Journalistic Integrity in Digital Content and Marketing

Journalistic integrity. In this digital age where everyone believes they’re a journalist thanks to the power of social media, and fake news is preferred over factual stories, journalistic integrity — a standard that was once the most important quality a news outlet could possess — appears to be pretty low on the priority list.

Today, more people prefer to get their news from websites, Facebook and other social sites than most other traditional sources like radio, television and print newspaper. An August 2017 Pew Research Center for Journalism and Media study revealed 67% of Americans now use social media as a reliable news source.

It’s understandable why more and more Americans are using online sources these days. Online sources are readily available on your phone, tablet or computer, and online news sites tend to be the first to hit the public with breaking news. The problem is, many of the so-called “news sources” trending on social media are not exactly known for being factual and trustworthy in delivering their news. Sites like Breitbart, Buzzfeed, and Occupy Democrats have been rated as the least trustworthy news sources in the U.S., yet they continue to be among the top sources shared on Facebook and other social sites. In the meantime, we’re all questioning why “fake news” is so prevalent in today’s America.

The short answer is simple–today’s news sources are severely lacking in journalistic integrity. Facts aren’t important, as long as that news source is the first to break the story with the most sensational headline possible.

Unfortunately, today’s lack of journalistic integrity seems to be spilling over into our online marketing world. Some marketers are allowing and even encouraging clients to share “fake news” on their own social media pages and websites in an effort to grow their target audience. Clickbait headlines, articles stuffed with keywords but little actual content and references to unverified sources all lead the way in loss of trust in content marketers.

It may not seem like a big deal to share misinformation on your social media and blog as long as your customers are responding, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not such a good idea.

If you’re constantly sharing extremely biased or unfactual information on your business pages, eventually followers who do their homework on real and fake news stories will grow tired of seeing you misinform your customers and either a) call you out on it in the comments b) stop following your page altogether or c) both.

You may be fine with only reaching a certain type of client or customer audience, but if you want your business to grow and have long-term success, you can’t afford to be biased. You want to reach people who are interested in the services or products you offer regardless of their personal viewpoints. Pushing overly biased and unfactual news on your business page will turn away potentially valuable customers.

Consistently sharing “fake news” can make you seem ignorant and may lead followers to question your knowledge about other things, including the products or services you sell.

If your misinformation is pertaining to a competitor and it’s revealed that you were wrong, it’s quite likely you will watch at least a few customers march on over to the competition’s lot simply because they now hold your integrity in question.

Integrity is a virtue that’s often not valued until it’s in question, and suddenly it’s the most important quality a person or entity could possess. In today’s dog-eat-dog world, putting your integrity on the line to attract more clients or customers is all too tempting, and at first, it may even appear to pay off for the competition. But, if you stick to your values and keep integrity a priority in your marketing plan, you and your business will stand out among the rest.

How can you ensure you are operating your online marketing sources with integrity, including in sharing news and information?

Stick to only sharing news related to your industry or locale, and stay away from news related to politics, sports or religion. Exceptions include local election results, local team scores and accomplishments, and stories of local religious organizations doing good in the community. Be sure any news articles you share are reports only and not opinion pieces.

If you do share national news, make sure it comes from a source considered unbiased by most Americans. (Hint: no Fox News OR CNN!) Though CNN, Fox News, and Big 3 (ABC, NBC and CBS) news outlets have the biggest audiences, The Economist and BBC News are ranked as the most trusted sources across each of  America’s ideological groups.

Keep your personal biases to your personal social media pages…but still, use caution. You are the face of your business and likely known throughout your community as a business owner. Let your business integrity carry over to your personal online activities by remaining respectful to fellow friends and followers with differing views. If you don’t think you can do that, be sure your Facebook and Twitter pages are set to private and keep only close friends and family on your friends list.

Do your own research before posting. The best way to separate fact from fiction in news stories is to read the same story on multiple outlets. Don’t just stick to the one or two sources you prefer–check them all out.

If a client leaves a poor review on your page, but you have a very different memory of your experience working with them than what they’ve shared, do not engage them by firing back with an opposing post. I repeat, REFRAIN from arguing with a dissatisfied customer or client on social media.

Even if you are right and they are blatantly wrong, calling a customer out on social media is immature and brings your integrity into question. Always address customer complaints privately, and be careful not to say anything accusatory or offensive in your response. It’s not uncommon for unhappy customers to post screenshots of their conversations with business owners in an effort to disparage their name. Too many local business owners have learned the hard way to keep their emotions in check when it comes to responding to customers online or even in person after their less-than-stellar response wound up trending on Facebook.

Momentum Consulting prides itself on operating with integrity and honesty, and we prioritize those values in each marketing plan developed for our clients. If you are a business owner looking for a marketing agency to develop a social media marketing strategy that encompasses the integrity you value, click here to schedule a consultation with Momentum today.

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