How Fake News Impacts Content Marketing

Fake news is a term used almost every day across American media outlets, and content marketing has been irreparably transformed as a result. The term, of course, was made famous by Donald Trump to a certain extent during his initial campaign, and more as his administration entered White House and the mainstream media was presented with a smorgasbord of opportunities to create headlines that only a few months ago would have only existed in an editor’s dreams. From senior members of the administration colluding with the Russians, late-night tweets from the president, and conspiracy theories put forward by the White House, it’s been a left-wing media assault, and potentially a content marketing goldmine.

You see, as marketers, we can learn a lot from President Trump, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and even campaign hero turned confused outsider, Kellyanne Conway, who has made a name for herself in the mainstream media as someone who doesn’t know anything, but still chooses to comment.

1. Publish, Just Always Be Publishing

Trump may be many things, but he is not foolish when it comes to the media. It’s easy, and perhaps comfortable to write-off his late night Twitter storms and seemingly crazy conspiracy theories as temper tantrums, but that misses the point.
Take, for example, the early morning attack on former President Barrack Obama, claiming that he wiretapped Trump’s New York apartment during the 2016 campaign. Trump offered no evidence or basis for his suspicions outside of – apparently – a right-wing article he had read the night before.
Trump didn’t act impulsively, or not think through what he was going to say; he had made a decision on Tweeting and was waiting for the right time, which wasn’t late at night when he’d heard the news. He got up early the next day and got a jump on the media so that they couldn’t use the overnight lag to get on the front foot. He controlled the entire news media that day, and it wasn’t for the first time.
Trump is a voracious publisher, from Twitter to apparently offhand comments, and using his team to push his agenda and manipulate journalists; he knows that if people stop talking about him, he’s not controlling what is being said.
As content marketers we are often too careful with what we are trying to say and as sit on the fence; offending nobody, but also failing to excite anyone. While we don’t need to aggressively go on the offensive needlessly, it is important that we take a side, and stand for something.

2. I’m Always Right

Trump and his team never concede defeat, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Trump is the master of changing the narrative, and heavy-handed manipulation of the media through tiny changes to his story, at times even entirely changing or ignoring documented facts.
The list of Trump’s mistruths is too long to publish…probably anywhere, but the most important one was likely the culmination of the ‘birther’ conspiracy during the campaign. Candidate Trump had been one of the champions of the birther conspiracy – claiming that then President Obama was not born in the United States, and therefore not eligible for the presidency. Despite Obama producing his birth certificate, and documentation proving the conspiracy was, well a conspiracy, Trump never acknowledged that he was wrong. Finally, in the dying days of the campaign, he was forced to front the media who were ready to hear Trump concede that his suspicions were incorrect.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” Trump began. Good start.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean.”
Clumsily and heavy-handedly, Trump attempted not only to deny his part in the birther controversy but to paint himself as the hero who exposed Hillary as the charlatan she was.
He’s fearless in the face of fact and common sense, a place where most of us would concede defeat. While we don’t need to lie, we certainly don’t need to be quite so eager to roll over and die; especially when there are no hard facts, only firm opinions.
In saying that, there is such thing as conceding gracefully. Donald.

3. Appeal to Simple Needs

Trump has used this one for years. Catchphrases and rhetoric have long been seen as the bastion of professional wrestling and reality shows – two industries that Trump has significant exposure to. He understands that when attempting to appeal to a large group of people whose needs you can’t individually define, you need to have simple, memorable and easy to digest promises.
Ask anyone in the world with a television what Trump’s promises were during the campaign and most would say –

– Build a wall along the southern border
– Get rid of Obamacare
– Stop ISIS
– Stop immigration from countries with a Muslim majority

Ask the general public what campaign promises any other American presidential candidate in history has made, and it’s unlikely the list would be long, or accurate.
Why? The same reason great content marketing efforts often fail – complexity. We attempt to describe our theories, ideas and products in too much detail, without attaching that idea to symbology or rhetoric. We leave the reader wondering what they should do next, or with no significant memory of the content at all. We try to be clever.
Trump doesn’t care if he’s seen as clever, he just wants to be seen. Besides, he says he’s clever, and he controls the truth.
We may not want to be the Trump of our industry, but there is a lot we can learn from the most divisive president in United States history, and it would be a shame if those lessons were lost in politics.