If you or your company, like so many others, uses information from the Internet or other sources to create content, then it’s important to know how to do so in a way that’s ethical. You might have heard the term “ethical content marketing” and wondered what exactly it means, why it can help your brand and how you can create and implement it.

Ethical content is honest, transparent, thorough, original, authentic, valuable, respectful, creative, and accurate. One great thing about creating ethical content for marketing is that it also makes for more engaging content. And engaging, ethical content helps grow your sales and your brand.

Who uses ethical content marketing? Well, there are large corporations like Patagonia, which takes a strong stand on the preservation of national parks in its content, and then there’s a small businesses like Salazar Packaging, which puts out a high-quality blog that’s attracted national attention.

Bloggers and influencers use it, too, growing their numbers of followers by being upfront about sponsorships and true to their values. Here’s how brands and marketers can create ethical content and implement an ethical content marketing plan:

Here are our top tips for creating content that has integrity.

Use a Wide Range of Sources

Using a number of different sources not only makes your content more interesting, it also helps consumers to become better informed. The dangers of using only one or two sources are that you might unintentionally plagiarize someone else’s content and lose your brand’s credibility and sales in the process.

It goes without saying, but don’t copy content word for word, and don’t use large portions of someone else’s work, even if you reword it. Be sure to give proper credit to your sources. Remember: the originality of your content is extremely important to consumers. If they’ve seen it before somewhere else, then you won’t stand out, and you could also come across as untrustworthy.

Make Sure Your Brand’s Voice Comes Through

Customers want to engage with authentic content. If your content’s voice doesn’t seem to align with your brand, then consumers can find it off-putting and unbelievable. If your brand is dedicated to social responsibility, create content that tells that story. Invite your customers to look behind the scenes at the inspiration for your company, and tell stories that reflect its values. A brand that successfully does this is the household products company Dr. Bronner’s, with its All-One! blog.

Give Consumers Extra Value

Ethical content informs, helps — and maybe even entertains — customers. One example of a brand that uses ethical content that educates and assists is IKEA, the Swedish furniture company. IKEA creates content in the form of innovative blogs, videos and apps that show people how to decorate and how IKEA products would look in their spaces. Ethical content doesn’t try to hard sell consumers, but instead gives them information they can use.

Be Accurate

Make sure to properly vet information. It needs to be accurate before you pass it along to consumers. Establish your brand as a trusted authority, and create goodwill by thoroughly fact checking content and citing outside sources. Don’t exaggerate or sensationalize your content.

Be Accountable

If you make a mistake in your content, address it and fix it. You’ll earn greater respect if you quickly take responsibility for your errors and make things right. Learn from your mistakes, and, when it makes sense, think about how you can improve or explain your content if you get negative comments about it.

Include Necessary Disclosures

Consumers want transparency, and a lack of it can erode their trust in your brand. If an influencer receives products or services for free or is paid to promote them, then those sponsorships should be clearly spelled out. Follow Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines on disclosure, and prominently place any necessary disclosures near relevant claims made in your content. Make sure disclosures can be easily viewed on a range of devices with screens of different sizes.

Stay True to Brand Values

Make sure your content stays true to your brand’s values. For example, if your company specializes in ethical travel, don’t feature travel content on your site that promotes exploitation of an endangered area’s natural resources. Or if you market makeup that’s cruelty free, don’t work with a blogger or influencer who doesn’t reflect those values in their posts.

Show Respect

Unnecessarily snarky or hypercritical content is a big turn-off and can reflect poorly on your brand and cause you to lose customers. Know the kind of information your audience is looking for, and present it in a way that’s not condescending, offensive or confusing.

How to Implement an Ethical Content Marketing Plan

Put an ethical content marketing plan into place by clearly outlining content guidelines for team members. Create a style guide that includes ethical content best practices, and ensure that content creators stick to them. Make sure someone who is well versed in your guidelines is responsible for reviewing your content before it goes live. Establish a culture of accountability and pride in the quality of your content to ensure a successful ethical content marketing plan.

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