Regardless of who you plan to vote for - the current presidential election is a roller coaster ride of hijinks. And it's nearly impossible to get a completely unbiased picture of where candidates really stand on important issues. Any high-value information coming out of presidential debates and rallies has been overshadowed by big personalities, offensive accusations and controversial sound bites. This problem is compounded by the fact that we live in an age where news breaks on social media first, sources aren't verified, media outlets use anonymous tweets to report on 'reactions' to global events and the stories of scam news sites are going viral on Facebook.
How did we get to this place? How did we become a society with so much access to innovative, life-changing technology, yet an inability to demand quality and accuracy when it comes to the content that we consume from our devices? Why do we need news articles to be in list format with funny memes and pictures of cats in order to get our attention?
We can do better. We owe it to ourselves and each other to be informed consumers. To truly invoke change, there are a few problem areas that need closer examination:
1. Celebrity-Status Holds Too Much Currency. There can be real value in a celebrity endorsement of a high quality concept or product - but right now, celebrities hold way too much importance in the United States. For example, Donald Trump's celebrity and his brand message of luxury and quality has tricked Americans into thinking that he can make things "great again." We're giving too much power to tabloid and not enough to truth. This has resulted in less accountability for brands. Companies need to be held more responsible for their products and services and stop resting on the backs of celebrities and influencers.
2. Clicks and Traffic Drive Headlines. Newsrooms are under a tremendous amount of pressure to drive web traffic - which means that journalists have to engineer stories to get clicks and go viral in order to survive. This essentially means that the stories that truly matter may never find their way to the top of the home page. Our Facebook newsfeed encourages this - baiting us to click whatever our friends have looked at - with no filter for accuracy. If we want to read more unbiased news, we must be the gatekeepers for our own feeds - ignoring irrelevant information and driving traffic to quality reporting from upstanding and hard-working media outlets.
3. Marketing Has Lost Its Soul. As a marketer, I know how powerful a 'share' can be - and I know what it takes to get one. But with great power comes great responsibility. I owe it to the brands I work for and the customers who buy from them to tell great stories. My job is to use ethical, truthful, high-quality content - to earn that 'share' based on merit and the value of the product I'm marketing. It's time for the marketing profession to regain its soul and focus on quality and accountability.
4. No One is Paying Attention. Have you walked the streets of NYC lately? Have you ridden mass transit? Everyone is staring at their phones, consuming content as they weave through traffic and make their way to their destination. No one is really paying attention as consumers scan articles and move on before webpages have finished loading. Listicles, .gifs and memes are like junk food - they're nice in moderation but too much is unhealthy.
It really comes down to quality. As consumers we must demand it and as marketers we must create it. We must be held accountable for content and a take 'no garbage' approach to what we share with our networks on social media. In this digital age, we owe it to ourselves to be more accountable for the information that blankets the Internet - to be educated, informed and discerning citizens that are truly focused on making things "great again."