Ethical content is any content created with people, purpose and the planet in mind. It is authentic to you and your brand and is used to tell inspiring stories, share important information, and educate your audience. Ethical content prioritises approaching content marketing with honesty and transparency, sharing accurate, valuable information in new and creative ways. When done well, it helps you create more engaging content and build a brand that connects deeply with your ideal audience.
In this article, we’re taking you through seven examples of best practices within ethical website content creation. We’ll share our top tips on how to create well-written content that considers your audience and environment, and examples of how you can do the same in your brand.
Fact-check your content
A good starting point for creating ethical website content is to consider where you find your information. Are you using specific news websites and studies for your information, or are you writing opinion-focused content? If it’s the first, then an important step to keep in mind is how trustworthy your sources are. Ethical content should always be accurate, informative, and come from reliable sources. Therefore, it’s essential that you gather your information from the right and relevant places. To ensure that the information you use in your content is reliable, collect it from a variety of different sources. Cross-reference different news sites to double-check they’re reliable because the last thing you want to do is share false information with your audience.
If you’re concerned about sharing misinformation with your audience, a good rule of thumb to follow is to go straight to the source. For example, if you’re reporting on government stories or policies, go directly to the gov.uk website for facts about the stories – rather than seeking information from outside influences who might misinterpret the content.
A great online resource for fact-checking the latest news is snopes.com. If you’re unsure whether or not what you’re hearing is the truth, it’s always a good idea to double-check before creating content.
Live by your brand values
Your brand values aren’t just a list of words that you create once and never refer back to. They should be present at every level of your organisation, from the people you work with to how you communicate on behalf of your brand. Having clear brand values that you embody through everything you do is an important part of creating a recognisable organisation. Not just that, but it also creates a sense of brand trust between you and your audience. However, how do you show your brand values through your communications?
Two of our core values focus on encouraging collaboration and empowering our team to be their true selves. Therefore, when it comes to creating content on behalf of our brand, we ensure that we get these messages across. One of the ways we do this is by writing informative articles that reflect our values – for example, our article about how to encourage collaboration in new teams. Through this work, we showed our passion for collaborative working, shared our unique views on collaboration and provided advice for other organisations looking to do the same. If you’re wondering how to begin embodying your values through your content creation, writing informative articles that reflect your views is a great place to start.
Living by your brand values can seem challenging, especially if you’re feeling unsure of how to create content that’s in your brand voice. Our guide on how to apply brand tone of voice will help you feel confident in writing content for your brand.
While we’re sure we’d all love to get things right all the time, it just isn’t possible. You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s completely fine! However, what’s important is that when you do make mistakes, or change your views on something, you own up to them. Taking accountability for what you say and do as an individual or as an organisation is essential if you’re aiming to create ethical website content.
Admitting you’re wrong can be hard, but it’s important to be open to change and adapt when something doesn’t go to plan. The first step to taking accountability is to be open to criticism, especially from your audience. Remind yourself that your audience supports you for a reason, and if they’re offering their criticism it’s out of respect for your brand. If you’ve built brand trust with your audience, their opinions are most likely with your best interests at heart. Be open to their feedback and be willing to take accountability when you know you’re in the wrong – your audience will appreciate your honesty.
Indeed’s article about accountability in the workplace is a fantastic resource to help you understand how you can be accountable for your own work, whilst encouraging your team to do the same.
Credit your sources
Transparency plays a significant part in delivering ethical content. An important of being transparent is to always credit your sources. By this, we mean that if you’re using external resources to create your content, be sure to give them credit for their work. Whether you’re referencing an in-depth university study or incorporating photography from a specific photographer, it’s important to evidence your sources and give credit for their brilliant work. Depending on the content you’re referencing, there are many different approaches you can take to crediting your sources. However, the most common sources to credit are usually websites and imagery.
If you’ve included statistics or information from a specific newspaper or article and want to know how to credit them in your articles, the easiest way to do this would be to include a link to the original source. To do this, simply include a short sentence explaining that the information was taken from a specific website, and add a hyperlink that links directly to the source alongside it.
If you’ve used photography from an external source, it’s always best practice to properly credit the photographer in your content. The easiest method for referencing imagery is to include the name of the photographer and the website that you found the image on underneath the photo. For example, below, we’ve included an image from an external website which wasn’t taken by us. Therefore, we’ve credited both the website the image is from and the original photographer in the image caption.
Whilst crediting websites and images is fairly self-explanatory, other types of referencing can come with their challenges. If you’re looking to reference specific books or sources in academic work, then you may need to use Harvard or Chicago referencing. For help using academic referencing techniques, the following sources may be useful:
Know your limits on content creation
It’s unreasonable to expect yourself to understand everything about every topic as a content creator. You can’t know everything! Just because a specific topic is relevant or prominent in the media, it doesn’t mean you need to create content about it. A skill in creating ethical content is knowing when a topic is relevant to you or your brand, and when it isn’t. After all, there’s no value in creating content for content’s sake.
Similarly, if you feel a topic is relevant to your mission but don’t have the specific knowledge or skills to create it, seek support from others in your network. Sometimes you may not have the expertise to create specific content, in which case, an expert in that field may be able to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice to create the most informative, inspiring and educational content you can, in the most ethical way.
Only you can know whether a certain topic is relevant to your brand or not. However, if you’re unsure about whether or not to post something, our advice is to refer back to your strategy and think about whether the content will appeal to your audience.
Quality over quantity
Ethical content is both entertaining and informative, which fundamentally comes down to quality. For your content to appeal to your audience, you want to provide value to them and not leave them feeling like they’ve wasted their time and energy engaging with it.
Some of our best tips for creating quality content are:
- Do your research: If you want to add value through your content, be sure to spend time thoroughly researching your chosen topic. This will ensure that your content provides your audience with insightful information that they can carry with them.
- Know your audience: Always keep your audience in mind when writing your content. They’re who you’re often writing the content for, after all. Spend time getting to know what they want from your content and always keep it front of mind when creating it.
- Carry out peer reviews: A second pair of eyes on a piece of content can make all the difference to its quality. Whether it’s a quick once-over review from a friend or colleague or an in-depth review session, both will add value and result in a quality piece of ethical content.
When you aren’t able to get a second person to review your work, there are plenty of other ways to double-check your content. A great resource to use is Grammarly, which can check your content for grammatical errors, tone of voice and how engaging it is.
Consider your use of language
Language is more than just the way you speak. It plays a key part in every way that you communicate as an individual and a brand. When thinking about creating content ethically, language is an essential part of the process. Your use of language should reflect your brand values and your tone of voice. When creating content for your organisation, it’s important to consider whether the way you’re communicating is in line with the values you set for yourself.
However, language is more than just communicating in the right brand tone. It’s also about the words and phrases you use. Being an ethical creator means being up-to-date with the most inclusive language and terminology, ensuring that your content is representative and respectful of changing language. Avoid stereotyping groups of people and making assumptions. Language is constantly changing, and it’s critical that you keep in the know about the nuances of language.
Helpful language resources
Language is ever-changing, which can be challenging to keep up with. To help keep you in the loop, here are two free tools to support your content creation:
- Inclusive language checker: An online tool that checks written content for potential issues with non-inclusive language
- Gender Decoder: A language-checker that analyses whether the content is more masculine or feminine-coded.
So, what can we learn from this?
We’ve covered a lot of ground here, but if there are three things to take with you into your own ethical content creation, it’s these:
- Authenticity is key: There’s no point in creating content if it isn’t true to who you are as an individual or organisation. If your content isn’t bringing anything new to the conversation, is it adding any value? Share your opinions and insights, and create with your unique voice in mind. That way, you’re always adding something new.
- Be open to change: You can’t stop change from happening so, instead of resisting, embrace it. Whether it means admitting your opinions have changed or adapting your language to reflect changes in terminologies, it’s important to welcome change wholeheartedly.
- Don’t over-create: Knowing when not to create content is just as important as knowing when to do it. Be confident in who you are as an individual or organisation and ask yourself, do I need to comment on this? Just because something is newsworthy, it doesn’t mean it’s relevant to your brand and audience.
Ready to start creating?
We hope this article will help you feel more confident and empowered to create ethical content on behalf of yourself or your organisation. But, if you’re looking for even more insights on how we create content with our audience in mind, follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn. For more updates on the latest news from Matchstick Creative, sign up for our monthly newsletter.