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Why Authentic Content Matters: Part One

April 4, 2018 • Paul Woolf

This is the updated logo for History Factory. The tagline reads Leading the Authentic Content Revolution.

You may have noticed our new tagline at The History Factory: Leading the Authentic Content Revolution. It’s a line conceived through a lot of research (and a bit of soul-searching) inside and outside our company. It’s a recognition that all our people—researchers, curators, creatives, archivists, account service, writers, editors—are aligned around the pursuit and application of content that is unique and owned by every organization. This is content that is true and credible, and directly tied to a brand or company’s heritage and experiences. “Authentic content” accurately reflects what we find and deliver as an organization. With nearly 40 years of experience, we are certainly the leader in finding and applying this type of content.

But is it a revolution? Does authentic content have the potential to shake up how companies and brands go to market? Of course, our answer is yes, but the reasons why are too numerous to put in a single post. So let’s look at simply one reason why authentic content matters: the impact of negative content on brands and businesses.

According to a recent study by UK reputation consultancy Igniyte, the number one concern among about 1,000 British brands is negative press (26 percent, an increase from 17 percent in 2014), followed by poor reviews (14 percent) and negative social media posts (10 percent). One in 20 brands puts the cost of negative content at over £500,000 (about $700,000) per annum. Translate this perspective to the much larger U.S. market, and the impact moves into the millions of dollars.

Interestingly, an estimated 25 percent of respondents believe that competitors’ postings either caused or had the potential to cause the most damage. The risk of rapidly spreading falsehoods and rumors is something we see daily within the political arena, yet we must also remember that it has existed for years between corporate competitors. While in the past it may have been a loose-lipped sales competitor talking down your brand, today it’s more likely to be a post on your own social page or a review platform. It could be a masquerading “independent” source, a friend of the competitor, or even a bot that could be badmouthing you. The reach and perceived credibility of a social posting can be far bigger and far more damaging.

Yet a new survey from public relations firm Edelman found that trust in social media platforms is declining. In 21 out of 28 countries surveyed, trust indices declined in 2017, with 42 percent of respondents saying they trust social media, down from 53 percent in 2016. Recent revelations about Facebook and the accompanying privacy concerns will undoubtedly perpetuate this trend. In short, your customers may hear bad things about you, but they’re more likely now to question the veracity of the source than in the past.

However, for companies and brands seeking to put out a message—where negative PR spreads like The Wave at a college football game—it’s a challenge. Is your content believable? Is it credible? Is it recognized as spin by shrewd customers? There’s only one answer. Make it authentic.

Authentic content is the key to gaining and maintaining trust on platforms that seem to be losing it. Ninety percent of millennials say brand authenticity is important, proving that younger consumers prefer real and organic over perfect and packaged. Even more staggering is the amount of distrust in the market today. Fifty-seven percent of consumers think that less than half of brands create content that is authentic. By focusing on finding and leveraging content that is true, verifiable and owned, companies and brands can pass the smell test when it comes to an increasingly skeptical customer. Authentic content also enables the development of a more positive response to any negative content. An authentic response can either dispute an assertion or provide a means to redirect a conversation toward more defendable ground.

Granted, when we think of revolutions, a content revolution is not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet if we take a step back and look at what defines a revolution, it becomes clear that we’re in the midst of one. In the broadest sense, a revolution is a wave of disruption. The Industrial Revolution of the 1700s and 1800s shook the core of both the United States and Britain, moving both countries from an agrarian to an industrialized economy while leading to major demographic shifts, including an increase in urban population figures.

The digital revolution, which analysts contend started in the 1950s and continues today, is likewise seen as disruptive—a wave that is transforming not only how we communicate but how we live. As such, the authentic content revolution is part of the broader digital revolution, but in a counter-reactionary way. It represents an inherent need among customers to get the real and true story from companies. Move beyond the sales spin. Move beyond a monologue and toward true engagement. Move beyond superficial, false and misleading content toward authenticity. It’s a revolution in what content is “consumed” and in how much traction it gets. Join us in the authentic content revolution, and together let’s counteract falsehoods and misleading narratives.

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