Story Telling & News Sharing: The Importance Of Reliable Sources In Your Personal Brand
Elite Personal Brand Management
Though it feels like misinformation is a part of daily life, nobody likes to be misinformed. People are naturally drawn to others they feel they can trust. Whether you’re a person, a news agency, or a brand, this means sharing reliable information.
You don’t need to be a journalist or a news publication to fact-check yourself before putting information out there. Failing to do so can not only hurt your credibility as a person, but also hurt your personal brand. Storytelling is an important part of building your personal brand, but aim to share stories that highlight and promote the truth.
Why make sure sources are credible?
This seems like a no-brainer. You should use credible sources because they are more likely to be true than false.
The fact of the matter is that people are biased, whether consciously or unconsciously. When telling stories and sharing information, we tend to look for information that supports what we already believe, especially information that is consistent with our brand stories. This means that it might be tempting to use a source that has beautiful bells and whistles with an engaging headline, but isn’t true.
Imagine you stumble upon a blog post that stands for the exact proposition you’re looking for. It’s a perfect fit for your brand’s narrative. It’s got facts, statistics, and interesting conclusions. Avoid the temptation to immediately share this blog post without fact-checking it. If it’s not peer-reviewed and doesn’t cite its own sources, it might not be totally accurate. Then, if you share it on your website or social media, it will make your brand look gullible at best, or fraudulent at worst.
On the other hand, companies and individuals who consistently share credible and reliable news and information will build trust with their customers. Customers often want to know that the businesses they are patronizing are honest and reliable, so by making credibility a cornerstone of your brand, you’ll keep customers wanting to come back.
What information must be fact-checked?
The short answer: all of it. Information you publish follows you around for the rest of your life – and this goes for businesses too. Anywhere your brand shares information, such as a website, blogs, SEO content, public relations content and bylines, and yes, social media, you must be confident in the accuracy of the information you’re putting out there. It is a common practice to screenshot Tweets (saving the receipts, if you will) to call out businesses’ and politicians’ hypocritical practices. There are even programs online that track deleted tweets, like “Politiwoops,” a ProPublica project that helps people “explore the tweets they didn’t want you to see.” In this age of misinformation, you don’t want to be caught spreading false information or being fooled by it.
Tips for Fact-Checking Your Personal Brand’s Content
It may seem overwhelming to ensure everything you say and publish is correct, but both from a business and an ethical perspective, it is of critical importance.
1. Ask Yourself:
Who wrote the original source? Does the author have credentials and experience?
Does the source you’re using cite its own sources?
How recent is the source?
Is the publication owned by a company that may be politically or financially biased?
Is the author or researcher associated with a special interest group?
Do reputable sites link to the source?
Can it be verified elsewhere?
Does the URL have a high domain authority? (Is it a .gov, .edu, .org, etc.?)
These questions challenge the integrity of the source and ensure it stands up to reality. Look for characteristics that may lead to biased information, and only use sources you’re confident in. If the information cannot be verified by other reliable sources, chances are it is not credible.
2. Burst Your Filter Bubble
Brands have a responsibility to overcome confirmation bias. If you are only searching for and sharing information that fits perfectly within your preconceived notions on a topic, you are likely filtering out credible information that is inconsistent with your beliefs. Remember it is perfectly acceptable to change your mind or pivot your brand when new information comes to light. It allows you to stay on top of trends and continue to put out the most accurate and up-to-date information possible.
To help burst your information bubble, try something as simple as changing your Google settings. Over time, Google’s algorithms learn your preferences and show you information targeted to you. This means you may be missing pertinent information simply because it doesn’t fit your view. Read here to learn steps you can take in Google to “burst your bubble.”
3. Use Well-Known Sources
The internet is basically the only way people do research nowadays, and there is a lot of junk out there. While it’s important to be able to filter through all of this content and determine what’s reliable and what’s fishy, there are some tried-and-true sources that will almost always be accurate and require very little fact-checking.
There are various databases on the internet that publish peer-reviewed scholarly articles, like PubMed, JSTOR, Science Mag, and Education Resources Information Center, among many others. You can be fairly certain that any articles published here will be credible. (Always remember to look out for the most recent articles, though – information that was credible 20 years ago may be out of date now.)
Similarly, household name newspapers and weeklies have high standards for their journalism, so there is already extensive fact-checking on these articles before they are posted. BBC, Washington Post, New York Times, and Bloomberg will rarely publish inaccurate information. Although there is always an ongoing debate about whether the news is biased, the fact of the matter is, the facts and statistics published in these publications will rarely be incorrect, and if they are, they will publish a retraction or correction to clarify.
Typically, government websites are trustworthy. Look for the .gov domain. World Factbook, Science.gov, the US Census Bureau, and other government websites generally will not post false or misleading information, but of course, certain government sites can be biased based on the administration, so you must even be wary of the content on government sites.
Blogs and Wikipedia, while not always trustworthy by themselves, can be a helpful jumping-off point for research, especially when they cite their own reliable sources. If you find something helpful that you want to share on a blog or Wikipedia page, try to cite the original source rather than the secondary source where you found the info.
What happens when personal brands don’t focus on reliability?
The best way to illustrate how reliability can make or break personal branding is to examine the rise and fall of a public figure like Elizabeth Holmes.
At the beginning of her career, her personal brand was incredibly strong. In 2015, Business Insider called Holmes the youngest self-made woman billionaire. Her health technology company Theranos, founded in 2004, was going to be able to test a few droplets of blood to detect common health issues. Her story stood as an inspiration to young female scientists and entrepreneurs around the world as a college drop-out who turned her focus to designing a medical device – the Edison – that would “democratize healthcare.”
Holmes lost public trust because her statements turned out not to be true – the Edison device didn’t do what she promised it could. The FDA began investigating Theranos in August 2015, identifying “major inaccuracies” in the testing process. In late 2015, an exposé was published that revealed the fraud underlying the company’s and Holmes’ skyrocketing success. Holmes’ device could not give accurate results, so the company resorted to using off-the-shelf blood testing machines, rather than the Edison. Not only did her personal brand suffer, but she is now facing trial for federal fraud charges and numerous civil lawsuits – all due to an egregious lack of credibility.
Holmes’ personal narrative helped her gain funding for Theranos in the first place. It allowed her access to people and technology that allowed her runway to build a company and sell a product that didn’t really exist. If she had used her personal brand to work on something truthful, honest, and realistic then she and her company would not be in the mess that they are in today.
Whether you’re just starting out building your personal brand or have been working on it for years, one thing that everyone can get behind is the priority of being trustworthy and reliable. Hopefully the tips above have left you with ideas to sharpen your brand and if you want to learn a bit more, please reach out to us at the Bell + Ivy contact page.