Four Classic Content Research Mistakes to Avoid

In prior blogs, I’ve championed the power of strong, supportive research in content. When you back up a client’s insights with substantive survey findings/statistics/analysis, etc., you’re boosting the credibility of the messaging. By combining the client’s expertise with independent, on-point and vetted data or information, you establish an authoritative voice. Without it, you’re simply presenting … an opinion. And an opinion on its own doesn’t exactly make for compelling content.

That said, it takes a significant amount of time and effort to “get research right,” and there are many mistakes that a content professional can make along the way which diminish the intended impact of an article, blog, opinion piece or white paper. Since three of four B2B marketers aspire to build credibility and trust with their content, we need to avoid these four common pitfalls:

Quoting/linking from second or third-hand sources

I’m astonished at how seldomly articles quote/link to first-hand sources of research. Too often, they link back to a news story or even another company’s blog which summarizes the findings. The best way to ensure that you’re quoting/linking with 100 percent authenticity – eliminating the potential for any misinterpretation of materials – is to track down the original source and link to that source’s landing page for the study.

Failing to attribute

Even worse than quoting/linking to second-hand sources, a great deal of content makes no attribution at all. It presents data without providing a semblance of a clue as to where it came from. Obviously, this takes away from the article’s credibility. It also does a disservice to readers who would like to review the source material in its entirety. (Don’t make them hunt for it!)

Getting it wrong

Summarizing research often requires the writer to calculate various figures, or, at the very least, report them accurately. It’s too easy to report an incorrect number, which is why you need to crosscheck and double-check how you’re presenting the information. (Hint: You’ll hit 100 percent on accuracy here with a simple “copy/paste” of numbers as presented online by the original source. If a figure requires calculation, then repeat the math no less than once or twice.)

Using dated research

I aim to limit my use of findings that are more than a year old. The world – especially for our agency’s clients – is moving rapidly these days. You can’t quote statistics about, say, cyber threats that came from two years ago or longer. It’s too dated. Besides, tech trend data is updated all the time. Adjust your search filter so your results are relatively “fresh.”

When you avoid these mistakes and commit to rigorous research, you will distinguish your work from competitors who take shortcuts on attribution and vetting and, as a result, produce content with highly suspect findings. Before any content-focused phone call or meeting with a client, I always invest no less than an hour (if not more) in calling up multiple reports about the topic at hand. It demonstrates to the client that I have come to the table prepared. Besides, at least some of the research will end up supporting the article – it never amounts to a wasted effort.

This is just part of the total dedication to quality and professionalism that our Content division – as well as our agency as a whole – makes every day. If you’d like to learn more about what we can do for you, then please contact us.