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The Internet is overrun with content. Bloggers and publications are eager to hop on viral stories in order to build traffic and increase ad revenue. This means that consumers are shown thousands of articles a day, but will typically only read the headlines on social media. As a result, articles get clickbait headlines and consumers are left reading mostly misinformation and fake news on social media.
For brands trying to promote their brand story and spread the word about their business, this can be a nightmare. Not only do they need to stand out in an ocean of content fighting for limited viewership; they also risk becoming the victim of a single bad story that goes viral. Brands need to be vigilant with their media management in order to prevent these problems from occurring and ensure the press they get is optimized for success.
According to the Financial Times, YouTube just announced a $25 million investment to “improve its news features, joining Facebook, Apple and parent company Google in campaigns to curb fake news ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.”
RedPen, founded by a Grammy-winning producer and a former U.S. intelligence agency engineer, is also working to reduce the problem of fake news online. Their approach uses a combination of innovative technologies, including AI, natural language processing and sentiment analysis, to offer multiple angles of a trending story in a single user interface. They are launching a blockchain solution to allow consumers access to this information network. An ability to track journalists will help inform readers about potential biases.
Brands need to focus on the following solutions to combat fake news and effectively build their value via press development.
1. Clear And Transparent Headlines
Since digital media has become so reliant on headlines, you need to learn to play the headline game without losing your authenticity. Too many articles utilize spammy and insincere headlines to try to get maximum viewership. These might increase page views but will leave readers disappointed when they do not receive the information you advertised.
In order to create the best headlines possible, focus on a succinct message that portrays the value of reading the article. Think about what part of your article will leave readers saying “wow” and wanting to learn more. Tie this into the headline with a short and intriguing message no longer than 10 words.
2. Utilize Legitimate Third-Party Sources
Some of the biggest problems with online media stem from a lack of clear information. This either comes from not having any citations in the piece or not citing enough sources to develop a convincing argument. Readers have limited time and see vast amounts of content, so if you want to convince them of anything, you need to have the sources to back up what you are saying.
As you work with the writer on the piece, make sure to offer sources that are not tied back to your company. If a reader sees a piece that only links to your company website for more information, they will likely wonder if the information is genuine. Approach any article as an opportunity to inform people about an issue and verify the issue with unbiased sources.
3. Focus On Your Brand Value
Think about what your brand is most knowledgeable about and how you can use that brand power to inform people about a specific issue. For instance, Kim Kardashian spends a lot of time offering beauty and cosmetics tutorials for her viewers as a way to teach them and build a relationship.
Additionally as you approach writers to try and get media attention for yourself, your pitch will be most convincing when focusing on your personal area of expertise. Once you have an information niche you want to focus on, brainstorm as many different angles as possible and try to work with writers at publications to educate their audience about the specific niche.
4. Stay On Top of All Brand Mentions
No matter what, whenever the media mentions your brand (good or bad), you need to reach out to the writer and try to build a stronger relationship. If they post a positive article, offer them free products or services and try to build a dialogue. If they post a negative article, reach out to them courteously to learn about what went wrong and what you can do to make things right.
In the unfortunate scenario that a writer does post something bad, try not to come off as too pushy. They went out of their way to tell people about a negative experience with your brand, which means they are upset. Listen to them and focus on making up for whatever went wrong. Negative stories can go viral and do real brand damage, so it is important to fix things properly and swiftly.
5. Build Healthy, Trusting Relationships With Writers
Finally, always remember that writers are people, too. They have their own backgrounds, experiences, interests and passions. Many of them write for fun or to make a bit of extra money on the side. Brands that email-blast writers tend not to get much success, since this approach is impersonal.
Focus first on building a relationship with the writer and on learning how you can supplement their content channel. Once you have a strong relationship and understand what the writer is looking for, you will be better equipped to pitch them a piece involving your brand.
Whether you are combating a bad-press storm or working to boost your brand image via the media, treat writers like people and work with them build a powerful and informative piece for their audience. Doing this can help you break through the fake news and reach your target demographic online.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.