User-generated content’s success is dependent on the content producer’s credibility to the audience, according to Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out.

UGCXlogo3.gifSpeaking at Mediabistro’s UGCX conference in New York, Shankman told a crowded ballroom of attendees at The New Yorker Hotel that “as we move more toward a user-generated world, in which everyone’s contributing something, we’ve got to come up with a level of trust.”

To do that, Shankman suggested some principles that he said HARO itself follows, starting with transparency.

“We’ve become a society of microjournalists,” he said. “Transparency will be the first key by which user-generated content will be judged.”

In HARO’s case, Shankman said, “When we create a site, or modify anything, we talk about it.” That means informing, soliciting input and responding, he said.

Related to transparency is trust, which Shankman said is a crucial element of social networks. “User-generated content is about personal relationships. That content will become more relevant,” he said.

But that requires more than a one-way conversation, he said. “The best thing you can do to get people to pay attention to you is to pay attention to them first,” Shankman said.

Oh, it also helps to not churn out crap, he said. “The best way to keep audience attention is to learn to write. I can’t stress that enough,” he said.

Bottom line, Shankman told the audience: “Your job is two-fold. One, you must turn your customers into addicts. And two, your job is no longer to do your own PR. Your job is to get other people to do your PR for you.”

Which should be pretty easy to do once you have them in the throes of addiction.

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