What’s the difference between content marketing and fake news?


I stumbled across this question–what’s the difference between content marketing and fake news–in one of my LinkedIn groups.

To me, the answer was obvious: facts. Facts are the difference.

The discussion, however, revealed something else. Apparently, there is some skepticism revolving around the use of spin.

“Spin” involves taking objective facts and presenting them in ways that influence people’s perceptions. For example, this is a dog.


Handsome short-haired Pit Bull

Photo Credit: Ildar Sagdejev, Flickr

That this a dog is an objective fact.

But by describing this as a “good” dog or a “bad” dog, I apply an adjective that puts a subjective spin on an objective fact. That spin alters how readers perceive the dog. It does not, however, render the statement false or “fake.”

Now, if I tell you this is a good dog who loves a particular brand of dog chow, I am entering into the realm of content marketing. I am spinning a story that creates a favorable impression of a particular brand. So long as the dog happily ingests the kibble in question, though, the story is still not “fake.”

On the other hand, if I tell you that this is Elon Musk’s dog and he’s going to be the first dog on Mars. . . well, now I’m just making things up. That IS fake. And if I present such a fiction to you not as creative storytelling but as fact, then I am disseminating what you can rightfully call fake news.

You may find the act of applying a subjective narrative to objective facts (a.k.a. spin) undesirable (especially if you disagree with the opinions expressed), but that is not the same thing as passing off fabrications as truth.

Yes, content marketing engages in spin. The whole purpose of content marketing is to present a particular brand in a positive light. But when a brand crosses the line from subjective to false and misleading that is NOT content marketing. That’s bullshit.

Alexa Steele is an American copywriter, dog lover, and marketing consultant. She believes in marketing that is creative, but honest. She also believes pit bulls like the one pictured above are, in fact, good dogs

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