Agencies Need To Rebuild The Trust In Media

Agencies must be truth tellers

Did you know the word of 2016 was post-truth? Did you know the word of 2015 was the crying eyes emoji? That almost feels too appropriate.

Post-truth is just another word for a lie which is now being called fake news. Which is also something that finally got the attention it needed in 2016. From social networks to political campaigns-everyone was affected by fake news. Whether you were reading it, producing it or trying to fact check it, it took over our News Feeds and dinner conversations.

It seems like beyond everything else that we lost in 2016 (and the losses seem endless) truth was the biggest loser of them all.

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The Enabler

So where do agencies fit into all of this? Click on a fake news story link and there is an ad or scroll through your Facebook New Feed and above or below a shared fake news story there are ads. Agencies partake in fake news when they let their advertisements become a part of a story, mostly in hopes for increased engagement numbers for clients.

But why does it matter? Our clients like those metrics!

The consequences of fake news stories don’t seem to affect some but for agencies, it will.

Fake news hurts agencies because it lessons the truth in all media.

Fake news hurts agencies because agencies represent brands. Brands that customers already have a hard time trusting. Brands that choose whether you’re in or you’re out.

Fake news hurts agencies because viewers are losing trust in the media. Media coverage used to have an advantage because the public trusted media as a third party endorsement but if viewers don’t trust the media then the media has no value and neither will PR.

The Stakes Are Higher For Brands

As people make their distrust for the media and government clear it is now more important than ever that brands become beacons of authenticity and truth. Brands that are able to earn their consumer’s trust are able to build relationships that eventually turns into long time loyalty.

An agencies job is to help a brand do just that. How?

  • Honesty- Agencies need to help brands own who they are. Brands need to become transparent about their products from where they’re made to how they are manufactured as 94% of consumers say transparency is important to their purchase decision.
  • Best Interests- Consumers want to know that brands have their best interest at heart. Whether it’s volunteering or donating to charitable organizations or protecting their personal information. Agencies should focus on campaigns that don’t only talk about the brand’s product but how the brand impacts the community.
  • Own Mistakes- Everyone makes mistakes. What determines how quickly it’s forgotten and forgiven is how it is handled. When the public finds out the company has made a mistake it’s what you do from there that matters the most. The agency needs to have a role in how that is handled because every decision will be picked apart and you only get one shot to do it right.

Make This The Year Of Truth

26 days in and it might already feel like we have failed but like I said we are only 26 days in. There are still 334 more days to pursue truth in everything you do as an agency. From the agenda you set in internal meetings, to the answers you give to questions on RPFs, to how you review client relationships and track progress and most importantly to how you restore the customer’s trust in your client.

  • Support Legitimate Media- Real news is harder to do than ever before. Don’t put up ad blockers online or forget to renew your newspaper subscription. Support the people who are trying to get the truth out there in both your professional and personal life.
  • Don’t Spread The Rumors- Check and double check the facts before you release a story and let your clients know you won’t release a statement until you know everything. It’s a lot harder to correct something once it’s already out there.
  • Go For The Niche- Instead of trying to get your story out to everyone tell it to the ones it affects first. You probably already know what your audience reads and listens to so go and tell your client’s story there not through the mass media that they don’t trust.
  • Correct Lies- Everyone in PR has experienced a rumor that has been shared and spread at a rapid pace throughout the internet. It’s tough to fight but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Do everything in your power to correct this in the right way.

The only way you can get better at it is if you make the truth a part of everything you are doing. Reward your colleagues and hey even your competition when they are pursuing the truth and make sure there are actions in place to punish those who decide to live in the post-truth world, even if that means giving up a client.

Why Agencies should run truthful campaigns


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Wrap It Up

Agencies (just like everyone else) have a role in truth-telling. We need to stop throwing stones, pointing fingers and blaming one another and instead work together to bring truth back.

Being an agency that values truth might feel a bit lonely but in the end, the rewards will be great. The change in behavior you will see in your clients and the trust you will gain is much more valuable than clicks, impressions, and shares.

Did you find the above information helpful? Then download our FREE e-book, How To Escape Your Agency’s Reporting Nightmare, here.

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