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Latest Issue: Nov/Dec 2018

How to make it without faking it

The news landscape has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. With the daily news fix no longer restricted to print media or news bulletins, people can keep up with what’s going on across the globe at any time of day, via multiple resources. 41 per cent of people in the UK turn to social media to keep up to date, with a massive 84 per cent of 18-24 year olds relying on online services to get their news digest.

But along with the rise in opportunities for companies to get their messages across to a captive audience, another phenomenon has also hit the headlines over the past 12 months, tainting the impact of the stories we read and making many people wary that all they see might not be as it seems.

Truth or spoof?

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you won’t have been able to escape the term “fake news”. It’s always been an element of the news landscape, but with so many more outlets and the immediacy of online, it is becoming more common. As a result, it can be more difficult for people to spot a spoof. Indeed, recent figures from MIT suggest that false stories are 70 per cent more likely to be retweeted than true stories. Whether that’s because they are more compelling or that people can’t spot a fake is difficult to tell, but the lines are becoming increasingly blurred.

This inability to distinguish between fact or fiction is backed up by our own research of UK consumers which found that almost half of adults worry about fake news and over a third (36 per cent) consider any story without a proof point to be fake. As a result, only a quarter (26 per cent) of them trust the media.

This scepticism can have an impact on a company’s ability to get their messages across and build a loyal follower base. Making your communications campaigns stick for the right reasons can now be harder than ever, despite the bigger platform on which to deliver them. With true stories taking an estimated six times as long to reach 1,500 people as false stories, companies need to dig deep and ensure their news is both credible and compelling.

Getting your message across

To cut through the fakery and compete in the ever-changing world of social media and news consumption, you need to create stories that stick, not content that falls flat.

The following top tips will help companies lift their news above the noise:

Tell a good story. Stories have staying power and can help you elevate the truth from the lies. For over a third (37 per cent) of the adults we spoke to, they remember stories more easily than information. Using the elements of storytelling to get your news and messages across will make your content more relevant and engaging for the audience.

Provide the proof. Your story must be credible and leave no doubt in the reader’s mind that it is factually correct. For a third (33 per cent) of consumers, the use of statistics provides this element. Give your story the edge by either commissioning a reputable research agency to add the proof points or include credible sources to back-up your statements.

Make it sharable. 40 per cent of people share a news story online if they find it interesting. With the best stories being the ones that are shared, yours needs to resonate and be relatable – whether it’s about software, security or servers. To be able to compete with celebrity gossip and cute cats, every story need to have a human element. This can be done through talking about your customers or the people that your company or industry helps.

Add an element of drama. This will certainly help to make your story stand out, with 29 per cent of people agreeing that a story without drama is dull. But we are not talking about over the top embellishments or endorsements that could damage or diminish your brand. A touch of “bad news” can in fact enhance your content, talking it from interesting to engaging (and much more sharable as a result).

Don’t just focus on the dailies. Despite a shift in the media landscape, seeing your company name in print publications still carry kudos. No company would pass up the chance to be on the front page of the FT, but targeting broadsheets and dailies might not always be the best approach when trying to get heard above the noise. With 53 per cent of people we spoke to rarely buying a daily newspaper, your story could get lost and a social media campaign could be much more successful.

by Paul Stallard, International MD, Berkeley Communications

This article appears in the May/June 2018 issue of Direct Commerce Magazine.