Credibility through impartiality

Callum McCall
February 8, 2018

This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer revealed a ‘resurgence of expert voices’, such as technical experts, industry analysts, and CEOs. It also showed us that the public increasingly see professional media outlets as a more credible source of information than social media. It would be remiss for brands to ignore the massive benefits of social media when it’s done right, of course. But the increased trust felt towards expert voices and professional media outlets chimed with a trend we’re seeing in our day-to-day work: an increased reliance on brands to provide full-length, by-lined articles, both news and features, direct to publications.

Over the years, publications have typically charged brands for the opportunity to write by-lined content, with costs linked to the number of eye balls all but guaranteed to fall on an article. The logic is simple: choose the right publication and you can access a relevant audience. Working out the effectiveness of this strategy has always been less clear-cut: does the value derived from the exposure outweigh the cost of securing it?

FMCG companies can work out roughly how many sales the by-lined content generates by measuring traffic to key landing pages and tracking conversions. Apples vs apples. But B2B companies have to deal with the more nebulous concepts of exposure and reputation with sales coming further down the funnel. Apples vs…apple seeds?

It’s an increasingly irrelevant equation for comms departments, however, as the notion of reciprocal value is changing for by-lined content. In a world where fewer publications can sustain a sizeable, permanent team of journalists, the value is increasingly in the authorship itself. Publications can save costs by getting their primary sources to write the content themselves. Sponsorship is no longer an essential element of the bargain.

The skill in securing unpaid by-lined opportunities is much more akin to the skill required in pitching a story to a journalist. How do your company’s products/services fit into the wider context or satisfy a wider problem? Why are they an integral piece of the puzzle? The onus then traditionally falls on the journalist to write an impartial piece covering the wider story.

And here’s where we see the main difference between conventional by-lined content and this new quasi-earned by-lined content: impartiality is now king here too. Pay for the column space and, within reason, you can say what you want. But don’t pay, and publications make it clear you’ve inherited the burden of impartiality. The content needs to be more balanced, with less explicit product promotion and fewer sales pitches. Less marketing jargon.

And whatever way you look at it, we think it’s actually a good thing. It’s a much more attractive format of content anyway. No one wants to read an extended, inevitably biased, advert. Crucially, impartiality and balance secure trust. It might be slightly more challenging to craft this kind of content, but it enables brands to reach the same audiences with more appealing content, at minimal cost.

What’s more, it’s an amazing chance for a company to show off its knowledge of the relevant industry. Brands can paint the big picture and show exactly how their products fit into it, or even how their products are expanding the picture. That is true thought leadership.

The best way of finding that impartial perspective varies but this is where an external agency comes in handy. A good agency understands a company’s products/services almost as well as they do but deliberately retains an outsider’s viewpoint. They have the depth of knowledge needed to understand the ins and outs of a product but are far enough removed to avoid the pitfalls of partisan allegiance.

Leidar’s Content Hub is made up of copywriters that specialise in telling stories about brands and their products, framed in the wider context of industry trends. We have experience across a diverse range of industries, from the heavily regulated world of healthcare to the intricacies of luxury Swiss watch making, and lots in between. Leidar’s research-derived insights allows us to fast-track the learning process.

If you’d like to know more about Leidar’s Content Hub and how it can help your company, do get in touch. Callum.McCall@leidar.com