Fact checking should be something that every digital marketing does as standard, essentially, it should be a key part of any content creation process. Unfortunately, in 2020, this is not always the case. The proliferation of fake news and spurious claims in advertising copy is still a serious issue and though most reputable companies take the time to fact check their content, many will overlook this part of the process for the sake of generating something quickly. Here’s Probella’s guide to fact checking your content.
Check the Credentials of Your Source
It can be difficult to know who to trust when it comes to content, especially when you are looking for fresh material that has not already circulated too much. Anybody with an internet connection and some basic knowhow can publish content now and though bloggers, social media based influencers and even unwitting tweets can offer a starting point, you need to check the reputation of the person or website before you believe everything you read, hear or see. News agencies can be reliable but there is a caveat to this as the mainstream press can still be heavily influenced by political parties and other agencies with a vested interest in promoting a certain story. Cross reference and explore alternative sources to ensure that what you are putting out there is based in reality. Overstatement, exaggeration and at times, a total misconception of the facts are commonplace, so use your own judgement at all times.
Referencing and Evidence
Anybody can make unsubstantiated claims but backing up what you say with a reliable source requires a little more effort. If you read any of the most reputable news websites, their articles will be littered with easy to click links to external sites that serve as the source material for any assertions that are made. You may also notice footnotes or asterisks that include specific details of where information was gathered. This can be difficult to do, especially in marketing copy, but it is usually worth the extra effort. Content that has been fact checked and professionally researched generally performs better and lasts longer. If you are uncertain of the specifics when it comes to making claims about a product or reporting on a particular news story, be mindful of the language you use and avoid making concrete statements that may be disproved further down the line. Ultimately, as long as you can substantiate what you are saying with a link to a reputable source, you should feel confident publishing your content.
Wikipedia. Good or Bad?
The sheer size and complexity of Wikipedia makes it problematic as a source of information. Though the regulations and checking processes have become exponentially more stringent as the years have gone by, the fact that pages can still be edited by anyone means that the information you find there is not necessarily true. Check for citations and references to make sure that you are not simply regurgitating false information. When it comes to celebrity pages, business pages and information about organisations, you can be relatively confident that the information you find there is true as most of these agencies will have dedicated staff to monitor and update their pages. There is a caveat to this, though. Even professional organisations and people can bend the truth from time to time, so though it may serve you well as a good starting point for your research, you will usually need to go a little further if you want to create something with genuine authority.
Direct Quotes and Information
This kind of evidence is probably the most reliable as it comes “straight from the horse’s mouth” to coin an old expression. A quote from a CEO, project leader or staff member is worth so much more than something an outside source has stated, based on their assumptions alone. Approaching people for quotes and specific information can be problematic as they are essentially allowing you to put their words up online for everybody to see, meaning that it’s them, not you, who will be questioned if any of the information appears to be incorrect. When asking for direct quotes, ensure that the person you are engaging with knows exactly how the information is going to be used. It is also common courtesy to send them a copy of what you plan to publish to ensure they are happy with the tone and the way their message comes across. This does not always have to be the case, but generally speaking, this approach will do you more favours than the tabloid journalism tactic of publishing quotes in the wrong context or without any real depth or detail.
If you are dealing with a specific topic that relates to a niche industry or discussing a story that relates to a specific incident, having a video explainer can help to build authenticity in the minds of your audience. Review sites often accompany their written pieces with short to medium length video content which helps to illustrate some of the points made in the text. For example, product testing sites will often show electronic equipment in action to prove that it is actually capable of doing the job it has been designed for. Similarly, bloggers and article writers may include short clips of video footage from particular incidents or events to help to focus the reader’s attention on the story that is being discussed. A recent example is the horrific events in Beirut. Though most sites only show a few seconds of the event itself, this does help to convey the sheer magnitude and severity of what happened there. Details can then be covered in more depth in written text form, leaving your audience with a sense that they have been given a well-rounded and substantiated piece of information.
Research, cross references and paying close attention to the sources you are using should all be key factors in your fact checking strategy. Though information can be contradictory or confusing at times, the more evidence you have to substantiate any claims or assertions you make, the more likely your audience are to consider you a reputable, reliable source of information.