We deal with lots of information in the online marketing space. My question is, what are our duties to investigate and validate the information we pass along in our products?
We deal with lots of information in the online marketing space. Whether it’s in a podcast, a social media post, a blog post, or the course that we teach, we use plenty of information.
My question is, what are our duties to investigate and validate the information we pass along in our products?
Where Did The Information Come From?
It sometimes seems like the online marketing world is a bad game of telephone. Here’s what I mean. Someone discovered a random thing that made them money, and then they decided to make more money by teaching this information to others.
Now this original thing wasn’t necessarily based on good marketing or solid business foundations, but it did make money. So, the first person taught someone else, who taught someone else, who taught someone else, and so on. Of course, over time the original message got changed.
I believe that’s where a lot of mantras that we hear today came from. That selling is service… or that people won’t take action if they don’t have to pay… or that if you’re not willing to charge money, there’s something wrong with your mindset.
Candidly, these arguments and analogies just don’t hold up.
Saying You Don’t Need the Expertise to Teach Others Is Problematic
Many people who teach online marketing often say that we only have to be a couple of steps ahead of the people we want to teach. In other words, you don’t have to be an expert.
It’s problematic. Many people who are teaching in the online information space fundamentally heard the knowledge from someone else on the internet. Then they pass along that information.
Is that okay?
I’m not talking about stealing something from another person and then repackaging it.
The question is, do you have a duty to do due diligence, think about it, ask questions, and see if what you’re being told stands up to scrutiny?
It’s not something that has a definite answer because, at some point, we can’t question everything. If we question every last thing, we can’t make any progress.
But where do you draw the line?
When Repeating Something You Heard Becomes Dishonest
When does repeating something that you heard from someone become dishonest? It’s not lying because you’re not intentionally saying something untrue.
But do we have some higher duty as marketers before we pass the information on?
Legally, no, we don’t. But when I look at what the American Marketing Association says, I think part of the standard about taking responsibility is that we as marketers have some level of obligation.
In my opinion, under those ethical norms, we have some level of duty to do some due diligence, to not simply pass along all information. We need to question things a lot more than in the past and ask, does that make sense?
Be Skeptical About Self-Serving Information
If something being true would serve me because it would serve me to sell something to you, I’m going to be particularly skeptical. I’m going to ask more questions.
The reality is that we human beings like to deceive ourselves. We like to serve our own interests, so we tend to believe in things that will serve our interests.
We’re more likely to believe misinformation that aligns with our worldviews. So we need to ask questions more and decide whether it makes sense to pass the information along.
I think that’s the approach we should take. As marketers, we’re going to spread information, it’s incumbent upon us to do a little bit of soul searching and research before we pass the information along.
We need to be careful not to pass along bad information and further perpetuate mistaken beliefs.
I’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts
I think this issue of taking responsibility for the accuracy of information we share is a discussion we need to have.
Let me know your thoughts. What do you think are our obligations as marketers to question information we receive before we simply pass it on?