content marketing ethics

The Content Creator’s Guide to Content Marketing Ethics: 9 Simple Rules

If you’re an online content creator – be it blogger, podcaster, vlogger, group creator, Twitter expert or Instagrammer – you already know you’re an important part of a wider public discussion.

You probably also know that your role in creating content for your traffic comes with a great responsibility.

Where you should be respectful, honest and fair to your audience and about the content you’re creating. In other words, you need to know your content marketing ethics – and we’re about to lay them out for you in this post. Keep reading!

content marketers

Why Ethics Are A Core to Great Content Marketing

As a matter of fact it is: it’s the club of the most impactful art form there is (well, we think so). It’s the art of creating content.

Why exactly do content marketers need some sort of ethics guideline? It’s simple: words are incredibly powerful.

In fact, over 50% of consumers trust branded websites and editorial content, according to a Nielsen report. Unlike the editorial content that is published by journalists, there doesn’t seem to be a set-in-stone code of ethics for content marketers. Sure, we know there are a few things we should be doing. But do we follow through?

Chances are, the content you’re creating now is going to outlast both its relevance and your own lifetime so it’s critical that it is a truthful representation of the topic for those who access it today and those who access it in the future.

Above all else, as a content creator, your job is to be sure you present opinion as opinion and fact as fact. And that’s where the Content Code of Ethics comes into it.

While content creation for marketers is very clearly different from journalism, it is still essential to the future of content marketing that we don’t squander the trust of our audiences. That’s why we’ve gone ahead and created our own content marketing code of ethics.

A Brief Content Marketing Code of Ethics in 9 Simple Guidelines

See what you’re missing, or check off the points you’re covered on. (As you’re reading, tell us in the comments what you’d add to our list!)

content marketer ethics

Here’s a share-worthy summary of our guidelines in a graphic you can save. Print, frame, etc. 🙂

1. Know Your Role in Content Marketing Society

Some of the most basic elements of a democracy include the freedom of information, freedom of speech and freedom of content creation, be it in hypertext, video, print or audio. So the ability to both produce and distribute independent content is an important democratic right.

So, content creator, it’s up to you to protect the freedom of speech. That means not succumbing to the pressure from anyone who may want to prevent the free flow of information, prevent open debates or deny free access to sources.

Furthermore, it is the right of a content creator to share information on what goes on in our society and also uncover and disclose matters that may be subjected to criticism. (Disagree? Let us know below! We’re always open to feedback; it’s how we learn and grow).

2. Maintain Responsibility & Integrity

No pressure, but you also carry full and personal responsibility for the material contained in your work, no matter what form you are working in. So you should be guarding your own credibility and integrity if you want to be free to act independently.

It’s up to you to reject attempts to break down clear distinctions between unbiased content and advertisements. Ads that are intended to exploit or imitate an editorial product aren’t a good idea to take on. Nor are advertisements that undermine trust in your own integrity and your independence in general.

You have an obligation to provide your audience with accurate information. That means that every piece of content you create needs to be thoroughly researched. By researching properly, you can avoid error and provide context for your information.

By the way, when you’re distinguishing between content marketing and advertising, advertorials and paid guests posts need to be disclosed.

3. Know & Identify Accurately Your Sources

As a rule, all your sources of information should be identified, unless this happens to conflict with source protection or some sort of consideration for a third party. You need to be critical with the sources you choose and ensure the information provided is correct. It’s good practice to aim for relevance and diversity when choosing your sources.

All your sources of information, data and quotes have to be properly cited. Try to link to further information as often as you can.

4. Fact vs. Fiction: Know Your Rules for Publication & Abide Within Them

It’s important to be clear about what is comment and what is factual information.

Respect a person’s identity and character and not draw attention to private or personal aspects if they aren’t relevant. You should ensure that introductions, headers and leads don’t go beyond what you’re dealing with in the text.

What’s more, always reveal your source when content is quoted from or even based on other content creators.

Draw a line between fact and opinion. By all means, make recommendations and offer advice through your content, but represent your opinions as just that.

If you’re using graphics, illustrations, photos, audio, video or any other kind of content, it’s important to always credit the original creator. What’s more, you need to be cautious when using photos in any other content than their original intention.

5. Build Audience Trust

As a content creator, do you understand that your first and most important responsibility is your audience? A brand possibly pays your salary, but you have an obligation to build a relationship with the target audience through that honest, accurate and helpful content. If you have not done that, you have not done your job.

If you want to gain that audience trust, make sure you never distort facts or use any material that misrepresents your content. That also means avoiding imposing your own biases or stereotyping on the information your creating.

6. Know that You Have an Obligation to Be Transparent

We don’t need to tell you that content marketing’s ultimate goal is to boost a company’s bottom line. Did you realize that includes your audience? At the end of the day, they do realize that you work for a company that wants to do business with them.

Here, the important ethical line is whether or not you are transparent about your interest in working together.

You as a content creator should be concentrating on a long-term relationship that is built on trust, while continuing to strive to provide your audience with the most accurate relationship you possibly can.

This May, Express Writers went through a crazy month of discovering that the managers we’d trusted for three years were actually dishonest. I was honest, authentic, revealed the truth to my audience and client, and even put a podcast together (that took me four weeks to say). This genuine approach won: many of our clients respected us more afterwards. Listen below or click here to read the show notes & more.

7. Content Marketers Should Always Show Respect

As a content marketer, you should always aim to treat others with dignity and respect. Dialogues that take place on public platforms can sometimes (possibly more often than we like) leave openings for trolls and competitors to join in on the conversation. So no matter what, make sure you are treating others with respect.

This means showing good taste and avoiding the use of salacious content just in an attempt to boost numbers. It also means being sensitive when writing about, major new events, especially when there’s a chance it could impact someone unfavorably.

8. Take Accountability for Your Content

Both your and your business’s name is going to be associated with your content creation. Recognize that both your business and you can and will be held accountable for your marketing efforts. So do act accordingly.

You need to remember that content is a conversation, so don’t be scared of listening to other people’s thoughts and be open to their critiques and responses.

We’re all human, and even you, can make mistakes. Own up to them. And then try to correct those mistakes and, whenever you possibly can, learn as much as you can from them.

9. Always Reach for Excellence

Always, always, always take pride in your work.

Place your focus on quality over quantity and work towards telling the very best story you can.

Yes, there are always going to be those clients who are adamant that word count is the be all and end all. After all, they may be paying per word so they want every single syllable. It’s up to you as the respected, experienced and professional content marketing creator you are to guide them, advise them and use those words to focus on quality.

Conclusion

So, if you’ve been winging it for a while, or hoping no one would really notice the odd nicked quote, stat or “eureka!” thought here and there, it’s time to ‘fess up, buckle up and knuckle down.

Here’s your code of ethics – go forth and prosper!

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