Don't Let Marketing Zest Lead You Into the Fake News Morass

If the facts aren't selling your product, you need to improve it.

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By Jim Joseph

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

All this talk of "fake news" has me a little crazy: fake news, gaslighting, living in a post-factual world. … Whatever we call it, we never know exactly what we'll see when we click a link.

Marketers long have faced scrutiny for fake news -- even if no one called it that. We've been accused of adding spin, exaggerating the truth and manipulating a story to make it sound more convincing. Some even have been accused of simply making stuff up.

Of course, it's our job to put our brands in the best light possible. That's precisely how we engage customers and sell products or services. But here's the clincher: Those stories we spin -- and the goods and services themselves -- truthfully must benefit the end users.

I'd like to believe that for the most part, marketers take this role seriously and communicate in an open, honest fashion. But the truth is we sometimes get carried away. Taking a little too much creative license in our branding, messaging and distribution efforts can make us part of the fake-news phenomenon.

The key is not getting too caught up in the marketplace's latest tactics. Here are a few guidelines to help avoid the frenzy and maintain balance.

Related: How to Spot Real News from Fake News Online: A Definitive Guide

Don't get competitive.

It's easy to become consumed by tracking our competitors' moves and then trying to one-up them. But constantly working to outdo our competition could put us in a tail spin. When we get too aggressive, we drift away from our brand -- what it's all about and what it actually does.

To be sure, it's important to monitor the competition. If they truly have an advantage, we should even the playing field through innovations that make our products or services better. A dialogue that makes our brand just sound better doesn't fix the root problem.

Related: The 7 Worst Reasons for a Content Marketing Campaign

Don't react to social media.

Social media can take on a life of its own when we use it to market brands. The problem is that it quickly can take us to places we shouldn't go near. When we're forced out of our comfort zone, we either grow or lash out.

Staying true to our brands with every post and comment can help us stay clear of a fake-news setup. This is particularly helpful to remember when we find ourselves responding to others' comments.

Developing a social-media engagement plan that fits our brands will keep us on the right path -- even when there's temptation to stray.

Related: Mark Zuckerberg Announces Facebook's Plan to Attack Fake News

Don't be silent.

We live in a marketing-centric world. Our customers rate, review and comment on our products and services. While much of that input is spot-on and can help us improve our offerings, some feedback can be intensely negative or positive.

If we see others stretching the truth to generate fake news about our brands, we must address it. If someone has exaggerated what a brand is able to do, failing to set the record straight is a passive endorsement. It gives the idea legitimacy.

Fake news is fake news, no matter the source. In fact, the situation can be even worse when that "news" comes from someone else. Sources outside our organization speak with an implied objectivity. If we want to remain honest in our branding, we must see it as our job to objectively correct half-truths and outright falsehoods alike.

Related: How Transparency Can Slash Your Churn Rate by 89%

Here's some final food for thought as we navigate an increasingly complex world: At the end of the day (or the newsfeed), we'll go a long way if we're open and honest about the work we do and the solutions we provide. Our customers will appreciate it. And our followers will become even more loyal about sharing content or recommending our brands.

Jim Joseph

Marketing Master - Author - Blogger - Dad

Jim Joseph is a commentator on the marketing industry. He is Global President of the marketing communications agency BCW, author of The Experience Effect series and an adjunct instructor at New York University.

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