These brands wish they'd used fact checkers

Thought leadership goes out the window when messy mistakes crush your credibility.

BY Megan Dawson
Associate Research Editor, Imagination

Thought (mis)leaders don’t go far.

Good content marketers establish brands as the experts in the biz: the go-to guys. The trusty resources. A quick, effective way to take away that hard-earned credibility is to publish a factual error.

Trust between a brand and its audience is everything. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Some brands have demonstrated impressive comebacks in the face of inaccuracy, but let’s be honest: We can’t all be business-rebounding unicorns.

For this week’s Thursday 3, I rounded up some brands that need to hire a fact checker (like ... yesterday). I rated them on my personally devised, scientific scale of Fact Check Flubbery for good measure.


The perpetually embroiled Delta once tweeted a photo of a giraffe to congratulate the U.S. on its World Cup victory over Ghana. It was a well-intentioned gesture, but giraffes are no more native to Ghana than Greenland. Lesson: Even small errors can do big damage. They make your audience feel you don’t care or are too lazy to do your homework. That’s not a good look for a content marketer.

Fact Check Flubbery Level 1: Warning for Failure to Reduce Speed. Many errors slip through the cracks because we’re moving too fast to catch them. A simple Google search can save a lot of embarrassment.

DC Comics

The comic book publisher erroneously cited “Pakistanian” as a translated language within a Superman/Wonder Woman annual. The problem? No such language exists; the official language of Pakistan is Urdu. Said one disenchanted comic fan to the Guardian: “I’m not offended personally. But when you have such a large operation and one Google search ruins your story? That offends me more.” Said another: “Either it’s lazy, which is troubling, or it’s ignorant, which is troubling, or it’s on purpose, which is troubling.” Count ’em up—that’s triple trouble for DC Comics.

Fact Check Flubbery Level 2: Probation. You’re on a tight leash with your audience, and the next slip-up is going to be costly. An in-house fact checker would be a worthy addition to the team.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee

The GOP campaign committee tweeted that Tammy Duckworth, a former Army National Guard pilot who lost both legs after a rocket-propelled grenade hit her helicopter in Iraq, has a “sad record of not standing up” for veterans—on International Women’s Day. A fact checker would have forewarned the committee about both the combat injury and that Duckworth worked as assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs upon her return from combat. The NRSC deleted the flagrant tweet about 10 minutes later—ample time for Twitter’s own fact check crusaders to flag the inaccuracy and spread it like wildfire.

Fact Check Flubbery Level 3: Hard Time for the Hard Facts. Good thing you have plenty of time to think about your fact checking process (or lack thereof). You’re going to need it while you’re rebuilding your severely depleted credibility.

Still not convinced? Well, you should know that I had a fellow fact checker review this post, and she saved me from an error. Fact checkers unite!

published: June 15, 2017

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