Clickbait, Fake News & Your Brand Reputation

A Conversation About Ethical Content Marketing Conduct

The web world saw a lot of crazy things throughout 2016. Harambe took over our hearts, meme culture took over the internet and, worst of all, fake news took over our news feeds. The collective gullibility of the common man, coupled with clicks-for-profit strategies and lucrative AdSense campaigns, can lead to fake facts, fat paychecks and dire cognitive dissonance. At a time when fake news stories get more clicks on Facebook than real news, it’s time we, as content writing professionals, disavow fake news and discuss the ethics of our craft.

The Differences Between Journalism & MarketingThe differences between fake news and effective content marketing

Journalism and digital marketing are two separate fields of study, but professionals in both industries can learn something from the other. Effective digital marketing leverages good journalism practices to fit an established marketing narrative. It uses facts, figures and hard data to create a comprehensive story of why your service is the best, why your product is the pinnacle of excellence and why you are a trustworthy thought leader in the industry. Effective journalism reads between the marketing lines. A journalist can identify the true facts behind a PR statement, while wielding an insatiable urge to investigate. They’re the type of folks who pay attention to the sources, pinpoint points of bias and drink on weekdays because the common folk would rather trust memes over hard facts and objective reporting.

Good digital marketers and respectable journalists stand to benefit from one another. Now, if only we could get them in the same room without starting a brawl.

Establish Your Ethos

How do you separate yourself from rest of the biased-pack? By painting yourself in the most professional light – we prefer a lovely, yet subtle, shade of aureolin yellow. The first step to establishing trust is creating a website design that is copacetic to natural human thinking. If your navigation, headers and images are optimized for real-life people, they will be more inclined to invest more faith in your message.

The Often Overlooked, But Still Important “About” Page

Next comes your About Us page. Offer full disclosure of your organization and its history. How long have you been around? What is your mission statement? What values does the chain o’ command hold dear? Stating that you’re all about transparency, innovation and critical thinking to help develop stronger industry solutions lends much more to a reader than “people, profit & productivity.”

Writing for Buyers, Researching for Skeptics Journalism tips for effective content marketing

Now that we’ve established a solid foundation, the focus shifts to content. Sure, you are writing with marketing in mind, but you would surely benefit from using some objective reporting principles. Cite your sources. Don’t just drop information bombs without backing them up with sourcing as collateral. Google pays attention to these outbound links and rewards you with SEO points.

Here are some other ways you can add credibility to your content:

  • Decrease questions surrounding your credibility by showing your math when it comes to statistics. Write it all out. Be transparent. People dig that.
  • Get direct quotes from other professionals in the related field. Nothing says “I know my stuff” quite like a source with a Ph.D in your field.
  • Create real-life case studies based on in-house evidence. Anyone can make up figures to fit their narrative; only the pros can render real data.
  • Remember that you can still have fun with your brand messaging while maintaining a level of professionalism. Sometimes your audience requires a more personal tone. Take advantage of your unique voice and combine it with your dedication to investigation.

Don’t Fall Into the Trap of Deceit

In the world of public relations and digital marketing, “spinning the truth” to paint yourself in the best light is expected, but curating completely false information is unprecedented. We it “self-promotional propaganda.” Doing research takes time, which is why Google ranks well-researched articles with charts, high word counts and proper sourcing significantly higher than those without. However, the biggest issue comes with social sharing. If the shallow article or photo can play on individuals’ irrational fears, it has the chance to spread like wildfire.

You have to think about what your article actually says before writing the headline. If you have a super catchy headline, but the information inside the article isn’t relevant to the users’ interest, you’re going to make someone upset – that is, if they’re actually reading the article. Clickbait titles are for the lowest common denominator, but they can also be used sparingly to grab attention.

The Differences Between Good & Bad Clickbait

  • Good: “These 5 Local SEO Tips Will Help You Win This Holiday Season.”
  • Bad: “These 2 Factors Are MURDERING Your Website.”
  • Good: “From Google Itself: Real-Time Rankings Change the SEO Game.”
  • Bad: “Google Just Said It. This News KILLS EVERYTHING SEO Pros Think They Know.”

It is too easy to make an unfounded claim, put it in all caps, add some divisive buzzwords and exaggerate the truth to fit your organization’s agenda. However, readers are getting more critical when it comes to their buying habits and search engines are actively cutting down on the promotion of fake news articles. It pays to spend the extra time to fine-tune your message and back up your marketing messages with reliable sources and in-house case studies.

See How Quickly Fake News Can Spread:

For more information on effective blogging techniques and how to establish yourself as an industry thought leader, get in touch with us today. We are the experts, after all!

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