This is an excerpt from the 63rd edition of The Write Fit, a fortnightly newsletter about writing, editing and proofreading, content marketing and good editorial practices for business, from Sarah Mitchell and Dan Hatch at Typeset.
Now seems like a good time to talk about the veracity of sources.
Among the many important things we have been reminded of in the past few weeks is that where you get your information from really matters.
Not all information is created equal. The world is filled with propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, lies, damned lies and statistics, that have been put out because it suits someone’s agenda.
Whether we’re journalists or marketers, it is irresponsible, even negligent, for us to repeat and publish any information without checking the source and verifying it first.
In my old industry, newspapers, checking sources and verifying information are something we called journalism. Journalism is out of fashion in a lot of places now because it’s expensive, whereas endless, wittering commentary from pundits is cheap as chips and far more entertaining. But when I was a reporter, you used to get hauled over the coals if you stated something as fact when, in fact, you couldn’t prove it was true or the source wasn’t watertight.
(If you were lucky, it was a subeditor who hauled you over the coals. If you weren’t, it was someone’s lawyers.)
I’m getting ranty, so I’ll come to my point—because there is a take-out here for content marketers. The point is, always find, verify and credit the original source of any information (especially any statistics) you use in your content. Make sure that source is credible.
It’s far too common to read a brand’s content and see a questionable statistic or claim. Sometimes you’ll get a link to the source for that statistic, but when you follow it (and I always do), it leads you to another article (basically the same piece of content written by another brand) and not the original source of the data. It’s very possible to end up in a hole that’s nine, ten, fifteen articles deep, each attributing the next as the source, without ever finding the survey or study where the data originated.
When you see that, as a reader, what kind of faith do you put in the content or the brand behind it? I know for me, the answer is none.
When you add editorial rigour to your content (by using verified, credible, original sources of information) you add credibility and engender trust. It might be more expensive to do it, it might take time and resources, but it’s an investment you’ll never regret.
15 March 2022
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