Don’t worry, this isn’t another article about Donald Trump…
For a term so recently coined, those two words – ‘fake news’ – are already enough to cause the sturdiest of shoulders to slump wearily on top of computer keyboards.
But out of darkness comes light. And when it comes to combatting fake news, the fightback is very much underway.
Leading the charge against misleading – and let’s face it, false – news coverage, is Germany.
Facebook in Germany has responded to the uproar that followed Donald Trump’s election (sorry, that’s the final time, I promise) and the sense that the social media giant is an unregulated hive for misinformation and falsity.
An independent fact-checking company called Correctiv has been employed by Facebook to monitor dubious headlines and content from typically unreliable sources that is circulating on people’s newsfeeds. They then contact the original sources in the story to verify it.
Once the story has been analysed, Correctiv sends out a message to German users of Facebook indicating whether it’s true or false.
You’ve gotta have faith
The problem for journalists struggling to gain authenticity is that they’re doing so at a time when faith in journalism is at horrifically low levels. Just 25% of people questioned in the latest Ipsos MORI Veracity Index said they trusted journalists. (Only government ministers and politicians fared worse.)
Despite the current chaos at play in news reporting, ultimately, the truth will out.
The admittedly simplistic answer for journalists of how to lift themselves clear of the fake news quagmire is by employing the same practices that content marketers live by each day: honest, authentic content delivered in an open, engaging format.
This approach has helped content marketing to distinguish itself as a vital weapon for brands, and separated it from traditional advertising methods. And there’s always more that can be done to increase the faith in your content.
Drop the hard sell
Audiences are more savvy, and suspicious, than ever. The hard sell simply doesn’t cut it anymore. If you’re making use of advertorials, then broadcast that fact clearly. A sniff of sponsored content (that hasn’t been clearly declared as such) is enough to turn an audience off for life.
Even mentioning a product directly can be tricky territory and can lose you any goodwill built up through the content itself. It’s often better to simply hyperlink away from the page.
First impressions count
Content will live and die by its quality. But there are also simple ways of adding authenticity to what you’re producing.
Looking again to news reporting, how many times have you seen a dodgy-looking headline with odd punctuation? (Too many exclamation marks being the obvious example.) Or an article expressing astonishing ‘news’ developments but strewn with typos? There’s no quicker way to lose trust from your audience than through basic written errors.
Likewise, design plays a strong part. For some reason, many of the websites often regarded as being purveyors of fake news appear to have been designed in the 1990s and never updated. Make sure your content is hosted in a professional, classy, easy-on-the-eye environment.
It’s a funny world where the phrase ‘journalistic integrity’ can be treated as an oxymoron, but content marketing can avoid the problems surrounding the news industry currently. A brand producing effective, useful content is an honest procedure – and doing so will build reliability, loyalty and trust.
by James Sullivan. Contact him here.