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Content is king, but only when credible

The phrase ‘honesty is the best policy’ is not a new one, yet arguably it has never been more relevant.

The modern era is often described as the age of misinformation, where everything from fake news to overexaggerated marketing campaigns has created a global aura of distrust, preventing people from truly understanding what is legitimate and what is not.

According to Oxford Dictionaries the usage frequency of the word “post-truth”, defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ [1], has increased exponentially over the last few years.

Misinformation affects all of us more than we would like or perhaps even realise. The COVID-19 pandemic, global elections, phishing campaigns, product descriptions and adverts that compete to capture people’s attention. You don’t have to look far to understand that someone somewhere is always trying to skew the facts in their favour for personal, political or economic gain, yet consumers and companies alike are waking up to the value that comes with simple, good, old-fashioned honesty.

According to Stackla[2], 86% of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like to support, its survey also revealing that 57% believe that less than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic.

Credibility has never been more valuable – combatting misinformation and making your content factually accurate, therefore, is crucial.

Getting the facts straight

Indeed, there are many ways in which a company can ensure its brand and content embrace correctness. The first vital step – one which may seem obvious – is to ensure the facts are accurate.

Information shouldn’t be taken at face value. In drafting a piece of content, meticulous fact checking is necessary in order to ensure that the statistics, names, job titles and alike are all entirely accurate. Failure to do so may result in the publishing of misinformation, which in turn could damage company credibility, trust and overall brand reputation.

So, how can fact checking be approached?

Always check the credibility of the source you are using to see if it checks out and, if possible, find the original source to ensure greater reliability. Further, consider whether an image is being used in the right context, and look for news coverage to verify whether the information you have at hand isn’t falsified. You can also consult the fact checking specialists themselves, Google. In a recent blog they revealed that 50,000 fact checks surfaced on its search engine in the 12 months from March 2020[3].

The buck doesn’t stop here either.

Even those who err on the side of caution may make a mistake and publish misinformation from time to time. With this in mind, it is important to monitor conversations surrounding your brand to manage the narrative as best possible. Have a clear response plan in place to intervene when misleading information is discovered and be prepared to correct the facts when necessary.  

Further, factual accuracy only partially contributes to maintaining credibility. Don’t try to oversell the capabilities or efforts of your company, and take the time to ask yourself some important objective questions:

  • Can I support the claims I am making if I am challenged?
  • Do I have verifiable data available?

Be it in relation to environmental aspirations or the performance of a particular product, many companies feel pressured to compete. The immediate temptation is to put out messaging which allows them to do so, but it is often such messaging that can be overexaggerated and superficial.

An oversold product will be slated by reviewers if it does not live up to unrealistically high expectations which may have been developed because of overzealous claims. It is worth noting that 94% of people say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business[4].

What’s the answer?

The key is to keep content grounded, honest and realistic.

Speaking on our podcast, sustainability consultant Malcom Forsyth stated[5]: “You get more credibility for reporting that you haven’t achieved a target that you’ve set but you’re going to increase your efforts towards it than not setting any targets at all, or not reporting anything. We live in an age where transparency is expected more.”

Consider the ultimate goal of content. Typically, it is used to associate a brand, company or individual identity with thought leadership in a particular niche. Yet, in order to achieve this, the content must be as accurate as possible.

Great communication is all about getting the message right, but if you are using the wrong facts then you may well be conveying the wrong message.

 

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Posted by
Kevin Noels 
on May 12, 2021

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