Content you can trust in the fake news era

Readers can spot an agenda a mile away, but they'll still trust your content if you create and present it the right way.

BY Rebecca Rolfes
Executive Vice President

Content marketing has an agenda. It aims to persuade and engage, to create a customer relationship that lasts and, ultimately, leads to action.

Readers can spot an agenda a mile away, but that does not mean they will always mistrust your content because of it. In this post-fact, “fake news” era, the stakes are higher than ever in terms of gaining your customers’ trust. Think how much more valuable you’ll be to them if they know they can believe your content.

Below are some ways to make sure they do. A little bit of authenticity goes a long way toward building credibility.

Be transparent

No matter what you are creating, let users know who you are, what you offer and what you hope users will do. Think “Our Magazine brought to you by Us Inc.” Or if you’re offering a website geared toward helpful how-to advice, make sure they know it’s coming from you.

Hire for subject-matter expertise

Whether you use staff or freelance talent, the person doing the writing must know what he or she is talking about. There are journalists who write about food and those who write about mutual funds, but you won’t find many who excel at both.

Publish bylines

Your content was written by a human being, not a content farm, not a robot. In print, add a writer’s bio at the end of articles citing subject-matter expertise. In digital, make the writer’s name a live link to a bio and other published work. Give readers a real person for connection rather than a faceless organization.

Stay current

All content should be datelined so users can see it is fresh and the information is current. Develop a policy for removing old and outdated content from your site. Content creators should use recent sources, no older than a year if possible, and cite when they were published for added credibility.

Employ research-based reporting

With the advent of blogs came a more essay-like editorial style that invites opinion rather than fact. Opinion is fine as long as it does not masquerade as fact. High-quality content means high-quality reporting based on research and interviews. Readers will be skeptical of anonymous or uncited sources but will give more credit to an article where multiple sources point toward the same conclusion.

Use reliable sources

All data should be fact checked and, as often as possible, corroborated by a second source. When you start with unbiased sources, you end up with balanced, reliable content. Wikipedia is a great resource but since it is user-generated and subject to intrusion, is not reliable enough to be cited.

If you’re wrong, say so immediately and publicly

Nothing makes you more credible than admitting your mistakes. It is virtually impossible to publish a high volume of content and never, ever make a mistake. Writers and editors with the best intentions and the highest standards are still human beings, and humans are fallible. Your readers will appreciate the human touch that comes with acknowledging an error.

Consider publishing editorial standards

Privacy policies are standard on websites. Why not editorial standards? Reassure your readers that you are using best practices in content creation and editing. Asking readers to help keep you honest by commenting may give your content monitoring team heartburn, but it will go a long way to establishing an open exchange between trustworthy partners. And isn’t that what you’re looking for?

published: April 11, 2017

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