‘Fake news’ is a term that has gained considerable currency in recent months, although how it is defined varies tremendously depending on who you talk to and what they believe. In its least controversial definition, fake news consists of truly absurd narratives created and published by click-hungry websites hoping to rake in potential advertising dollars: ‘The Pope Endorses Donald Trump,’ ‘Yoko Ono Discloses Affair with Hillary,’ and even ‘Mike Pence Admits Gay Conversion Therapy Saved His Marriage’ are all examples of fake news stories peddled by journalistic mercenaries in recent months.
While you and your team may never be tempted to create something out of whole cloth as wacky as any of the above headlines, too many companies do tend to hype insubstantial announcements, promote clichés about trends that are already overpromoted, or simply, poorly execute content that could be compelling, if done well. If you’re realizing disappointing ROI on the marketing content you create, setting up some rules about how to approach creating corporate content could help.
Here are five things that will keep you out of fake news territory:
- Wasting time on inauthentic content. Anything you take the time to write and plan to send out to the world should have real value – specific insights born of your own company’s history or your own personal experience. Don’t plagiarize anyone else, and don’t promote or use promotional ideas – the ideas and concepts will be devalued as a result.
- Publishing news that is too internally focused. I’m just as happy as anyone for every middle manager who is promoted and every IT system that is upgraded with new and advanced features. But do your potential customers and prospects care? Probably not. Be selective on what news you invest in for pitching to the media.
- Opining on trends that are already overpromoted. Don’t waste time rewriting old trends. The media wants a fresh take – a subject matter can be perpetual, but the angle approached could shed light on a new facet. It is better to take a well-thought-out chance, than to assume a buzzword is going to be perceived as having value.
- Releasing content that is not carefully written, edited and proofed. Invest in stellar writers. Take the time to carefully and strategically develop messaging for every piece you put together. Make sure it reinforces your larger company and product or service strategy. Typos happen even in the world’s most read media outlets, but diligence is a must to ensure copy is as clean as possible.
- Allowing design and layout to be an afterthought. One of the saddest things in the marketing world to come upon is text that on close examination is quite brilliant – on point, compellingly written, perfectly segued – but that probably no one will bother to read because of faults in its design. It’s mashed together on a page in a tiny font and typestyle, without illustrations or helpful graphics, and bereft of the sort of helpful visual guides that might draw the reader in, and help intrigue her as she skims the piece. Snappy headlines, pull quotes, sub-heads, well-written captions: These sorts of things are all essential, not optional.
As a former journalist, I can vouch for the fact that too many companies are spending too much time and money promoting products and services that simply aren’t that interesting. I’ll even concede that some of these products and services might have been interesting, were they better packaged and delivered.
Like all people, journalists have limited time and attention spans. When they’re receiving more than 100 emails per day, if you don’t offer them a compelling message upfront, they aren’t going to take time to search for it.
The fact that you need to dazzle a bit sometimes leads to the worst temptation of all, which is the impulse to oversell something by promising attribute features, and results that aren’t deliverable. These sorts of products and services that fail to live up to their claims – in the same way ‘fake news’ stories fall apart upon closer examination – bring out the worst sort of cynicism among journalists and customer prospects, and will do the most long-term damage to your brand.