Earlier this year, Firebrand Group asked a group of top marketers and innovators about their big ideas for 2017. For the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you insights based on those interviews. This is Part 2 of a two part piece, based on an interview Firebrand conducted with Heather Taylor, director of creative strategy at the economist, about what companies can do to get ahead in the coming year.

In Part 1, we talked about our new “post-truth” world, and introduced the concept of “groundtruthing.” In Part 2, we’ll look at the specific ways that brands can use groundtruthing to their advantage.

Groundtruthing and mainstream media

In the past, the only way to find out about news stories was to watch the television or read the newspaper. With the growth of the internet, the bar for becoming a journalist has been lowered, making it possible for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to post news articles. This has led to significant problems of late, as anyone paying attention to the recent election knows all too well.

But so-called “citizen journalism” has its advantages — especially as mainstream media outlets are coming under fire for prioritizing viewership numbers rather than hard-hitting journalism. As Heather Taylor, director of creative strategy at the Economist, notes, individuals are combating the perceived biases of traditional media players by covering events themselves: “There are filmmakers covering the Dakota Pipeline protests at Standing Rock, we get live feeds from the middle of Black Lives Matter marches, individuals are taking to social media to give their unfiltered perspective of what’s happening in Aleppo.” By doing so, these citizen journalists are presenting an unvarnished document, unedited by TV networks and without commentary from political pundits.

Growth of live streaming

At the heart of this is an argument about authenticity. Social media has been lauded for many things, and rightly so, but it has also made people extremely conscious of their personal brand and the information they put out on the web. And because people are aware of the care they put into their own posts, it makes them skeptical about the content they see, both on the internet and elsewhere.

Seen in this light, it comes as little surprise that live streaming video has come into prominence, with virtually every social media platform investing in live video capabilities. Taylor attributes this to live streaming being “unedited and accessible”, which “gains greater trust from the audience watching as it not only feels true but it puts viewers in the center of the action.”

Live streaming isn’t only being used by newshounds and social justice warriors; brands are getting in on the action too, using the tool to peel back the curtain and offer consumers an unedited, insider look at the inner workings of the company. Taylor notes, “Consumers will look for more truth and purpose to companies and the content that’s representing them, and will be much wiser to what they are being fed across social platforms, on TV and from the media outlets they access the most.”

People are no longer willing to sit back and let brands dictate their message to the masses. They want brands to be authentic and open, receptive to their needs and desires. In order for brands to deliver, they have to be transparent; otherwise, consumers will rebel.

For more on groundtruthing and many other topics, download our 20.17 Big Ideas eBook here.