TUESDAY 13 FEB 2024 3:05 PM


Shayoni Lynn, CEO and founder of Lynn communications agency, gives her thoughts on how communications professionals can help to filter facts from fiction this election year.

The biggest election year in history has now kicked off. We can expect close to three billion people heading to the polls over this year and the next, with key elections across India, the US and here in the UK. It is fair to say that we stand at a critical juncture. How we vote has the power to change everything - from how we respond to the next pandemic to how we respond to our burning planet - and much is at stake for us as a global society.

On the 10th of January, the World Economic Forum launched its annual Global Risks Report, highlighting misinformation and disinformation as the most severe short-term global risk we are to expect over these next two years, and its impact on democracy. It holds a rather pessimistic outlook, and one that I also share.

At Lynn, we’re powered by behavioural science. This means we undertake rigorous research and apply scientific methodology and processes to better understand our audiences. I firmly believe that, as communicators, if we have the ability to create, or influence, behaviours, then we have a responsibility to protect those behaviours, and in turn our audiences, from false and misleading information.

When we set up The Misinformation Cell in 2021 as the UK's first dedicated such service for PR and communications, we were learning from the pandemic and predicting how it might affect other areas of society. The last few years have shown the true extent of disinformation and how it has the potential to destruct society, disrupt policy and fundamentally reshape our democracies. And it's not getting any better.

False information, which is often organised and delivered with intent or malice - now known as ‘disinformation’ - has the power to polarise, creating chasms in our societal fabric that threaten the very essence of democratic dialogue. Now more than ever, the propagation of false information, fuelled by advanced AI and AI-led technologies, is fast blurring lines between fact and fiction. As communicators, we need to empower and enable our audiences to be able to discern truth from falsehood, so that they understand the scale of threat from disinformation and the real-world consequences it can have on them, their families and their communities.

"I firmly believe that, as communicators, if we have the ability to create or influence behaviours, then we have a responsibility to protect those behaviours, and in turn our audiences, from false and misleading information"

As communicators, our role in 2024 extends beyond information dissemination: it involves a commitment to upholding democratic values through strategic, ethical, behaviourally-informed communications. With over three billion people headed to the polls this year and next, the world as we know it - our values and ways of existing with each other - is under increasing threat.

But it is not all doom and gloom. It is possible to proactively mitigate the impact from disinformation and build resilience into programmes - both across government and business - to protect audiences, purpose and bottom line.


  • Invest in better understanding your information environment: what harmful narratives exist that could pose a threat to your purpose, mission and reputation? And what real-world harm could these false narratives create?
  • How well do you know your audiences? Try and understand them, not just from a traditional research and social marketing angle, but a behavioural one.
  • Think about ways in which you can proactively create resilience in your programmes and within audiences. Disinformation actors use manipulative techniques that strike at the core of our identities and beliefs.

Ultimately, forewarned is forewarned. As with inoculation, preventative action is far more effective (and cost effective) than being on the back foot. And as communicators we have a key role to play. We need to be proactive if we are to be effective in keeping our audiences resilient to bad actors and disruptive agendas.