Build trust and transparency with your content marketing

The future belongs to marketers who are honest and transparent with their customers and communities

We’re fascinated by the rapidly evolving nature of our industry and the broader content marketing space. Technologies and methodologies that were pipe dreams even five years ago are now reaching full adoption among the most sophisticated content marketers. But this comes with a downside — bad actors use these same technologies to take advantage of audiences and impact their trust in any marketing and information.

We found the Future Today Institute’s Tech Trends Report to be a useful resource for examining these trends. Kudos to their team — led by founder Amy Webb — for producing a veritable tome each year. The 2021 edition weighs in at a hefty 504 pages — including varying types of summarized reports, and is so long that FTI recommends for the full report itself: “Don’t read in one sitting.” It’s filled with hundreds of trends that are worth both planning for and around — across categories such as artificial intelligence, synthetic media and automation (at home or otherwise).

Although it did indeed take a few sittings, we made our way through the entire report and found three trends that speak to the challenges content marketers will face with these evolving technologies.

  1. Truth Decay in an Era of Synthetic Media: Rather than flippantly being called “fake news,” the synthetic media of the future will be better classified as deepfakes on steroids. As FTI notes, “Synthetic media could be weaponized by governments, activist groups, and individuals, and could be treated the same as all other internet content, showing up in search results, on our smart speakers as audio content, on our connected TVs, in our inboxes, and throughout social media.” So how can content marketers cope? Trust will be paramount — and the individuals and organizations that maintain trust with their audiences will become essential pillars in a future information ecosystem where any media format can be suspect.
  2. The End of Attention Metrics: Any web analyst worth their salt is intimately familiar with bot traffic on the internet — a scourge to those trying to fight it, and a boon to those who pay for it. Meanwhile, Google’s attempt to kill off cookies promises a future where it will be harder to attribute web actions to users. But as FTI notes, as these trends coincide, why do we still use traditional attention metrics to determine success or failure? Don’t fret, content marketers: All is not lost in a bot-filled, cookie-less future. In our opinion, determining performance was never as easy as just turning on Google Analytics and downloading a simple report. It wasn’t true five years ago, it isn’t true now, and it won’t be true in the years to come. Smart, analyst-led insights may become more complex to deliver, but there will always be ways to combine qualitative and quantitative insights (perhaps in new ways) to achieve success.
  3. Emphasizing Data Ethics: Data privacy and ethics should go hand in hand. A key stat from FTI that should give any content marketer pause: “48% of consumers have stopped buying from a company over privacy concerns.” Giving consumers the ability to tailor what data is available for commercial use will become table stakes, whether by common convention or by law (e.g., GDPR). But companies must also properly govern their own use of this data — including how it  may be sold or transferred to partners. Our takeaway: It’s better to be a bit too conservative than play fast and loose with your audience’s data, and their trust.

In our view, you could summarize these trends — and any solid digital strategy — as calling for:

  • Transparency: Let your audience know not just what they’re getting from you, but also what you’re getting from them (in terms of data or otherwise).
  • Utility: Give your audience what they need, when they need it — especially if it’s helping shield them from bad or misleading information.
  • Trust: Create a relationship that is durable and can offer concrete value for your audience and measurable value for an organization. Being transparent and offering utility is a great place to start.



Get our weekly newsletter for tips on how to drive better content marketing performance.


For a regular stream of ideas, research and links we find helpful. And of course, to say hi!