Does Anyone Trust Your Content?

February 12, 2014 by

The role of trust in your content marketing mix, and why your content will miss the mark without it.

If you create an amazing piece of content, but nobody trusts it, does it have real business impact?

This is the question more content marketers should be asking themselves. For all the discussions currently taking place around content marketing, the issue of trust is perhaps the most critical. At the end of the day, if people do not trust (or know) your organization, then no matter how much great branded content you produce, it will largely fall on deaf ears.

That doesn’t mean that your branded content isn’t important – it simply means that for every content marketing strategy, “trust building” must be included as one of the pillars.

And this is where trusted content – earned media – enters the content marketing mix. Research from Forrester shows that 55% of people rely on trusted content (credible, third-party articles or reviews), while only 32% rely on branded content. When asked by Forrester about making a purchase decision, 58% of consumers who trusted content said they were more likely to buy.

Marketing is all about identifying the customers’ needs and creating strategies that solve for those needs. And when making a purchasing decision or forming their perception of a brand, at the core of any customer’s needs is real, credible information.

Think about the last purchase you made – did you simply go to a company’s website to read about the product, or did you check trusted publications for articles and reviews about the product? Chances are, you wanted to see what credible experts said about the considered item, not just the biased information from the company.

Now think about a brand that succeeded in changing your perception. Was it the result of a clever piece of content that they wrote, or was your perception changed by consistently reading positive articles about the brand from sources that you trust?

Which begs the question: if consumers are impacted more by trusted content from brand-independent experts than they are by branded content, why do most content marketing strategies rely primarily on branded content?

Related Class: Paid, Owned, and Earned: Balancing Tactics for a Successful Media Strategy

Time to Flip the Model On Its Head

As opposed to spending 90 percent of your time and content marketing budget on branded content that resonates less with consumers, today’s content marketers should consider flipping the model to prioritize the trusted content that is more effectively impacting consumers’ perception and consideration. Leading with trusted content not only helps increase brand awareness via the voice of your market’s experts, but in doing so it helps build a foundation of trust with the consumer.

Once you have built a solid foundation of trust with the consumer, the rest of your marketing mix benefits from that trust and becomes more impactful.

It’s Not an Either/Or Proposition

Now, just because more and more research is proving that trusted content is more effective than branded content at increasing brand consideration and changing perceptions, that doesn’t mean branded content serves no purpose. Too often in the broader marketing community there seems to be a battle between “earned media” and “branded content.” But it is not an either/or proposition – rather, one builds upon the other.

Think of it this way: if you’re walking down the street and you see a coffee shop with a sign that says “Best coffee in the world,” but you’ve never heard anything about the shop and don’t have any foundation of trust with the brand, are you going to go inside? Most likely you’re going to keep walking to your trusty Starbucks (et al – to each their own). 

But what if you’ve read a few articles about that new coffee shop from trusted, third-party sources, saying that they’ve tasted the coffee, and THEY think it is the best cup of coffee in the world? That new coffee shop’s sign has a lot more credibility to you now, and it might just prompt you to step inside and try a cup.

Likewise, the time and effort you are currently spending on branded content is certainly not wasted. But the impact of that content will be far greater if you work to establish a baseline of trust with the consumer first.

How About Some Trusted Content On, Well, the Power of Trusted Content?

After all this talk about credible, third-party sources, I figured it would only be proper to close with what some other independent experts are saying on the subject of trusted content.

Take a look at what Tom Foremski, notable Silicon Valley media pundit, author, and writer, had to say about trusted content in a recent post on ZDNet.

Forrester’s own Ryan Skinner has become one of the biggest champions of trust building via content marketing, and has covered the topic in-depth on his blog and through his recent reports.

And Chad Pollitt, a well-known source on all things content marketing and earned media, recently wrote (at Social Media Today) a great response to the Content Shock debate with his post on “Why Earned Media (Not Quality Content) Will Save Content Marketing.”

So, how is your organization leveraging trusted content? Or do you disagree?

It is critical to build successful relationships with key influencers for your brand as they will become essential to your content marketing program over time. Learn how to find and build an influencer marketing strategy from the ground up today in the class: How to Incorporate Influencers Into Content Marketing.

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