Sadly, fake news and content marketing have much in common. Both feature unsupported claims and are often camouflaged as a “trusted” source. So it’s no wonder that B2B and B2C buyers increasingly rely on a subset of influencers and experts, including friends, for inspiration, guidance and validation.

Much of the “brand storytelling” you encounter online has simply lost its way: It’s messaging masquerading as valuable “thought leadership.” But brand journalism is different, and it takes a leap of faith few are willing to take: Your content must establish trust from the outside in.

What does it mean to establish trust from the outside in? Consider a story about physicians using analytics for clinical decision support. Story A frames the piece around a customer and how the technology aligns perfectly with her clinical workflow. Story B, which starts by contextualizing how frenetic life is at the point of care, doesn’t even include a customer. The physicians interviewed in the piece are simply peers outlining challenges for which there may be multiple solutions.

So how does a brand benefit from a piece that’s about challenges, not them? It’s all about patiently building trust. You must offer access to expertise and creative solutions – perhaps even allowing it to become a platform for uncensored dialogue – and trust that your customer will make the necessary connections back to you when it’s time. They will.

Brand journalism continues to evolve, even for us. But our mission hasn’t changed: We hire journalists and think like them. Consequently, we build a higher trust quotient into our content. How can you do this? There aren’t a few simple steps, but there are a few do’s and don’ts that can help you differentiate your content from camouflaged content:

  • Don’t exclusively use customers for stories – interview outsiders and, ideally, refine your product or service as you learn more about real challenges they face (we typically find sources on our own)
  • Do research – not of your customer base, but of their peers – to uncover what’s really happening in your space (not message testing, but active listening)
  • Don’t always jump to your call to action (CTA) – stick to a strategy that builds trust over time through multiple channels (your CTA may not come for several more touches)

Camouflaged marketing content may not be fake news, but, to some, it’s close. And the more you can distance your brand from it the better.

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