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7 Research Strategies to Get the Facts Right

Readers will trust your content marketing if it's based on facts. That's why solid research is essential. The Digital Marketer shares best practices that journalists must follow when getting the story.

By
Diane S. Thieke,
August 21, 2013

Market research gets a lot of ink in blogs and marketing journals, but there’s another kind of research that’s essential to digital marketing. Story research captures news, data, facts, quotes, and other information that will get readers talking about your original content.

After journalism school and a decade as a news editor, I’m well versed with the steps for researching a story that is credible and fact-based. As a content marketer, these journalistic skills and standards are particularly effective when creating original content. Getting the facts straight in content marketing is absolutely critical to building readers’ confidence in your brand and for creating content that they will want to share.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a simple tweet, crafting a blog post, or creating an in-depth ebook, your research needs to be solid. Build your argument with proof, anecdotes, and third-party analysis.

The process that journalists follow to write news stories isn't complex, but it is essential to follow if you want to get the facts right. Here are the 7 best practices that you can use when conducting credible research to support your content marketingL

7 Best Practices for Conducting Research

Good research takes time. The amount of research you need to do depends on the type of content you’re creating. A 500-word blog post may require a couple hours of research, but an ebook or presentation may take many hours over several weeks. Schedule more time than you think you may need. Finding the right facts requires great care, and can be time-consuming. 

Go right to the source for the information you need. Primary research will produce both unique insight and exclusive quotes or data. For one company, I wrote several presentations and papers about the impact of emerging technologies on the future. In addition to our own technologists, who closely watched developments in the industry (and were often breaking new ground themselves), I interviewed futurists, academics, and leaders at big tech companies to get a fuller picture.

Insist on reliable data. Data from surveys and studies strengthens your argument, but evaluate the source and the methodologies carefully. A reputable research firm will use scientific methods that produce credible data. However, be sure to understand the motivation of research sponsors. While the data may be scientifically valid, it may be perceived as slanted.

Don’t rely on a single source. Even if that fact you found perfectly underscores the point you’re trying to make, be certain to confirm that it’s actually true – ideally from three separate, unrelated sources. And, of course, Wikipedia should never be your first and last stop.

Use current data. Sometimes this is surprisingly difficult to find. Broad social, demographic, economic, and financial measures are usually updated annually. But there may be huge gaps in updates for data that’s not in wide demand. Favor data that is no more than a year old, and if you do cite studies older than that, acknowledge it.

Carefully document all sources. Although it’s tedious, capturing the details of each source using APA, MLA, or Chicago style will be well worth the trouble. You’ll need to link or cite the source in your final project, and you may need to refer back to the original to clarify or expand the reference. At that moment, you’ll be glad you took the time. Additionaly, tTools like Evernote make it easy to capture website links and original sources.

Be accurate. Credible content is truthful and credits all sources. If you succeed, you’ll build trust with your audience. 

Photo courtesy of FutUndBeidl on Flickr

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