This is an IPR signature study in partnership with the IPR Behavioral Insights Research Center.

In “How Communicators Can Help Manage Election Disinformation,” the Institute for Public Relations Behavioral Insights Research Center helps communicators aid their organizations to better understand the science behind disinformation and to help them manage these challenges during elections.

Elections create environments for the spread of disinformation and misinformation, thanks to the ubiquitousness and networking abilities of social media or other technological applications or networks. Disinformation and misinformation should be regarded as two distinct terms where the difference lies in the intention of the sender. Disinformation is defined as deliberately misleading or false information as the intent of the sender is to deceive (Institute for Public Relations, 2020). Misinformation, or false or
leading information without the intent of deception, is more often the result of ignorance, carelessness, or a mistake (Institute for Public Relations, 2020).

This study explores the science behind why people share disinformation and how disinformation impacts society and business. This report includes key models, biases, and theories to help communicators better understand the cognitive factors related to the believing and sharing of disinformation. This guide offers research-based suggestions for how employers can prebunk and inoculate their employees and stakeholders against election disinformation, best practices for screening content for disinformation, and 10 research-based tips for how organizations should manage disinformation.

The guide offers 10 ways organizations can help combat disinformation (full list here). Here are some of them:

Inoculate employees against disinformation.
Communicators should understand election-related topics that are used to discredit and cast doubt on the election process. One way to inoculate people against disinformation is “prebunking,” a proactive strategy that exposes people to logical fallacies or false information before they encounter it (Cook et al., 2017; Institute for Public Relations, 2020). This brief provides a research-driven checklist on how to prebunk.

Serve as a trusted resource about elections and election processes.
According to the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, 79% of respondents trusted their employer as a source of information overall. Companies can provide their employees with nonpartisan voting information (e.g., polling locations, how elections work) or resources where they can go for more information to help them build confidence and participate in the election process. Nonpartisan, nonprofit sources for election information can be found within the brief.

Equip employees with tools for identifying disinformation.
There are several organizations and online tools to help identify or detect disinformation. Here are just a few examples from the IPR Disinformation Resource Library, which contains over 30 different resources:

– News Literacy Project: Nonprofit that focuses on educating the U.S. public on news literacy and how to detect mis-/disinformation. News Literacy Project

– Bad News: Online game that teaches users about the techniques involved in the dissemination of disinformation. Bad News

– Association for Psychological Science: Published “Countering Misinformation with Psychological Science,” a paper that features a “misinformation prevention kit” for policymakers, the scientific community, the media, and members of the public.

Avoid partisan politics.
Endorsing a partisan viewpoint can lead to “reduced levels of psychological safety among workers who identify with a different political party, which in turn can adversely affect engagement, innovation, productivity, and retention” (American Psychological Association, 2022, ¶ 21). Keeping company communication about upcoming elections neutral will help employees with differing political viewpoints feel psychologically safe.

About the Institute for Public Relations
Founded in 1956, the Institute for Public Relations is an independent, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the science beneath the art of public relations™. IPR creates, curates, and promotes research and initiatives that empower professionals with actionable insights and intelligence they can put to immediate use. IPR predicts and analyzes global factors transforming the profession and amplifies and engages the profession globally through thought leadership and programming. All research is available free at and provides the basis for IPR’s professional conferences and events.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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