The worst news story ever – and how to avoid similar mistakes

Five ways to ensure you never publish an article that’s 100% content-free

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when content you are responsible for has gone out with a mistake? It’s bad enough when publishing online where issues can be resolved as soon as they’ve been spotted, but imagine how the editor of the Lancashire Telegraph felt when they opened a recent issue to be greeted with this nonsense headline.

And it wasn’t only the header that was filler text, the whole article was made up of the meaningless Latin that is used in layouts precisely so it is not mistaken for the real thing.

The story was reported in Press Gazette and is what is known in the business as a right shocker. So how do such slip-ups happen, and how, as content marketers, can we prevent them?

Establish a workflow

Set up a system through which all your content must pass. It doesn’t need to be complicated but it does need to be written down so there’s no doubt about the various stages of creation, amendment, approval and publication.

Items of content may need to loop back through the amendment and approval stage several times as they are honed to perfection, but they should never miss out on the final stages.

At Content Cloud we’re currently working with the employee benefits specialist Unum on a major content project and the approval and proofing process is relatively complex due to financial regulations that must be adhered to. Make sure that your workflow is fit for purpose too.

Use your editorial talent well

Some people are great at coming up with content ideas or writing headlines. Others may lack creative sparkle but are brilliant at grammar and can spot a misplaced apostrophe from half a mile. Make sure you have the right person checking your content for accuracy and ensuring that it’s error free.

Proofreaders are born, not made, so find someone in your team who’s up to the job or use a platform like Content Cloud to hire a specialist as needed. After all, you don’t want to end up like Donald Trump – even his official inauguration poster had a typo.

Donald Trump's official inauguration poster was removed from sale after the typo was noticed

Check and cross-check

It doesn’t matter how good any one person is, they are only human. One pair of eyes is not enough to ensure your content goes out error-free. If you make (or overlook) a mistake once, the chances are you’ll miss it when proofing. Have someone else check, and if that’s simply not possible, build in enough time so that you can come back to the piece with fresh eyes.

Clarify responsibilities

It’s great to have plenty of people checking a piece of work for accuracy and errors but this approach has its dangers. There’s a risk that people don’t apply themselves 100% because they know that someone else is also checking.

The solution is to make the delegation of responsibility very clear at each stage and to have a series of individual checks rather than a group free-for-all.

Post-publication checks

Don’t rest on your laurels just because everything looks perfect at the proof or preview stage. Always double-check the web page or published email once it has gone live or been sent. Problems with coding or image resolution can throw curve balls: make sure you’re the first person to spot them.

by Miles Kendall. Contact him here.

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