By Gregg Litman
Fake news is a real problem — and not just for journalists.
Look no further than a new survey that says 75-percent of Americans find it difficult to determine what news is accurate and what is not. Worse yet, when Stanford researchers studied the ability of students to analyze the credibility of information online — the same kids we all consider “digital natives” — the researchers described the results as “bleak.” They were “shocked” by how many students failed to effectively evaluate the credibility of that information.
So, what’s the solution? “The world needs the truth now more than ever,” says Hamish Nicklin of The Guardian. “In a world where the most important people on the planet are using fake news to undermine the values so many of us hold so dear,” she told a roomful of reporters at The Guardian’s 2017 Media Summit, “it has never been so important that we have a strong and vibrant media, and remember that facts and truth are sacred.”
Although she was speaking specifically to journalists, the same advice holds true for content marketers. As the audience grows more skeptical, content needs to grow more credible. Click bait, re-purposed press releases, and glorified commercials just won’t hold up to the tougher scrutiny, and they might even get you in trouble. In the past, the audience might just click away. But now that the audience is more skeptical, bad content runs the risk of getting lumped in with all of the other fake stuff — and actually harming your brand.
Do you really want to take that chance? Instead, focus on real facts and true stories. Be genuine. Be honest. Fight the fake news epidemic by using the same tactics that journalists use to bridge the credibility gap.
Use the principles of journalistic objectivity to build your credibility.
1. Act with Integrity
You’d be surprised how many newsroom discussions involve “Big J” journalism — the stuff we learned in journalism school. Most of those conversations involve integrity, or, in the words of the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics, the mandate to “seek the truth and report it.” Following that mandate, and showing it as transparently as possible, is the easiest way for journalists to separate themselves from fake news.
For marketers, I’d make the mandate even simpler: “Don’t BS your audience.” Content marketing is supposed to be all about answering the audience’s questions. Giving them what they’re looking for. When people click on a headline, they expect content that delivers. They expect relevant information that will help them. Try to manipulate them with ham-handed marketing messages and you’ll lose your credibility quickly.
2. Act Independently
For journalists, this means “follow the truth.” Don’t let advertisers (or anybody else) influence your coverage. That’s why there’s a separation of “church and state” in newsrooms — to keep the sales department and their advertisers away from the journalists. That independence breeds objectivity, impartiality, and credibility.
Marketers who force themselves to act independently will notice similar results. Nothing builds credibility like pure honesty. Avoid Go to the full article.