That was the shock revelation from the ‘A Matter of Trust’ panel session at last week’s PPA Festival, where The New European’s Matt Kelly, GQ’s Dylan Jones and Inside Housing’s Emma Maier debated why trust and quality matter more now than ever.
I came away with six takeaways: 1. Invest in quality. It costs, but it keeps you in business: in the heyday of men’s mags, there were eighteen titles to choose from, now there are three. GQ, where all content is double-checked and where attention is paid to every detail is one of those still standing. 2. Be honest. “When you’re dishonest,” said Matt, “that’s when damage is done”. Honesty is not the same as balance. The New European is fervently pro-remain, but said Matt, “we’re completely honest about our partisanship!” 3. Be the experts and be accountable. Inside Housing is the title that talked about flammable cladding before the Grenfell disaster and that in-depth knowledge and foresight is why, says Emma, people in the industry consume their content so voraciously. 4. Content is everything. In our straitened times, changes and cuts are par for the course, but says Dylan, it all comes down to where you make the cuts. “All we have is our content; once content goes, brand follows.” 5. Be confident. Readers want the titles they read to be confident. Too many editors are trying to second-guess their audience and that weakens the product. It’s also not all about analytics; an editor’s subjective view on what constitutes “good” is equally important. 6. Tone down the hype. As Matt says, we all tend to oversell, which disappoints readers who feel they’ve been hoodwinked, and over time, this breaks down trust.
Last word to Dylan – it’s all about “authenticity, confidence and transparency”, because… people aren’t thick.