Content marketing is about trust

How to Build Trust – 10 Lessons from Content Marketing World

As I continue to digest everything I heard at this year’s Content Marketing World in Cleveland, themes have begun to emerge. Because it’s my fourth visit to the conference, I’ve been able to view what I’ve learned through a lens of comparison. What were the new trends this year? And what hasn’t changed?

The overarching theme that stands out to me is – TRUST. Trust must exist for any transactions to take place. But how do we as content marketers, public relations professionals and social media managers work to establish that trust that we seek with our audiences?

Here are 10 of the lessons I learned at CMWorld related to trust:

1) It’s the long game – not the hustle: Trying to get results overnight just doesn’t cut it. We need to slow down, think, plan and THEN execute.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of CMI and The Orange Effect Foundation, emphasized that there should no more one night stands with content marketing. “Content campaigns are the devil,” Pulizzi said in his opening keynote. Think less about campaigns and more about ongoing content experiences that inspire and delight, says Dennis Shiao, who covered Pulizzi’s talk for CMSWire.


2) Slow down: You can’t build trust overnight. Speakers including Ann Handley talked about slowing our marketing efforts down. If we rush to try to guess what our customer wants, we may miss the mark – and the opportunity, since we didn’t first build the trust that’s necessary for a prospect to want to do business with you.

The brilliant example she used was Bun, a wild bunny living in her backyard. To make friends with Bun, she had to slow down to think about what HE wanted – not what she thought he wanted. It took some research and some trial and error, but eventually, Bun came around. Lesson? Instead of just trying to shove things in their faces, think about what your audience needs – then deliver on that.

3) Show up: What else builds trust? Consistency. Per Amber Naslund of LinkedIn who spoke about thought leadership, you’ve got to keep showing up. Consistency counts. My tweet when I saw this:
OMG – she is singing my song🙌  Doesn’t happen overnight.
Gotta be consistent – and keep showing up. @AmberCadabra⁩ #CMWorld #thoughtleadership


Think about businesses or colleagues you may have worked with who seemed to only post on social media once in a while. Or worse, suddenly disappear. Doesn’t do much to help build trust, especially if you want to be a thought leader in your space.

4) Get third-party validation: Margaret Magnarelli of Morgan Stanley spoke about creating trust with your buyers through third-party validation. If you can incorporate certifications, licenses, reviews and so on into your content, that helps. Leverage your PR team for earned media, awards and reviews that back up your claims.

5) Don’t go negative: Magnarelli also explained how too much negativity in our content could make people feel anxious – and in turn, affect their trust level. This includes tactics like trying to create fear in your audience in order to get them to buy from you. To build trust, try to strike a more positive tone.

6) Do your research: Data, numbers and statistics stand out, which can also help create trust. We know this to be true in PR, as reporters love data in pitches and press releases.

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media and Michele Linn of Mantis Research drove this point home in their presentation with SurveyMonkey about how to conduct original research that you can leverage in your content to back up any claims you may make.

7) Provide the right content: Marcus Sheridan spoke about providing content that meets the buyers’ needs – content that no one else in your industry is providing – to build trust. Sheridan talked about his days as a “pool guy” and how through publishing a guide to fiberglass pool costs, his company was able to beat the competition – because no one else was offering this information.

If you don’t publish the information the prospect is looking for, that may create doubt – they may go elsewhere. “When seeds of doubt exist, trust is gone,” Sheridan said.

8) Be yourself: Brian Fanzo talked about how audiences are craving authenticity. If you deliver on that, you’ll stand out. Along with that goes relatability. If you’re relatable, people are more likely to trust you – and buy from you.

9) Spend more time preparing to write: Instead of just churning out another piece of content that may be subpar, take more time preparing to write. As many of us probably know from experience, rushing to write a piece of content doesn’t always make for the most impressive end product, which can definitely impact trust. If readers feel let down, they may not come back.

Thoughtful writing requires deep thinking, which can require research and reading. Sometimes stories come together AFTER you’ve let them simmer a while. Often the best content comes from an amalgamation of ideas that have come together from different points of inspiration.

One way to prepare? Jonathan Kranz of Kranz Communications spoke about immersing yourself in the client’s business so you can write more colorful content. Don’t just sit in your office all day. Get out there, see stuff and talk to people BEFORE you write.

10) Connections matter: And a final takeaway – this one from me – connections matter. While it’s all well and good to connect with your audience online, provide opportunities for them to meet you in person, as well. Whether that’s through events or experiences, people want to feel as though they know you.

People are more likely to buy from those they know, like and trust – we’ve heard it a million times. Having in-person connections can help build that trust.

Don’t forget the importance of connecting with your audience in person.
Oh, and I got to meet Henry Rollins. We chatted about his show on the History Channel, 10 Things You Don’t Know About.

How can I help you with your content today?

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About the author: You’ll find Michelle Messenger Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and award-winning writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, ThomasNet, FairyGodBoss, Freelancers Union and others.

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