The above image is AI generated. Did you guess that? Maybe you can spot it now—the man’s suit jacket is too smooth, his skin too perfect, his left hand not quite holding the newspaper right. But would you have looked that closely otherwise? Would you have clocked it while scrolling social media? 

In a world where information spreads at lightning speed and images can be manipulated with a few clicks, the issue of trust in media and communication has never been more critical than it is now. Between a royal crisis, the rise of AI images, and the proliferation of fake news, we can see exactly why people are more suspicious of the news than ever—and the PR industry needs to go about rebuilding that trust.

The Kate Middleton mystery

Recently, the Royal family, an institution that supposedly relies on and exists wholly to generate positive PR, has hugely mis-stepped and revealed its hand by manipulating a photograph of Kate Middleton with her children. The intention was to stave off the frantic internet theories and concerns about her wellbeing and whereabouts, after a strange series of out-of-character events by the public figure being exceedingly private. 

By badly concealing the manipulated image, everything has become much more high-profile, confused, and in fact fed the conspiracy mob rather than quietened it. The royal machine has shown its hand as being untrustworthy by trying to manipulate public perception and has consequently been branded as unreliable by top news agency AFP, which has removed Kensington Palace from its trusted source list. The people they are trying to satiate are becoming less and less likely to believe whatever they put out next. 

Though unrelated to the rise of AI, it has a few stunning features in common with the rise of AI images and text.

Can AI images and text be used in PR?

Artificial intelligence is changing how whole industries work, including media and communication. We’re now able to generate masses of text with one click or generate an image that shows exactly what we want it to. And it’s only getting worse as the use of AI images and text aren’t properly vetted, with the lack of regulation around the matter leading to all kinds of misuse. 

It’s why, to get ahead of industry changes and be transparent with the audience you’re trying to reach, it’s crucial to be upfront about any alterations or enhancements made using AI to maintain trust. Honesty and openness should be the cornerstone of effective communication and crisis management—people don’t like to learn what they’re being told isn’t the authentic truth.  

Had Kensington Palace avoided modifying the photograph during such a high-profile search for the Kate Middleton, maybe the last remaining trust in the Royals could have been preserved for a while longer, and the public chatter successfully have been swayed, rather than hugely backfiring on them.

Understanding fake news

According to the World Economic Forum, fake news and AI-generated content rank among the top risks in today’s digital landscape, with more than 100% increase in AI generated fake news on X (formerly Twitter) recently. Tweets containing fake news are also 70% more likely to be spread than real news. 

This is particularly alarming when you consider that only two in ten people read beyond a headline. A study by Columbia University revealed that 59% of links shared on social media are never clicked by users. Many individuals, whether human or automated bots, simply share content based solely on the headline without reading any of the accompanying text. 

This begs the question: why do we often trust the accuracy of information based on a headline only, especially when we’re aware of the prevalence of misleading headlines in today’s media landscape? 

Conveying the truth in your communications has never been more important. The consequences of being associated with fake news can be severe, damaging trust and credibility irreparably. Once trust is compromised due to manipulation or hidden information, rebuilding it is much harder than ensuring you remain a reliable source in the first place. There are no take-backs when you’ve been caught in a lie.

Need help?

Want to avoid the Kensington Palace treatment? To effectively communicate without implying fake news or utilising misleading AI images, you need the help of a PR and marketing specialist. 

Get in touch today to learn more about honest communications, and what it can do for your brand.

author avatar
Katie Sessions Account Executive
At Faith, Katie is responsible for helping to manage client accounts and deliver communications plans, alongside continuing to craft compelling stories that resonate with audiences.