Why do you need to get your facts straight?
If you produce any type of content, which you likely do (and if you don’t, you need to), you have a serious responsibility: to ensure the accuracy of the information you share with your audience. More important than being evergreen, more important than reflecting your brand voice and speaking to your audience, your content must be accurate.
“What’s the big deal? Errors are inevitable. Besides, they don’t do any harm.” Perhaps it surprises you that this is the stance that some people take. Yet, fact-checking is actually a weighty responsibility. Why? The vast majority of errors are preventable and, if not avoided, they can actually do great harm. In what ways?
Consider a few of the negative effects incorrect information can have not just on your business, but also those who put their trust in it.
Trust and credibility are the foundation of good business. People avoid businesses with poor reputations and flock to those they know they can trust. Any hint of doubt about whether they can trust you and the tides will turn in your competitor’s favor.
What’s one quick way to lose the trust of your audience? You guessed it. By providing inaccurate info. After all, how can they know for sure that past information was correct or that future information will be? They can’t. And there goes your credibility…down the drain.
These days, many uninformed opinions are presented as bonafide facts, but just because they’re presented that way doesn’t make them factual. Therefore, you have to be careful that you don’t latch onto and share incorrect or ignorant assertions and assumptions.
Offending your audience is the same as alienating them. You don’t want to push them away or lead them to spread negative opinions about your business.
The internet is currently filled with untruths and inaccuracies on any subject you can imagine. Every last one of them is available at a moment’s notice with the potential to mislead and even harm readers. How did the web get this way?
It all started with people who failed to get their facts straight before posting. They shared incorrect information, others believed it, passed it on and it spread around the web.
Just remember that there’s junk out there already. Don’t add to it and be the reason it continues to circulate. Create shareable content that is high in quality and accurate.
Now that you know why it’s important to fact-check, you might be wondering, “How should I go about it?”
The web is a wonderful thing. While you can find plenty of alternative truths, you can also find verified facts…if you have the right tools. Consider six handy tools that can help you sift through the junk.
Especially wise in the case of stats, you should try to find the original information source. Often, when information is reused over and over again, it’s accuracy is affected. There are various reasons for this.
For example, a secondhand source could have misunderstood or changed the context of a fact. Too, the original source may have updated information that a secondary source might not. By finding the original source, you’ll be more likely to get correct information.
Google Scholar indexes scholarly literature and publications. The information provided in the search results is all backed by extensive research. If you need to check your facts, this is an excellent tool.
Factcheck.org is a great resource if you have topics of a political, scientific or health-related nature. It’s also good for debunking fake news and internet rumors.
Who knows best about what’s taking place in a specific industry? Industry authorities, right? Always double-check your facts against the latest industry reports.
If the information you find disagrees with a report from a trusted source, the latter is likely more accurate. Even if sources do agree with the information found there, it’s best to refer to and link to the industry report. After all, it is more authoritative and credible than other sources might be. In turn, linking to it will increase your credibility in the eyes of your readers and search engines.
Census.gov This site provides accurate stats on the general U.S. population, businesses and economy. This information is especially important to get right. It’s unlikely that you’ll find more up-to-date, comprehensive, well-researched info anywhere else.
Last but not least is Snopes, a well-known source of truth. It’s useful for debunking myths, calling out hoaxes, correcting misinformation and exposing fake news.
With all these tools at your fingertips, there’s no good reason to skip the fact-checking stage. Sure, it may require a little extra time and effort on your part to make sure everything is accurate. Yet, protecting your reputation and your audience is worth it.
But what about those occasional cases when you’re just not sure about a certain fact? What if there’s too much conflicting information? There’s one rule of thumb you should keep in mind. When in doubt, opt out. It’s better to err on the side of caution; your readers will certainly appreciate it.