Because your content should tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
What is it, you might ask? It’s a battle that these companies wage tirelessly, ceaselessly, tooth and nail. It’s the battle against fake news.
In the age of the internet, battling fake news isn’t just for journalists. Even brand publications and social media sites must struggle to confirm the accuracy of their content. For businesses, this is particularly essential — after all, the less accurate your media is, the less faith consumers will have in your brand.
On that note, here are a few ways to fight the good fight and keep your material ‘alternative fact’-free:
1. Talk to Those in the Know
When it comes to fact-checking, getting an expert opinion never hurts. So if you have the chance to do some original reporting, make sure you’re going to someone who’s a respected authority in their field — or, at the very least, someone who really knows their stuff. Even if they’re not an industry rockstar, asking an authority will lend your publication some much-needed gravitas.
2. Show, Don’t Tell
This grade school adage might sound a bit clichéd, but even brand publications can benefit from more show, less tell. The more actual examples you include in your content, the more believable (and useful!) the piece will be to your readers. If direct quotes aren’t appropriate, even a quick backlink to a trustworthy source will lend credibility to your claims.
3. Google It
When you’re researching a topic, try to find at least two reliable sources (websites, publications, you name it), particularly for claims that seem too good to be true. But be careful — while Google’s personalized search algorithm is convenient for most queries, you might have to dig deep to find the information you’re looking for.
Make your searches as targeted as possible, and use a variety of keywords to surface specific details. Above all, remember: not everything you read on the internet is true! If the source seems off, it’s likely that the same can be said for the information contained therein.
4. Verify the Basics
Including key details about the people, places, and things you’re writing about is an easy way to prove to your reader that you’ve done your research. Naming specific people involved in the story, for instance, will boost your believability, and naming their job titles/qualifications will boost theirs. Dates, times, addresses, URLS, anything involving data/statistics — if it shows you’ve done your homework, include it in your content.
5. Acknowledge Bias
Nobody’s perfect! That’s why it’s so important to look for conflicts of interest in the information you publish. Does your content wrongly smear a competitor? Does one of your writers work for a company whose product they’re plugging? Of course, there’s no need to get bogged down in false equivalencies — but still, acknowledging a bias can reassure readers that they’re getting quality information.
6. Ask Yourself, “What’s Missing?”
Before you publish anything, ask yourself (or a coworker), “what’s missing from this content?” You want to make sure you have all the facts you need to make it a complete story — this is where a fresh set of eyes often comes in handy. One-sided stories are often inaccurate ones, so do yourself a favor and put yourself in the audience’s shoes during your final readthrough.
7. Use Your Head
Believe it or not, your brain comes with a built-in B.S. detector. When something smells funny, always check it out — you’ll be shocked at how frequently you’re right about your hunches.
Bonus tip: abide by the old journalism rule, “when in doubt, cut it out.” If you can’t confirm a fact before publishing, don’t publish it at all, even if that means cutting a sentence or killing an entire story. As a publisher, you’re only as good as the content you publish, and printing inaccurate or untrustworthy information is a surefire way to kill your brand’s credibility.
Longneck and Thunderfoot offer brand publishing services and strategies to transform your company blog into a sophisticated trade publication that drives visibility and influence in your market. Learn more about brand publishing here.