weight of wordsWords carry weight and content publishers have a responsibility to choose their words wisely, particularly Authoritative Content publishers who have earned the trust of their audiences as credible sources of information. While traditional news media veers toward sensationalism in headlines and stories (watch a cable news network for five minutes and you’ll see more than one example), Authoritative Content publishers have a unique opportunity to differentiate themselves and their content simply through word choices.

Yesterday, Merrill Perlman of the Columbia Journalism Review published an article urging journalists to “beware of journo-speak.” Referencing a New York Times article by Margaret Sullivan, Perlman explains, “Tone is set in many ways, with word choice being the most basic. Being aware of connotations allows a writer to convey more impact.” However, she warns jounalists to recognize when they’re choosing words because they “carry connotations that affect the reader perception of the event being described.” Perlman points out, “Only journalists would call a tragedy a ‘mishap’.”

Each publisher has to make the choice of what reputation they want to develop in the news and information marketplace. What do you want your editorial voice to be? To that end, each publisher must ensure that their staff of writers understands the desired reputation and chooses words and phrases that are consistent with that reputation.

Think about the content sources you visit each day. Do the words used in their content accurately reflect the brand reputation and promise. You’d expect to see sensational headlines on BuzzFeed, not so much on The Wall Street Journal.

When an Authoritative Content publisher shifts gears and starts to publish content to feed the extreme, whether it be to increase social media shares and traffic or it’s simply the act of a rogue writer, it can have far-reaching negative effects because it will confuse the audience. Your audience develops expectations for your content over time, and if your content fails to consistently meet those expectations, they’ll become confused. The audience will turn away from your brand in search of another that does meet their expectations in every interaction. Bottom-line, confusion is the number one brand killer.

Remember, the words you publish are directly connected to your brand and should adhere to the three core steps of brand building: consistency, persistence, and restraint.

Do your words match your Authoritative Content brand promise?

Image: Terry Johnston licensed CC BY 2.0