Unless you’ve been living completely off the grid, you’re probably sick of all the drama about fake news. If there are circumstances that are vital to correctly interpreting your conclusions, results, statistics, etc., be transparent. Crossing your fingers and hoping no one asks isn’t lying, but it is sneaky. Here’s the bottom line: Don’t exaggerate the implications of a situation to make your point more interesting. Including only the facts that are favorable to your position is a cheesy move, and it undermines your credibility even more than lying, because it tells people that fact-checking your claims isn’t enough. There are, of course, correlations that are very real. But keep it real, folks. Using questionable sources Let’s be honest…you can find a source to cite for just about anything you want to say. And with today’s emphasis on “fake news,” people are getting a lot savvier about vetting sources — especially sources that have an agenda. People are feeling extremely skeptical and are more unlikely than ever to take things at face value.
Unless you’ve been living completely off the grid, you’re probably sick of all the drama about fake news.
But here’s the thing. Fake news isn’t new. And it isn’t limited to news. In fact, it has a special affinity for content marketing.
The more we have to compete for eyeballs and dollars, the more likely we are to be tempted to cross the line into…let’s call it “subjective fact,” shall we? Sometimes we do it on purpose, but, more often than not, we just wake up one day and find ourselves writing something that’s total BS. Because “subjective facts” don’t always call attention to themselves with flashing red lights. Sometimes, they’re dull, dented, and scratched — so blah they don’t even attract attention…but they do hold up an argument or claim that would fall apart without them.
And that’s a problem. Whether it’s stretching the truth to make the facts fit the argument you’re trying to support, ignoring contradictory facts, or employing logical fallacies, these things undermine your credibility more than you realize. While people who already passionately support you will be nodding their heads in agreement, the people you’re trying to convince will be thinking, “Now, wait a minute…”
And you know what they’ll conclude? Either that you’re not smart enough to spot the holes in your own argument, that you think they’re not smart enough to catch you, or that you’re not ethical enough to care. And none of those conclusions are especially helpful to your business goals.
So pull up a chair (and a mirror), take a deep breath, and let’s examine our consciences (I know, I know…but I’m a cradle Catholic, and it’s almost Lent) to see how the scourge of fake news can infiltrate content marketing.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell”
Despite the recent wailing and gnashing of teeth about “alternative facts,” there’s actually something to it. The unemployment rate is a good example. Let’s look at two different methodologies for calculating that number. One includes part-time workers who would prefer to be full-time, people who are working in jobs below their skills and experience, and people who have finally given up. The other leaves those folks out. The two methodologies would deliver vastly different results — and yet both would be “fact.” Alternative facts.
If there are circumstances that are vital to correctly interpreting your conclusions, results, statistics, etc., be transparent. Crossing your fingers and hoping no one asks isn’t lying, but it is sneaky. And misleading. And, if you get caught, your audience won’t trust you anymore.
The same fact can convey very different meanings depending on the words used to modify it. Consider the difference between, “A full 40% of Americans are trying to lose weight” and “Only 40% of Americans are trying to lose weight.” Again, it’s not lying…but it is telling your readers what to think about your “fact” rather…