President Trump, while certainly not Mark Twain or Will Rogers, has made a mark with his coined phrases. “Fake news” looks to have substantial life ahead of it. Look at the visceral responses it invokes. Partisans to the right have “trumpeted” the phrase, while leftwing partisans, and much of the established media, decry it. News articles with their selective fact inclusions and omissions, their inflammatory or diminishing adjectives, their selective editing, become editorials or opinion columns. Journalism schools actually emphasize the duty of budding journalists to advocate while reporting, and believe it to be “Real News.” The Committee of Concerned Journalists at API has a contrary view: “Journalists who select sources to express what is really their own point of view, and then use the neutral voice to make it seem objective, are engaged in a form of deception. This damages the credibility of the craft by making it seem unprincipled, dishonest, and biased.1 Even Facebook and Google get into the act with their “fact-checking” engines that have stumbled under accusations of political bias. Major mastheads’ taglines have changed to counter the charge of “Fake News” (e.g., the Washington Post’s “Democracy Dies in Darkness”). Are our times that different than the past and what is the effect on our society?
Today’s lean toward advocacy over objective reporting (granted, of course, that none is ever perfectly objective) is tangibly different to the public. A Harvard-Harris poll last year showed, 65 percent of voters believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media. It was a majority regardless of party affiliation. Eighty-four percent of voters said it is hard to know what news to believe online.2
The volume of the discussion is clearly higher than past, probably because of our 24-hour news cycle and pervasive, intrusive social media and smart-phone accessibility with push content.. Recently, a former Facebook executive said he feels “ ‘tremendous guilt’ over his work on ‘tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.’ ”3 Our society has been divided in the past, but have we descended into an era of, as he puts it, “No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
What is an advisor to do when their clients and they themselves are inundated with a steady stream of “Fake News” or if you prefer, conflicting, unverified, opinionated journalism? For the advisor, it always starts with her. It seems that a balance is required between too little knowledge and too much knowledge. Too little leaves us uninformed for decisions; too much clutters the mind and may render us indecisive. Too focused or too limited, leaves us susceptible to an “echo chamber” effect, where we hear only our own beliefs. A prerequisite for helping guide one’s clients as they trust us to guide them is to be convicted about our services based on a reasonable, judiciously selected flow of information. I try to regularly consume information that both agrees and disagrees with my practical worldview, across many disciplines. But there is also the time to shut off the flow for the benefit of sanity and contentment. No more night time news-talk shows provoking sleep damaging ire for me. I realize despite my conviction that my view of the world is solid, anger or disappointment over others’ views, statements, actions will accomplish little. Of assistance in personal and professional development is a coach. Having used one myself, I would highly recommend it as well worth the cost. Finally, an advisor just needs to know their convictions. A friend of mine no longer has a picture of one of his favorite U.S. presidents hanging in his office so as not to antagonize an antithetical client after one unfortunate experience. Others would leave it there, figuring the type of person offended in that way is not their desirable client.
How does an advisor assist their clients with “Real News?” One way is to be sure the news you’re sharing with your clients is from a trusted source, such as the kind we curate for you with our Social Media Elite program. This has been a valuable communication aid advisors can push to their clients on a periodic basis. You can be sure whatever you share through your clients — via CreativeOne — will be accurate.
Beyond that, the best advisors I know start by getting a whole picture of the client. Before ever getting to their money or his services, he gets to know the person, to assure a client-advisor fit. On an ongoing basis, he keeps that information up to date. He proactively communicates with the client. Social media following can be a positive influence for the relationship and combat some of the relentless negative stories we are all bombarded with. Periodic reviews develop a trusted relationship. Several advisors I know put together gatherings of key clients as a thank-you treating them to dinner and music. All of these can lead to truly warm introductions and referrals.
I don’t know whether this sea change in divisiveness in our country is temporary or permanent, but all of us in financial services must adapt our communication and practices to help our clients.
FOR FINANCIAL PROFESSION USE ONLY. NOT FOR USE WITH THE GENERAL PUBLIC.
Related terms: Breaking News