The state of the media has opened opportunities for PR practitioners to place stories directly into mainstream news.
As Conan O’Brien demonstrated on his show
, more journalists are “ripping and reading” press releases word for word as a result of smaller newsroom budgets and fewer journalists and original stories.
PR pros can use this opportunity—and the rise of content marketing—to develop more newsworthy and balanced content. Caution is essential, especially with announcements that are quickly assembled or “news-jacked” to blend in with trending news. Much of the content developed for social media and direct publication may not go through the typically rigorous corporate copy review process.
PR’s new power to post like a journalist adds the responsibility to fact-check like a journalist. PR writers must thoroughly check and double-check names, spelling, quotations, numbers, and facts before publishing an article.
In “Faster Fact Checking, Part 1: Tools for Journalists Reporting Breaking News
,” Amanda Hicken highlights resources used by reporters that help them check news quickly before releasing a story. Below, we share Hicken’s recommendations, along with a few of our own. PR pros should consider using the following resources before publishing news releases, editorial content, and social media posts:
Full Fact is an independent fact-checking organization in the U.K. that examines the reliability of data and numbers from published articles. It monitors online news, newspapers, and social media and provides free tools and advice so users can check claims and data reported by the media.
It’s particularly helpful if you’re news-jacking a popular topic and want to be sure you have all your information correct before publishing it.
Named the Best Free Reference Web Site of 2013 by the American Library Association, Journalist’s Resource searches studies and credible online sources, and then provides a recap of the findings as well as tips for media coverage. Just enter your topic or keywords into the search bar, or browse their selection of past studies to fact-check your topic.
Data Journalism Handbook
This free handbook offers a guide on how to collect, understand and deliver data. Hicken highlights several key chapters, including “Data Journalists Discuss their Tools of Choice
” and “Using and Sharing Data: the Black Letter, Fine Print and Reality
The handbook is a must-have for any PR writer reporting on data or studies.
Associated Press Stylebook
The AP Stylebook is a journalist’s bible. Updated every year, it provides fundamental guidelines for spelling, language, punctuation, usage, and journalistic style. It’s used by the majority of top-tier news outlets and publications, so you can be sure your work will be taken seriously by both the media and readers. You can order the AP Stylebook in print or online. It should be within arms’ length of every PR writer. Tip: follow @APStylebook on Twitter for daily style tips on current events.
PR writers focusing on political events or working for government organizations should head to PolitiFact.com, which reports on political news and statements from politicians and attaches a “Truth-O-Meter” to each story. The meter rates stories as true, mostly true, half true, mostly false, false and, our favorite, “pants on fire.”
The World Fact Book—Central Intelligence Agency
The World Factbook provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities. The Reference tab includes: maps of the major world regions, Flags of the World, a Physical Map of the World, a Political Map of the World, a World Oceans map, and a Standard Time Zones of the World map. It also includes comparative statistics for countries.
The free online encyclopedia written by volunteers contains 4.4 million fact-filled articles in English and 30 million in over 200 other languages on most every topic. Its references on each topic are as valuable as the write-ups for fact-finding. If you doubt its credibility, read the Wikipedia description
If all else fails, use a search engine to double-check sources and facts. Our advice: Find at least two reputable sources that match the data and/or spelling of the fact you search for.
[RELATED: Get advanced brand journalism tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela!]
Accuracy is the holy grail of journalism. To build credibility and establish their authority, PR practitioners must be uncompromising in assuring all published content is totally accurate.
William J. Comcowich is the editor of Media Monitoring News and the CyberAlert Blog, where a version of the story originally appeared. He is also founder, president and CEO of CyberAlert, Inc.