Quick: think back to the last time you made a major decision. Who did you seek out for advice? Not just anyone, right, but only those you trusted?
It’s natural to seek outside expertise when making a decision, big or small. Trusted counsel is the basis of marriages and friendships, and a crucial component of the fabric of human interactions. It’s why we ask friends and family whether they like who we’re dating, what schools to send our children to, or where to eat—the opinions of those close to us (who have opinions worth heeding) will make our decision-making better.
It should be no different when it comes to business technology. Most companies are not brimming with tech expertise—they need guidance on what solutions to adopt. Sophisticated #content marketing should be able to fill this gap by providing accurate, reliable information.
Advocacy #Journalism to the Rescue
Yet, there’s a tension at the heart of the content marketing value proposition: can a customer rely on marketers to provide the whole truth when they’re also pushing a product? Content marketers can answer this effectively by taking lessons from an unlikely source: the ever-evolving world of advocacy journalism.
Citizen, civic, or advocacy journalism arose in response to the problems with so-called objective journalism. For at least the past 40 years, most major U.S. media outlets have adhered to objectivity in their reporting—meaning stories are presented without ostensible bias or the interjection of opinion by the author. This left many journalists prey for politicians of all affiliations to exploit: no matter the facts, a journalist would have to present both sides. It’s why, even now, when evidence overwhelmingly confirms global warming is occurring, some publications still present the assertions of dissenters as being on par with those of the vast majority of the scientific community.
Confronting the Truth
Advocacy journalism rejects this model. It emulates how the foreign press practices the craft— a quick view of the BBC will show journalists far more willing to confront officials. The idea is that bias is not inherently bad; humans are innately subjective and to pretend otherwise is dishonest. Civic journalists argue for issues. They put their biases out front, rather than pretending as if they don’t exist, and then let the audience decide whether or not their reporting is trustworthy. Examples of this model are sites like The Intercept or The Huffington Post. Civic journalism can go too far, as evidenced by some of the practices of Fox News or MSNBC, in which facts are distorted or ignored. But when done well, civic journalism is a way for those with the most subject knowledge to push for necessary changes, like a partisan think tank that lets its research findings guide its recommendations.
Content marketers can be think tanks for the tech world if they follow four key rules of civic journalism:
1. Follow the evidence
Marketers should be able to explain sophisticated problems in detail, thereby providing value to their audience. They should offer as much evidence as possible to show their grasp of the issue, as well as to inform readers. Customers benefit from a service regardless of whether they buy the product, thereby bolstering the brand.
2. Tout testimonials
First-person testimonials provide powerful anecdotal evidence. Interview CTOs or present your own experience of grappling with the problem that led to the creation of your product. This personalizes your content, while highlighting your expertise.
3. Illuminate the need for change
Almost every tech B2B company was founded on a mission—a problem existed and a new technology could fix it. Just as journalists argue for legislative or policy changes to correct social ills, content marketers can make a case for how to overcome current obstacles with new tools.
4. Practice honest advocacy
Being an advocate for your product is fine, so long as you’re honest about it. Don’t be afraid of contradictory evidence—presenting opposing views while you argue for your perspective helps to builds trust.
Ultimately, content marketers can offer a similar benefit to the public as civic journalists. Both are advocating to change the status quo for the better.
Be an advocate. Get the right content marketing collateral
Also read our other posts about the link between journalism and content marketing: