Why you should always check your sources

Whether you’re crafting blog posts, white papers, articles or press releases, including insight from third parties can boost the authority and reach of your communications. I’ve previously written on how statistics or quotes pulled from public domain can elevate your thought leadership offerings from a rambling rant, to objective and measured insight, in the eyes of your readers. However, it is crucial that you always check your sources.

Accuracy is key

While there are many statistics which are so regularly churned out that they almost become gospel, dig beneath the surface and you will find that the origins of these well used figures are at best un-attributable and at worst fabricated.

Most media organisations have a rule that all facts should be confirmed by two reliable sources, and PR and marketing professionals shouldn’t be any less stringent in their own communications activity – accuracy is key.

In a worst case scenario, spreading inaccurate information could, in theory, leave individuals and businesses open to being accused of libel. In reality, sloppy subediting is unlikely to result in a criminal conviction. But that doesn’t mean that the unwanted consequences associated with not investing time in fact-checking aren’t serious.

Sharing fictitious figures or questionable quotes will quickly decimate trust in your messaging. Just one careless mistake can leave a dent in a carefully constructed reputation – and repeat offenders will quickly see that journalists, customers and leads soon switch off from engaging.

Aside from damaging a brand’s credibility, those who don’t check their facts face the very real risk of citing their competitors – and directing potential customers towards their business rivals in the process.

Where to check your sources

When seeking stats to strengthen your story, official figures are always a safe bet. Sources such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) or House of Commons Library, for example, publish regular, reliable figures on topics such as the UK employment rate or the size of the disabled workforce, which are universally accepted as being reliable sources.

Reputable private sector organisations can also provide a wealth of information which can be used to bolster your brand’s position on a given theme. The Big Four, for example, can be relied upon to provide robust reports to reference, such as PwC’s CEO Survey and Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report. Although it is worth noting that, when using information which has been published by a commercial organisation, always question if there are any hidden agendas at play.

When repurposing a quote from a third party, always ensure that it is pulled from a well-respected publication. And if you’ve found a juicy figure in a lists of stats or a single news report, always track back to the original report to verify its authenticity.

Credit where credit is due

You’ve checked your source – now you have to cite it. In a feature article, this could be within the body of the text, while for a white paper or infographic a footnote may be more appropriate. If the piece is online, it’s good practice to link back to the original source.

But what if you simply can’t find authoritative sources to reinforce your position?

Becoming the source through creating your own metrics

If back up for your insight is thin on the ground, it can be frustrating – however it does offer an opportunity to undertake your own original, robust research which will bring even greater rewards from a PR perspective.

We’ve posted in the past on the power of polls, and there is no doubt that generating new data to reinforce your messaging is a fantastic way to elevate your thought leadership status. By surveying your own networks on pertinent issues, you can not only provide a fresh layer of credibility to a story, but also create much needed – referenceable – metrics which have the potential to be used by other experts talking on the same topic in the future. These figures can then be stretched to create social images, videos and infographics to further boost brand profile.

By following rules, you can ensure that PR and marketing activity is always top notch and avoid the embarrassment – and risks – associated with getting it wrong.

Need help crafting thought leadership content? BlueSky PR is here to help.

You can check out more insights from BlueSky PR on the blog

 

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Author: Carly Smith

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