Fake News Is A Thing Because We Are Lazy

I belong to a local Facebook group that deals in matters pertaining to the small town where I live.

On a given day, you’re just as likely to see an update about the new restaurant opening in town as you are feedback about the new roundabout in front of the high school.

Most of the time, it’s a useful source of news, even if some users go overboard when it comes to sharing information. Since the users are very active, updates pop up in my feed quite often, so I skim them to stay up-to-date.

But like anything on Facebook, there are downsides to letting humans be the ultimate judges of what should and should not be shared.

Last week, somebody posted an update — complete with BREAKING NEWS chyron — that Sargento cheese was being recalled. According to the article, the cheese might kill your entire family if you eat it.

That’s right…your entire family.

Anybody with half of a brain knew this recall was fake news. A five-second Google search would’ve told you the same.

But it’s a lot easier to click the share button than it is to take the time to do actual research.

In their rush to be the first to share this important news, they got it totally wrong, and ended up looking like a fool for being so easily duped.

Sadly, millions of people are duped by fake news on a daily basis. It’s been a year since the election, and we are still coming to grips with how easily foreign agents manipulated a lot of people by paying for ads on Facebook.

At the core of this deception is our intrinsic belief that our beliefs are correct. We don’t have to actually take the time to research potentially dubious news because our belief system is strong and true.

That could not be more wrong.

Confirmation bias is a thing, and it’s only going to get worse.

In the case of Sargento Cheese, it was easy to debunk the claim because it’s just cheese, and the person who posted the content was probably glad they can eat the cheese in their refrigerator, even if they did feel a bit embarrassed to be called out.

But there are far worse consequences to fake news if we continue to be lazy.

I’ve long though universities and colleges will have to change their curriculum in the future to teach incoming freshman how to spot “fake news”, and the 2016 election will be the case study they refer to.

Well, it looks like some universities are starting to put the focus on education so we can be less easily duped.

We might not see the fruits of their labor immediately, but it’s a step toward truthfulness.

LaVar Ball Is An Obnoxious Marketing Genius

Unless you follow the National Basketball Association, you’ve probably never heard of LaVar Ball.

Here’s a quick primer: LaVar Ball is the father of Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie, Lonzo Ball, the second pick in this past June’s NBA draft.

Ball is also the head of Big Baller Brand, athletic apparel inspired by his three sons: Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo.

LaMelo is still in high school, while LiAngelo has followed his big bro’s footsteps and will play for UCLA this year.

Lonzo is a rookie making his way in the NBA.

Ever since Lonzo burst on the scene at UCLA, his dad has been hyping him as the next big thing. And that was before anyone saw him play a Division 1 basketball game.

Throughout Lonzo’s short college career, LaVar said to anybody willing to pay attention that his son was going to turn the pro game on its head, even going so far as to say his son would be better than Michael Jordan.

And, thanks to his outlandish claims and desire to hog the spotlight, a lot of us were forced to listen to him. (Thanks ESPN for giving him TV time!)

As he continues to praise his son and rep his Big Baller Brand, I’m reminded of another boisterous and outspoken man who was able to say anything and never pay the consequences.

That man, who shall remain nameless, was able to ascend to his desired position on the strength of his words. Whether or not you believed them was another issue entirely, but you can’t deny they propelled him.

LaVar Ball is doing the same thing, and he’s even dragging other NBA players into the discussion. He’s basically using their Twitter accounts to help promote his brand.

Prior to a game earlier this week, Ball said the Lakers wouldn’t lose again this week, which included a game against one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams, the Washington Wizards.

This caused Wizards center, Marcin Gortat, to take to Twitter (like all sports feuds today) and say his teammate, John Wall, would hound Ball for the entire game, making his life uncomfortable for 48 minutes.

Guess what?

The Lakers won, just like Ball said they would. It doesn’t matter if the Lakers lose their next game. What Ball said has come true so far, and he’ll make sure we know it.

By taking the matter to Twitter, the Wizards became de facto influencers for his son and, by extension, the Big Baller Brand.

Marketing 101 says you need to get people talking about your product, even if it’s in a roundabout sort of way.

 

Whether you like it or not, LaVar’s sons and his Big Baller Brand are being talked about at the highest levels of the sport, and it’s all because of the way LaVar has marketed the trio: obnoxiously.

But to him, it probably doesn’t matter how he does it, as long as there is buzz.

To him, mission accomplished.

Four Reasons To Write A Bylined Article

Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

As public relations professionals, there are a number of different tactics at our disposal to help a client or company tell their story.

You can pitch a story to the media.

You can create a content marketing strategy.

Or, you can use one of my favorite tactics, which is write and pitch a bylined article to a publication of your choosing.

So you might be wondering: what is a bylined article?

Simply put, it’s an article, written by a thought leader, that usually carries with it the point-of-view of the executive who is writing the piece.

There are a number of different purposes it serves, but the main purpose is to position him or her as someone with an opinion who desires to put it out into the world.

From a PR perspective, it’s the best thing ever because, well, I won’t spoil it. Read on to see why bylined articles rock.

You Own It

It’s the worst-kept secret in public relations that the executive doesn’t actually write the piece. The PR person might incorporate common phrases the executive uses to ensure the piece retains the right “voice”, but aside from reviewing and approving, the head honcho has more important matters to attend to.

This means we can incorporate key messaging and soundbites to ensure the copy says exactly what we want it to say, without worrying about how a journalist might interpret the information given to them when they interview an executive.

It’s Good Practice

If you’ve spent time creating messaging to use on behalf of a company or an executive, a bylined article is a great place to practice incorporating the messaging into copy without it sounding forced.

Over time, you will become more adept at writing in the voice of the executive, which comes in handy writing quotes for press releases or media statements.

People Will Read It

According to the 2016 Mequoda Digital Magazine Marketing Study & Handbook, more than one-third of U.S. adults still read at least one digital magazine per month, which is a fairly significant number.

And if you’ve ever signed up for an account on a trade-specific industry website, you’ve probably received the hard copy of their monthly magazine in the mail, free of charge.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I still read those when they get sent to my house. If I read something particularly interesting, I remember who wrote it.

Puts The Company’s Name in Circulation

If your company is just beginning to tell its story, pitching a bylined article in an industry-specific outlet is a great way to get the company name out there.

And, editors love fresh voices with new viewpoints. If you can offer that, your chances of editorial success go up.

***

In public relations, one of the challenges we always face is setting proper expectations with the client.

You can go into an interview with a firm grasp of the direction it will take, but you never know the final outcome until the story runs.

With a bylined article, the final piece you submit is usually the way it looks in print.

If you can capitalize on this tactic, not only will you show your client you can tell their story properly, but you can use that content to populate other aspects of your marketing bundle, but that’s a post for another day.

Time Is Our Most Precious Commodity

If you have been creeping in my LinkedIn profile — you know who you are — you may have noticed I recently started my own company, Yelram Media.

This cleverly-named entity was born out of a desire and necessity.

But if I’m being completely honest, the idea was always percolating in the back of my brain, just waiting to be unleashed.

Sometimes, getting let go from you full-time job is all the impetus you need to do what you’ve always wanted to do. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself since this became a reality.

Anyway, in discussions with potential clients about how we can partner together, one word keeps popping up when we talk:

Time.

I’ve talked about how time is fleeting on this blog before, but the point of this post is somewhat different.

Business owners simple don’t have enough time in their day to do everything they want.

That’s the refrain that continues to emerge: “I want to better market my business and spend more time creating content my potential customers will appreciate, but I have to run my business.”

I get it. The priority is, and always will be, making money to stay afloat. Pay the mortgage. Put food on the table.

This isn’t breaking news to anyone, but understanding where your skills can translate to help a business succeed is vitally important in this day and age of marketing.

I was listening to the excellent The Why And The Buy podcast last night, and my good friend Jeff Bajorek (who hosts it with Christie Walters) made the truthful claim that everyone claims to be a digital marketer nowadays.

Figuring out how you can differentiate yourself from others is key, and that often comes down to identifying your strengths and being able to clearly state to potential clients how your offerings will save them time.

When you can package that with a proven ability to bring in new customers, well, now you’re just ahead of the curve.

Stop Enabling Assholes

WARNING: LANGUAGE AHEAD

As an industry — I’m talking about public relations & marketing — we need to stop enabling assholes.

I’m not talking about demanding clients who expect great things from their agency partnership.

That is an entirely different and not at all poor behavior.

I’m referring to individuals who are downright mean to the agencies that support their efforts.

While they are small in number, they are large in presence, often overshadowing everything because of the way they carry themselves.

To wit, I once had a supervisor say this about a client: “He’s an asshole but he’s our asshole.”

While I agree with the spirit behind the statement, I wholeheartedly disagree with giving somebody a free pass to act like one and get away with it, even if they are the person responsible for the budget.

In this competitive agency world, where we fight for every nickel and put up with terrible client behavior, we let them walk all over us.

We watch colleagues cry after being berated by a client, even going so far as to comfort them and tell them everything will be okay.

But we won’t actually do anything about their behavior, because most agencies haven’t properly planned for this type of situation, even though we’ve all seen it happen time and time again.

This has to stop.

Let’s face it — the world seems chaotic nowadays, what with natural and man-made disasters taking up a lot of the time on the nightly news. The last thing we need is to work with those who make us feel small and incapable of doing the work.

The client-agency partnership thrives when both parties know what is expected of each other, and both sides work their tails off to produce results.

That is how a partnership should work, not with one individual lording his or her power over his minions.

Agency folks are hard workers, often juggling more than one client at a time.

They don’t need any more stress than necessary.

Let’s stop enabling those who treat us poorly, and begin to recognize those who treat us fairly and push us properly to do our best.

Those are the folks we want to work with, and those are the clients who will see the greatest results.