It might sound hackneyed but the journalistic stand-by “if in doubt leave it out” remains solid advice. While referring to fact checking in the media world (after all defamation costs dearly) corporate communicators would be wise to apply it on a much broader scope.
Of course facts must also be correct in the corporate world – internal and external – there is no faster way of losing credibility and damaging your reputation and brand than getting facts wrong. But it’s not just your own content you need to be worried about.
Your audience does not differentiate between the information you create and the information you pass on. Spreading inaccurate, out-dated or simply fabricated information can have a significant negative impact.
By all means retweet, share or link to dissenting opinions, breaking news, fledgling theories and real-time presentations; this is crucial to being part of a discussion. But choose wisely and provide context for your reader. If you disagree with the opinion, say so. If the material is controversial, say so. If details are being relayed as events or an event unfold, make this clear so the reader knows to apply their own judgement.
But I promised more than facts.
The axiom can and should be applied to your tone, written or spoken. Can a reasonable person misinterpret your “witty” commentary as being rude or insensitive? Is a joke really appropriate in the circumstances? Will your attempt to be clear and simple be seen as dumbing down your presentation and therefore disrespectful?
Hitting the right tone is hard. How many times have you annoyed a close friend, someone you know extremely well, by misjudging your delivery? But on the other hand bland communication will be ignored.
I started with an axiom and will finish with. Listen to your gut. If you aren’t convinced… well you know what to do.