Distrust toward the news media is at an all-time high.
Throughout the past four years, journalism and news media has been plagued by claims that it is inherently biased, inaccurate and steeped in propaganda. This is true for some outlets (for which the damage is done), but certainly for not all. Now, as people of a divided nation align with either Fox News or CNN, fact is considered fiction until “proven” true.
The mission of the incoming administration is to unify a divided country, although most are skeptical about what this really means. A large part of this restoration lies in the hands of media outlets which have great power to either fuel or bury fake news. To that end, media itself needs to rehabilitate its image and proactively increase the amount of trust it inspires. Within the PR and marcomms industry, now is the time to encourage consumers and brands to question bias rather than fact.
In a post-Trump media world, here are five recommendations brands should consider:
1. Promote a message of unity. Embrace a message of togetherness aligned to your brand’s mission. Without compromising the missions of hard-fought social justice movements, the need for unity is clear in the name of safety and healing.
2. Take action that matters. Brandsthat have established a stake in areas like sustainability or diversity and inclusion could see bigger opportunities to further their positioning in new and progressive ways. People are more personally involved in current events than in recent history, so the more your brands reflects what your consumers care about in the context of the business, the more brand loyalty will be earned.
3. Target your comms. The U.S. is facing one of the deepest political divides in its history. Therefore, the need for targeted communications has never been more important. President Trump received more votes in 2020 than he did four years ago. Marketers will now need to be more mindful of how they appeal to a polarized customer base. Consider whether your brand should try to appeal to everyone, or play to the favor of some.
4. Scale content moderation practices. Advertisers are highly exposed to changes made in Section 230 as a result of the presidential election. Because advertising has become inextricably linked to online platforms that are used to disseminate user-generated content, brands will need to evaluate how it may or will affect their brand strategy when it comes to online channels.
5. Build trust and be authentic. Millennials don’t buy a product simply because of a brand name the way boomers used to. The younger set don’t trust the media the way the boomers used to, either. Offering access to a brand mission through social media is just one way to build and manage trust in the long run.
The negative perception of media in all forms has waxed and waned throughout history. That’s old news. We are currently facing the task of restoring how people form opinions and conduct themselves based on the articles they read, or the ads they watch, or the podcasts they listen to. While toeing the apolitical line may come with its challenges, doing so strategically will better your brand and more.
Jennifer Risi is the Founder and President of The Sway Effect, a network of independent agencies.