Historically, public relations has focused on building awareness and generating intrigue, and most importantly, building trust. Quickly establishing credibility and differentiating you and/or your [insert product/service] from the rest of the pack was critical. This happened primarily through media relations, or capitalizing on a PR firm’s relationships with journalists, editors and producers at well-known, widely-circulated or very targeted (e.g., industry-specific) publications or programs (radio, TV, etc.). But that was a different world.
Today’s media landscape, by comparison, is fast, fleeting and fake. Attention is at a premium. White space has become commoditized. More people are getting their news online and through social media platforms in particular than ever before – a trend that continues to grow in popularity as new generations grow up and join the workforce.
“Compared with print, nearly twice as many adults (38%) often get news online, either from news websites/apps (28%), on social media (18%), or both.” – Pew Research Center, 2016
While there are a variety of factors converging to spur this change, the reality is that because of technology it’s both easier and more difficult than ever before to build genuine trust – as an individual and as a business.It’s both easier and more difficult than ever before to build trust – both as an individual and as a businessClick To TweetDon’t get me wrong, the emergence of digital marketing has leveled the playing field in many ways: social media platforms are “freely” available to any individual or business, blogs and websites are becoming less expensive to build, and there are many free or low-cost options for email marketing. But it’s because of these low barriers to entry that the landscape has become so overcrowded and so badly misused (in some cases) – and as consumers become more technologically savvy, the same old tactics will not continue to yield the ROI they once did.
Building Trust with a Content Marketing Strategy
One metric commonly looked at is the human attention span, which, according to some studies, has dropped to 8 seconds (less than that of a goldfish). Essentially, we’re living in a world where, by the end of a 10-second Snapchat video, the viewer has already moved on to the next story. As marketers and communicators, we’re almost never able to match this relentless pace of technological innovation and adoption. Many brands (particularly in the B2B space) can be hesitant to latch-on to the next trend, and by the time they do, the rest of the world has already moved on to something else. Unfortunately, this turns into an endless cycle of catching up.
So, what can we do to establish credibility and build trust in this fast and fleeting technological world? Here are three principles of content marketing strategy that have proven their value and staying power.
Be unique: One of the primary roles a PR professional plays is to be intently focused on the news and to find “hooks” or ways of tying your story/topic to what’s most relevant today. That said, just because everyone else is talking about artificial intelligence or sustainability doesn’t mean you should be. Trust me, we really don’t need yet another blog post on the state of our politics unless you have truly unique ideas to share. Focus on your strengths and you’ll find ways to remain relevant while building your own following based on your ideas. Consider the most important questions your customers are asking and use that as a starting point.
Be honest: This one should really go without saying, but in today’s world of fake news and alternative facts, you can never be too sure. Media and public relations may be thought of traditionally as “spin” but I believe that as marketers and communicators, it’s our obligation to be as truthful and open with our audience as possible. Besides, if you truly understand your “buyer” and their challenges, there’s plenty of room to use thought leadership to answer questions and solve problems in a genuine manner. There’s no better way to destroy your credibility than to be seen as manipulating facts in order to advance your own agenda. People respect transparency and will gravitate toward open, honest communicators.
Be gracious: Building an effective digital presence is as much (if not more) about what you give than what you get. Gary Vaynerchuck, a well-known speaker on the digital marketing circuit, built his reputation based on the principles of the “Thank You Economy” – using the digital tools we have available to gradually build relationships with people. In other words, building trust. If you want your content to get noticed, take the time to share the content of others and engage with those authors when you find them. You might not see an immediate return, but that’s OK. Your next marketing campaign will thank you.
Content marketing strategy is attracting more attention and budgets every day – and with good reason. But to truly stand out, don’t forget about some of the basics. While things like user experience and SEO are critically important (really, they are!), they are only part of the equation in terms of engendering trust among your audience. Keep your focus on crafting quality content and your future fans will thank you. Remember, real trust can’t be bought, only earned.