Have you ever read an article or listened to a podcast and been enthralled by the content - only to feel let down when the sales pitch came at the end?
Not the mere fact there was a sales pitch - after all, that’s part of running a business - but because it took some of the shine off the information. If the sole aim of the piece was, in fact, to sell you something, it probably seemed less credible as a result.
Similarly, you might be fascinated by a medical study's findings because you can relate to the health issue at the core of it. Then, you discover the study was funded by a drug company that just happens to have a product in that medical field.
You experience a credibility dilemma, realising the person or company producing the information has a vested interest in how you might use it.
Of course there’s still value in the content itself. No-one is forcing you to buy anything. On the other hand, the fact that the content producer has even the potential to benefit financially from your interest in the information suddenly makes the whole piece less appealing.
Most of us know we have to approach anything on social media with a healthy dose of scepticism. The reality is, anyone can post anything about any issue without fact-checking or filtering. That raw material appears beside scientific studies, academic articles and comprehensive pieces of research. Who’s to say what’s true anymore?
I was interviewed recently about the future of communication; how will we interact by the year 2030? Will person-to-person conversation play any part? What should organisations focus on to make sure they’re ready for whatever lies ahead on the communication landscape?
There are plenty of technology futurists out there who will predict - far more accurately than me - the communication gadgets and platforms we'll use in the next decade. What I can foretell is that the businesses, organisations and individuals who are known as a source of truth will be like lighthouses-on-steroids in an ever confusing environment.
When I started my communication career, businesses, government agencies and other organisations held all the cards. People were generally information-poor so organisations could pick and choose what they told the public and when they told them.
That scenario now seems as quaint as the horse and cart.
Today, we’re information-rich and truth-poor. Regardless of the technology that emerges, make it your communication plan to be a truth source; the type of organisation or individual people come to because they know they’ll get the facts, warts and all. No spin, no glossing over the negative and no vested interest in the outcome.
Some businesses and government bodies are already setting themselves up to do this well, with their own news hubs and other mechanisms to be a trusted source of information. If that’s the path you’re on, don’t taint it with self-serving material that will only diminish your credibility.
We’re in the age of the influence inversion, where "someone like you" is more believable than a person in authority. Relationships and genuine engagement rule the world, regardless of the technology behind them. Strengthen those elements and you'll be preparing well for the future.