We live in strange times. I don’t have to tell you that. Our level of trust for essential institutions is eroding. And that’s a serious problem. But, of course, trust is a tricky thing. It’s personal. It’s subjective. It takes a long time to build and hardly any time at all to be torn down.
As a brand, you need customers and clients to trust you. After all, do you buy from a brand you don’t trust? How many false advertising claims or recalls do you tolerate before you switch products?
There are a lot of ways brands build trust: putting out a consistently excellent product, engaging in the media in a responsible way, being truthful in advertising and so on. Your content marketing efforts are an excellent way to continue to build trust.
If you want your content to help build trust in your brand among your audience, here are seven things to keep in mind.
1. Be truthful.
Seriously, people. You can’t lie and expect to trust not slip away. If you make up statistics in an ebook, how do consumers know you aren’t lying about the efficacy of your product? Producing honest engaging content is a strategy that works.
2. Do your own reporting and research.
There’s a reason a lot of content writers have journalism backgrounds and educations. The skills needed to produce good content are journalistic skills. The only way to know something is accurate and truthful is to do the research yourself. Interview people. Conduct surveys and studies (the right way). Go deep in your research.
When you do all of this work — and yes, indeed, it is work — you will have original, compelling, valuable content that can be trusted.
3. Cite original sources, and link to them.
When you cite a statistic, make sure you are pulling from the original source material. Not some random blog. Not even a New York Times article. If this is your content, don’t rely on someone else’s reporting of the facts. Find the original study or the numbers released by a government or association you can trust.
And in the interest of transparency and trust-building, link to your source for the information, so anyone reading your content can find it. (If it’s a print piece, include full sourcing information in fine print.)
4. Stay away from “clickbait.”
It’s tempting to write clickbait headlines — the kind that people just can’t resist. But a lot of the time, the content on the other side of that click doesn’t deliver on the headline. And as a reader, that’s maddening. It also erodes trust.
Now, that doesn’t mean don’t write compelling headlines. If your content is good and useful, the headline will sell it. And the clicks will come.
5. Avoid over-the-top language.
Yes, marketers and salespeople want to convey how awesome their product or service or company is. But as consumers, aren’t we skeptical of any company that over-hypes itself? Superlatives are used so often in marketing that they lose meaning. And if you aren’t delivering on those promises of best/greatest/fastest, you risk your audience losing its trust in you.
When you’re working on your content — whether it’s blogs, white papers, reports, ebooks, videos — consider a more controlled tone. Forget the traditional marketing language.
6. Include experts and resources beyond your own organization.
Yes, your CEO is a thought leader. Your company is amazing. No one does what you do better than you do. But one way to build trust is to diversify the sources you cite in your content.
Think about it: If you’re reading a health-related article that quotes only St. Mark’s Hospital spokespeople and doctors and cites statistics from a study St. Mark’s conducted and links only to information on the St. Mark’s website, where is your trust level?
Now, what if that story also included statistics from the American Heart Association and quotes from a researcher at Harvard? Does that increase your trust level at all?
7. Produce high-quality content.
If content is poorly written or the links don’t work or the design is atrocious, consumers will be less likely to trust the message in the content — and the brand itself. If you’re going to take the time to create content, make sure that what you’re distributing reflects well on your brand and encourages — rather than erodes — trust among your audience.