With so much fake news around these days it is hard to tell when someone is actually telling the truth. In the past, it was just second-hand car salesmen and politicians that were not to be trusted. But recent scandals like Cambridge Analytics illegally harvesting our Facebook data or Volkswagen running software to skew emission testing results, have also made us skeptical of what companies are telling us. So how can you convince your customers that you are a trustworthy partner in a world where fake news is the norm?
Spotting fake news
FIrst, let’s take a step back and look at some strategies for spotting fake news. I found this interesting infographic on the website of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).
These are sound strategies and something we should all think about when we see a news piece. But, for the purpose of this article let us flip them around and see they mean for a company wanting to position itself as a trustworthy source of information.
Consider the source / Check your biases
Are you seen as a trustworthy company? The easiest way to lose the respect and trust of your customers is to claim to be something you are not. For example, companies that claim to be sustainable but continue to pollute or damage the environment. The Volkswagen emissions scandal is a perfect example of this.
Another example is companies that claim to be a ‘thought leader’ in their market. While that is great if you actually are a thought leader, or technology leader or have the biggest share of the market. But if you are not, claiming to be is only going to get you a bad reputation.
Read beyond / Supporting sources?
Providing links to supporting data is a good way to show that you are telling the truth. Fortunately, technical companies usually have an abundance of product specs, white papers and other factual information to back up their stories. And linking to other pages with relevant information is also a great way to improve your search ranking.
Also, avoid outrageous click-bait headlines. It might be a good way to drive traffic to your website, but if you cannot back up those claims, visitors will be disappointed and less willing to trust you in the future.
Check the author / Ask the experts
Don’t post a technical piece by Jim from Marketing. If your technical guys are too busy dealing with customers or technical issues to write a piece themselves then you need to support them to get these stories online. Remember, while these people are experts in their field, they may not be good writers, may struggle to structure their thoughts on paper, or simply be too busy doing their job.
A good technical writer can quickly work up an initial draft based on an interview. This approach can save your experts a lot of time and effort, while also ensuring that the final article fits in with your corporate brand and messaging.
Check the date
Old news might not be fake but could still be creating a negative opinion of your company. I regularly see company news pages where the last PR was posted two years ago, the last (and first) Facebook post is from 2015 and their company LinkedIn page is still in their old house style. Digital channels need to be regularly maintained to be effective. And that takes time and money. If you are not committed to doing it, then simply don’t. I sometimes joke that going by the last published news, the client’s company went out of business a couple of years ago. They don’t find it funny.
Is it a joke?
In the B2C world, you can do fun advertising campaigns. In high-tech and industrial B2B segment, it’s not such a good idea. I have seen stand-up comedians have a bad night, so if your business is selling technology solutions, how well do think you will fare. That’s not to say that you can never make a joke or be funny. Just choose wisely!
The best way to be authentic in your message is to be open and transparent about who you are as company and what you are trying to achieve. That might be more difficult than it sounds as ‘sell more products’ doesn’t exactly make you stand out from the crowd. You need a clear and consistent message that is aligned with your strategic business goals, backed by a communication strategy that will help deliver that message to the right audience, on the right channels, at the right time. And if you don’t have that yet then don’t worry, I know some people who can help you.