Keeping It Real: Content Marketing in the ‘Fake News’ Era
One of the strengths of content marketing is the symbiosis of pure information and the embedded message that is advantageous to the content marketer. It can be a great concept, but if you're predisposed to the idea that you can subtly disguise marketing as pure content, then you might be wary of how its presentation gets perceived.
For example, the last thing a creator of marketing wants is for people to consider his or her work as less-than-credible content, which is a real possibility in this era of public skepticism and "fake news." If people are beginning doubt news media institutions such as the New York Times, previously regarded as nearly infallible, then what credibility can a creator of marketing content hope to gain?
It's a tough spot. But there are indeed some ways a content marketer can lend credence to the created material, even in this period of skepticism. Here are three easy ways to do it:
Link to credible sources
Despite what may seem an overall public distrust of information, there will always be a trust in particular sources -- or at least some degree of confidence in corroborating sources. That means a content creator who relies on facts or figures to back up claims would be wise to provide the references from which these claims spring.
So if you're creating content in the retail or business services realms, cite and link to official statistics or trends that support your position. If you want to avoid the "fake news" tag, provide real, easy-to-digest sources that support your position. Anyone trained in journalism knows to cite reputable sources for what they're reporting on, and content marketers can take a page from the journalism books by linking to independent sources by which an audience can verify any claims made.
Notice that the directive is not "cite credible sources" but "link to." It used to be content marketing sacrilege to include external links that take visitors off your site, but this is a new era; it behooves you to provide the path on which visitors can independently verify that which you are asserting.
One of the old tricks of long-form sales copywriting was to use all the digits available to convey numbers. So instead of typing "$1 million," sales-copy pros would type things such as "$1,000,000.00" or "one million dollars." The conventional wisdom has always been that "$1,000,000.00" is more impressive in print than "$1 million."
Journalists, handcuffed by style guides, will always type "$1 million." But they will also type "$1 million" when the actual amount is $990,899.12. The old-school copywriter will always type the latter because it carries greater perceived gravitas. In today's "fake news" world, however, there is also value in typing the exact figure just because it's an exact figure.
Think about any prejudices you may hold. Are you more likely to believe that something costs "a million bucks" or something that costs $990,899.12?
Precision is the handmaiden of authenticity.
If you're a content marketer who has the opportunity to deliver personal, relevant anecdotes that support the business's message, go for it. It's much more difficult for even the most discerning audience to question the integrity of something put in personal terms.
From a purely psychological perspective, first-hand accounts of experiences are more trustworthy than accounts that attempt some objectivity. A good example might be restaurant reviews. If a reporter charged with maintaining objectivity were to report on a restaurant he or she visited, it's an entirely different piece of content than the review submitted by someone whose job is to give their opinions.
The reporter will always attempt to be objective, and their copy will reflect as much. But the reviewer, who is allowed to be subjective in their area of expertise, is likely to write the content you value more. That occurs because the latter is allowed to make the experience a personal one, whereas the former must depersonalize it as much as possible.
It is quite apparent that the current media environment has cast much doubt on content and challenge for content marketers to be as believable as humanly possible. However, there are ways to do just that. You can still keep it real, no matter how much "fake news" is out there.