-checked, evaluated, and confirmed as accurate before opinions are interjected, we would restore trust in news. In a video streaming world it seems to be all but impossible for news providers to apply the Reagan doctrine of “Trust, but verify.” Franchising’s opportunity I think the real fake news enemy we are fighting is time. Yet the mistrust with news today is an opportunity for the franchise community. In a world of mistrust, having something that you can trust will stand out. There are lots of certification and verification examples out there. Look- ing no further than the cord attached to the computer I’m typing on, there is a sticker that says “UL Approved.” What does that mean? I think it means that the cord has been independently tested and certified as having met certain standards so I can leave it plugged in and not burn down the building. Does franchising need a “Good House- keeping” sticker? It depends on the signifi- cance of the topic. The franchise business model has been through some bruising years of legislative and regulatory attacks where battle lines often were drawn based on perceptions, not realities. In other words, fake news. In those instances, wouldn’t some fact-checking service have been valuable? Most of the issues the franchise business model faces are not time-sensitive. That’s a big advantage in solving the potential of franchise fake news. A deliberative body could take the time to address the issue from multiple persp