‘Fake news’ is driving our appetite for data, says Leeds expert

Kay Brown.
Kay Brown.
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Kay Brown, PR and social manager at Leeds digital marketing agency Blueclaw, writes for Digital City about the phenomenon of ‘fake news’ and its impact on her industry.

President Trump has brought the term ‘fake news’ into mainstream, with a 1000 per cent increase in Google searches for the term since November.

For digital marketing agencies like Blueclaw, this has brought a renewed focus on public appetite for authoritative, data-led news and content marketing.

‘Fake news’ accusations have been effective in many cases in part because of public scepticism about the accuracy of ‘official’ mainstream media reporting.

However, Dr Richard Thomas, journalism lecturer at Leeds Trinity University, points to a resurgence of journalistic quality in the UK, prompted by the Leveson inquiry: “Post-Leveson, journalists generally have had to work very hard to regain the trust of the public, even though not all journalists were guilty of the unethical and unlawful behaviour that some went to prison for.”

While some news audiences have made their choice to seek out sources that back up their established political and social viewpoints, others are expressing a desire for accuracy in reporting, and stats they can trust.

In digital marketing, the information fatigue that many audiences suffer cannot be ignored and this is why in content marketing, advertising, PR and even SEO, it’s essential to focus on accuracy, results and relevancy.

For Google and other search engines, data-driven relevancy is king with search engine results ranked in order of how useful the website is objectively believed to be for the searcher.

Our content and search strategies are developed with the understanding that news websites are authoritative sources for Google and as such, coverage for a client is key to raising their rankings across their core search terms – so content marketing and PR must be accurate, inspire trust and meet the standards required for coverage.

As search engines and advertising platforms become smarter about the claims that marketers make (and more proactive in the penalties they dish out in terms of lost rankings), the greater the need there is to develop digital marketing strategies that customers, the media and search engines can have faith in.

Just as it was revealed that Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances, other online platforms are ever-more discerning about the content they will support.

As well as being aware that traditional media brands are in question more than ever, the way we work with journalists is changing.

There is a greater desire for information and stories that have quantitative data and multiple sources to reinforce their validity.

There are also new opportunities for PR professionals to earn worthwhile coverage with content that is genuinely in the public interest.

However, not all data is equal so it is emerging that the role of both the PR graduate and journalist is to increasingly identify relevant data sources, dissect data sets and present it in an informative, easy to understand way that doesn’t undermine or affect the rigour of the data presented, whether the information is shared in 140 characters or more.

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