In April 2017, Time magazine produced a stark cover. Against a black background, in large red lettering, they posed the question: Is Truth Dead?
We live in an age where (some) politicians lie brazenly, who when found out, describe the revelation as “fake news”, where perceptions of reality are intentionally distorted by pedlars of disinformation, where deep fake technology is enabling bad actors to produce realistic video and photographs showing people saying things they never said, in places they’ve never been.
As Sean Pillot de Chenecey, author of ‘The Post Truth Business’, told delegates at yesterday’s AOP Digital Publishing Summit in London, “when people don’t believe what they’re reading or seeing, then we’re in trouble”.
All brands, not just media ones, have to rebuild trust, and the way to do that is:
- be transparent: no smoke and mirrors, no weasel words, no dodgy labelling.
- be authentic: this means being judged on your actual behaviour. What you do is more important than what you say.
- be empathetic: see things from your audience’s point of view.
- respect privacy: not so long ago, privacy did not seem such a big deal: now it’s a huge deal.
- be ethical: do the right thing.
As Sean would admit, the above is utterly obvious and publishing companies shouldn’t be struggling with any of these. The way forward is to set high standards, tell your audience about them and then live by them 24/7.
The post-truth era presents publishers with a golden opportunity to build audiences. Sean predicted a golden future for brands that got back to basics, clarified what they were about, and did the right thing.
Good business is, he said, good business.