Misinformation versus Disinformation

Copywriters, here’s the difference between the two above terms.

A person relaying misinformation usually innocently believes that the information he is giving is correct information.

A person relaying disinformation knows that the information he is giving is deceptive in one or more ways.

Examples of each:

Misinformation: “Seattle is only about twenty miles north of here” the Texan (mistakenly) told his driver as they reached the outskirts of Olympia, Washington.

Disinformation: “Now that marriage equality has been made the law of the land by the Supreme Court of the United States, the next thing we can expect is that pedophiles will be granted the right to marry children”  (conflating consensual same-sex adult marital commitment with illegal practices that subjugate children).

As a copywriter, you need to make sure that what you write is neither misinformation or disinformation. Whatever you are asked by a client to claim about their product, service or cause needs to be measurable and document-able; the Federal Trade Commission casts a critical eye on misleading, unsubstantiated claims (as should political and religious talking heads, but they aren’t  regulated in the same way as copywriters and business owners who market their products and services) and they have the legal authority to back it up with heavy fines and jail sentences.

Make sure that what your clients are asking you to claim can be backed up before you agree to write it. Your reputation can be destroyed by unscrupulous charlatans. Don’t repeat or tell/sell falsehoods, no matter how much someone is willing to pay you to do it. You need to be able to sleep at night.

.You know the claims I mean:

“This is the greatest invention since…”

“The best in the business…”

“Nobody does it better…”

“Sleep better all night long from now on.”

“World-class…”  (There are actual standards that a product or service must meet or exceed to be deemed truly world-class; this is not just a generic catch phrase. Example: Lance Armstrong was considered world-class until he admitted having cheated his way to the biking championships he was awarded.)

That said, if a client of your client makes a remarkable claim  about a product or service in a testimonial–for example, “[In my opinion] she’s the best insurance/real estate agent in Tacoma”–it’s okay to use it as one client’s subjective opinion in a testimonial, because it’s recognized by readers as an opinion, not as a documented fact.

Testimonials are usually more convincing when combined with measured, positive, accurate copy writing. Good copy writing is compelling and engaging, but it must never willfully mislead and it should under-promise (at least a little) to make sure that the client you’re writing about can over-deliver (exceed expectations), thereby creating happy clients and ‘viral sneezers‘ (devoted, loyal fans) who will write them fabulous testimonials…

As a copywriter, your job is to get people in the door. It’s your clients’ jobs to greet them and hang onto them. They do that by delivering more than what you promised they would in a way that creates fond bonds and loyalty.   “Know, Like, Trust” has to happen at every step, or the magic will never happen.

Make sense?

Here’s additional helpful information about the use of endorsements/testimonials straight from the horse’s mouth (the Federal Trade Commission):





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