Ethical content marketing is valuable to all serious and professional marketers. Though marketing does have just one ultimate purpose that will never be dislodged — to sell products or services — the way in which marketers sell things is incredibly important.

Consider that content still reigns supreme when it comes to modern marketing, and it’s no secret that telling stories is one of the best ways to engage an audience — whether put across through videos, written copy, or email newsletters, narratives are highly effective at making message digestible and memorable.

When it comes to ethical marketing, making sure these stories are honest and real is in the interest of both you and your target audience. Crime doesn’t pay, and this extends into the marketing world — given the rise of social media, you can bet that unethical content will be called out by your customers, while companies with moral values will see plain sailing.

Let’s take a deeper look at why you should care, and see how you can make sure your content marketing is effective, high-quality, and (above all) honest.

Why you should care

While I don’t doubt your moral compass or firm belief in ethical content marketing, you might wonder (as a matter of curiosity) why exactly being real with content marketing matters. No one will ever admit to especially enjoying ads or other marketing outputs, after all.

The reality, though, is that most people — whether they realise it or not — are influenced by the hard work we marketers put in. And the nature of the marketing materials they encounter really does matter. Not only does dishonest content annoy the consumer, but it’s also ineffective for marketing – in 2017, 81% of people admitted to closing a browser because of an annoying ad pop-up.

In the long term, being ethical with your marketing is actually mutually beneficial. By presenting your products or services with great accuracy, you’ll impress consumers with your dedication to honesty, and because they’ll feel more certain about your value propositions, they’ll be more likely to buy from you.

Support your claims

You don’t need to cite very last source as though you were writing an article for a science journal, but making unsubstantiated claims in your marketing content is a serious no-no. While stretching the truth is an age-old marketing technique, it’s viewed as outdated and ineffective these days — and false or misleading claims can even come with a hefty penalty for the perpetrator.

In the digital age, false claims can go beyond Red Bull claiming it could actually give you wings and enter the realm of fake online reviews. It’s no secret that a good review or testimonial can have a huge impact for marketers, but creating fake reviews is not the ethical way to go about it.

By concealing the truth, you risk your brand’s reputation, and miss out on the value of feedback that comes from genuine customer reviews. Instead, offer great customer service and earn legitimate testimonials from happy customers — be sure to include a CTA encouraging people to leave feedback at the end of each marketing funnel.

Focus on the values that matter to you

When telling stories through your content, make sure you pick narratives which allow you to be the most honest. The best way to do this is to think about your company or brand, and what core values are most important to you. If you’re a graphic designer, this might mean having an open mind, or staying artistic — these things can then be used to build your marketing content.

Doing this will ultimately lead to a great reputation for you and your business — it can take time, but being patient is worth it. Customers value businesses with moral values, and a reputable business identity will bring customers back again and again.

Meaningful communication

Legitimate, thoughtful communication is important to all relationships — even marketing ones — and is a vital component of both email and social media activity, two cornerstones of the digital marketing industry:

  • Still viable after many years, email marketing allows you to reach out to your customers directly and personally, and gives you some space to be expressive. If you want to get in depth with personalization, you should try email marketing software such as Moosend (its intuitive email-triggering system is particularly easy to learn).
  • Much newer on the scene, social media allows much faster-paced and looser exchanges between brands and their followers. While it’s tempting to lower content standards in an effort to keep up with the flood of posts, it’s better to aim for quality communication (you can then use a social media tool like MeetEdgar to ensure that your content is seen by as many people as possible).

Despite the possibilities of email, there’s still no shortage of tired, old and unethical marketing techniques being used. You’ve likely seen the immediate follow-up email asking “did you get this?” used as a cheap way of forcing higher open rates, and I imagine your inbox has no shortage of spammy near-duplicated marketing emails. The silly part is that the correlation between these tactics and sales is dubious at best. Cutting corners is never worth the risk, and the time it takes to create genuine email content is always worth the effort.

And social media is just as bad when you factor in hashtag overuse, weak attempts to coin catchphrases, and the obsessive tagging of influencers. People spend so much time trying to make their lives look better than they are that they forget the value of being genuine. Tell you true story, and the connections you earn with your customers will be meaningful and lasting.

Ethical content marketing has a rich history of success for consumers and marketers alike. Being very strict with the content you’re sending out by making sure you’re accurately representing your services, not making dubious or unverifiable claims, and being honest and genuine with your audience will lay the foundation for an effective and ethical campaign. Staying true to your values will boost your brand, and win you all the benefits that come with that.

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to giving through growth hacking. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the globe to help you take the next step in your journey as a successful ebook author. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.