Traffic. It’s such an easy metric to focus on. You check your analytics, the numbers are going up, and you show your boss. She is pleased. You both consider this success, and more importantly the head honchos also consider it a success. As long as traffic is climbing, you’re in a good spot.

But how do you keep traffic climbing once it’s reached a certain point? Suddenly, you’re feeding a click addiction – you’ll do anything to get a fix. You find yourself straying from the original intent of your content strategy in a rabid desire to get more people to your site. You start posting things that don’t fit. The audience becomes confused.

Uh-oh. You’ve broken the audience’s trust.

The goal of any content marketing initiative should be to build a relationship with prospective customers. This relationship should be built on trust, and therefore starts with a promise. And guess what? You have to make the first move  your organization is the one making this editorial promise to prospective customers.

Your editorial promise is the pledge you make to the audience – we’re going to create content about this, not that, and we’ll always strive to keep your best interest at the forefront of what we do. We’re going to explore the many ways widgets can benefit your life, and we’re not going to give you cat videos or our political views.

Typically, you’re vowing to not be salesy. As Jay Baer would say you’re promising to help, not hype.

In making this promise, a brand needs to figure out what its content will be about, and what it won’t be about.

Your editorial promise should align with your brand promise, which should align with your value proposition. At the heart of each of these foundational statements is an understanding of why you exist – once your organization understands its North Star purpose, it’s a matter of viewing that purpose through different lenses, and in the case of content marketing, you should use an audience lens.

Importantly, the brand promise and the value proposition and the editorial promise should not all be the same statement. The value prop should not be the focus of your content marketing strategy – typically, you’re not going to attract an audience if the relationship begins with them feeling like they’re being sold.

The editorial promise lets the audience know what they can expect from your content, and if you do it well, they’ll actually look forward to hearing from you. Imagine that – marketing so good that your prospects look forward to it. They will invite you into their world if they have confidence that you can help them. If they feel you’re just going to add to the information clutter in their lives, they won’t be as interested. This is the value of making and keeping that editorial promise.

The act of carving away what doesn’t fit brings clarity to the vision and eliminates confusion, both internally and externally. If you’re trying to be all things to all people, you’re more likely to be nothing to anyone. As George W. Bush once said, “If you don’t stand for anything you don’t stand for anything.” (Yes, he really said that.)

Once you understand what you stand for, you can develop your editorial promise to the audience.

Making this editorial promise must be the foundation of your content marketing. It will provide purpose to internal audiences and meaning to external audiences.

Once you’ve made that promise, you need to keep it.

That’s how you build trust.

And building trust is ultimately how you make the sale.