Is being too positive killing the credibility of your content marketing?

I’ll let you into a secret. Not everything is great. Despite Lego’s claims, not everything is awesome. Stay with me here. I’m not just trying to depress you. This is really important in content marketing, because too much positivity can kill it dead.

Anyone who has created content for brands in the past few years will have inevitably come up against the mantra from some in marketing that everything has to be positive. There’s a fear of associating a brand with anything negative — even when it’s something that’s true and when it’s something readers want to know more about. But this fear misses the whole point of content marketing.

False positivity can actually be very damaging to a company’s credibility. Remember our mantra: content marketing is all about being useful to your readers, customers and potential buyers.

Take a hypothetical example of writing about some new big technology trend and what businesses need to do to be ready for that and to take advantage of it. To be trustworthy, useful and credible in your customers’ eyes, that blog, video or whitepaper needs to cover both the positives and negatives of that trend. It needs to address the challenges and risks, as well as the benefits. That approach makes your content even more useful, because then you can talk about how your readers can tackle those challenges.

Call it yin and yang, if you want. But in content marketing, these opposite forces of positive and negative are interconnected and interdependent. To talk about the positive, you have to talk about the negative. Then you become useful.

As one former colleague once put it to me about this kind of overly positive approach some brands and marketers want to take with content, “that’s not content, that’s advertising — and you have to pay a lot of money to do that”.

Readers — customers and potential buyers — also see through it. In one survey by the CMO’s Content ROI Center, 43 per cent of people said blatantly promotional and self-serving content is the one the characteristic they dislike most in B2B content. The flipside to that? Breadth and depth of information came out as the characteristic they value most in B2B content, cited by 47 per cent of respondents.

The lesson for marketers and brands is that, to build credibility you need to be prepared to talk expansively and objectively on subjects. Demonstrate real understanding of the challenges your readers face, and face them head on. If you want to put a positive spin on it, then use that as an opportunity to show how those negative aspects might not be showstoppers or insurmountable.

Just be useful and do it with as much objectivity and honesty as you can. It’s key to credibility and trust in content marketing and it means more people will share it with their peers — something that’s absolutely crucial in the B2B world.

*photo credit: Yin & Yang via photopin (license)

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