Five steps for brands to help consumers navigate a post-truth world
We’re living in a post-truth era. But you probably already knew that. After all, ’post-truth’ was chosen as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries way back in 2016 following Trump’s election, Brexit, and an all-around “highly-charged” 12 months. Rob Hanlon looks at how brands can navigate this new world.
Several years after 2016, fake news is yet to become old news. This left many people increasingly looking to brands for help. You could argue that in this brave new world, trust is becoming as valuable a commodity to brands as the products they sell. This is thanks to the confusion caused by the sheer volume of online and offline information customers can access. There has all been an increase of “fake news” on a growing number of social media channels.
But how can companies build greater trust and, at the same time, help their customers navigate increasingly muddy information waters? Here are five steps to help put trust where it belongs, at the heart of your brand:
1. Let employees lead
Authenticity has become a word almost as buzzy as post-truth. The issue isn’t that it’s being overused—just that it’s not being backed up. A 2019 study revealed that while 92% of marketers think their content is authentic, consumers disagree: 51% of those surveyed said less than half of the branded content they see feels genuine.
Brands can fix this disconnect by developing a brand purpose that reflects, not the latest cause célèbre, but the views and values of their employees. Nike has built a brand purpose on social action—which feels authentic thanks to internal initiatives that help staff with their own personal purposes by supporting them in their own community volunteering projects. It’s far easier for a brand to stay on message and create content and products that just feel right if they’re being produced by staff that truly buys into what you’re doing.
2. Keep it clean
If there’s a marketing phrase that sounds less appealing than brand hygiene, I’m yet to find it. But in the dirty world of post-truth, keeping your ads away from clickbait stories or questionable websites is a must. Third-party platforms and automated programmes can allow your content to appear next to fake news articles. If this happens it can damage your reputation and can even give credibility to otherwise toxic content. So, be sure to have defences put in place by the likes of Google by deploying a blacklist of fake news websites.
3. Make trusted content count with partnerships
A key weapon in the battle against fake news is reliable, verifiable information that’s up-to-date. Knowledge is still power in this day and age, so keeping your site up-to-date with new content will indicate to consumers your brand is on top of the information flow. According to a recent Edelman study, 84 percent of global respondents like to get their news from multiple sources. This includes brands who can partner with reputable publishers and platforms to deliver on this.
Rather than generating content themselves, brands can also help their customers discover and access high-quality journalism that is ‘brand safe’ through partnerships directly with publishers.
Digital content platforms like Readly can be used for this. Our partnerships with brands, including Coca-Cola, Samsung, McDonalds and H&M, have helped introduce hundreds of thousands of consumers to unlimited quality editorial.
4. Open up closed doors
Consumer desire for brand transparency has spiked during the pandemic. People around the world are demanding that brands protect the well-being of their employees. Being open and honest with those inside and outside the company on business operations, goals, and your supply chains. This can help demonstrate that commitment.
Being transparent isn’t always easy, particularly for larger companies. However, social media is one low-effort approach to help show you walk the walk. Eighty-one percent of users in America think social makes brands more accountable. Meet that expectation head-on by bringing to the fore what goes on inside your company in an #unfiltered way.
5. Sharpen your fact-checking tools
It goes without saying that brands in the fight against fake news have to avoid contributing to the noise and confusion themselves. A recent ASA ruling against the use of “misleading filters” in the advertising of two tanning brands highlights how seriously the issue is being taken.
Create an accuracy checklist to run your content against before it leaves the building. Empower your community managers and moderators to spot, delete, and debunk fake news that appears on your channels.
Consumers expect their favourite brands to be gateways to legitimate, trustworthy information. These five steps aren’t there just to improve your own brand image; post-pandemic, brands have a wider societal role in giving the customers the right tools to battle disinformation and help them tell fact from fiction whatever the industry. Being transparent, producing honest content and partnering to provide access to quality publishing is a simple brand strategy that will pay dividends in the long run.
Rob Hanlon is the global partnerships director at Readly.