I once promised that I wouldn’t use profanity on my site so I need to point out right away that C.R.A.P. is an acronym.
It stands for a handy way to determine if what you’re reading is reliable or not. I know – too many Americans don’t take the time to figure this out. If what they read agrees with how they think, they assume it’s true.
Embarrassingly, it often isn’t.
Even if you use a ghostwriter, it’s up to you to ensure that what he or she writes is accurate, balanced and based purely on facts. Your reputation is on the line. Your image is on the line. Your authority in all things real estate is most definitely on the line.
So, let’s break it down and learn why you should use a C.R.A.P. detector for every piece of content posted to your site and in your marketing materials.
“C” is for Currency
Subject every source you use in your work to the “Currency Rule.” How recent is the information you’re reading? Topics dealing with technology become outdated quickly, whereas others, such as “How to Buy a House,” don’t (unless mortgage rates, rules, etc. change).
I typically won’t use information that is over one year old. In fact, when I research for my clients’ real estate topics, I direct Google to not give me anything older than that. It’s easy to do:
- Type your topic into the search box
- Narrow down the results by clicking on “Tools” (last button on the right, directly under the magnifying glass icon in the top search box).
- Click on “Any Time” and then “Past Year.”
“R” is for Reliability
How reliable is the information? For instance, today I read a news piece about the Vegas shooting. The piece was about the Islamic State’s self-avowed involvement in the massacre.
It was rolling along, in typical “newsy” fashion, until I got to the writer’s explanation about Islamic State’s video in which they brag about causing the attack.
“In what appears to be a desperate publicity stunt,” the writer says, the terror group took credit.
Now, my C.R.A.P. detector is well-honed and, as soon as I hit that sentence, I also hit the back-button on my browser. I don’t need a reporter telling me how he FEELS about the news. I want the facts. And, while it may appear to him to “be a desperate publicity stunt,” it has not been proven to be one. So, the entire article becomes garbage, in my mind.
So, be on the lookout for opinions cloaked as fact and disregard the entire piece if you run across this.
Then, there are sources. In the writer’s world, sources are everything. I mean, it would be so much easier if I were an expert at all things, but, alas, I must rely on those who are more learned in any particular topic area. And, you should too.
One of my pet peeves is the writer who mentions a source but doesn’t link to it. Or, the writer who gets the name of the source wrong so that it’s impossible to follow it up. Then, there are those who throw out “facts,” with no sources listed.
So, when it comes to reliability, seek out articles that are sourced properly and ensure that the sources used are credible.
By the way, Wikipedia is NOT a credible source
Even the site’s founder says it isn’t and, every journalist in the country is warned against using it as such.
“A” is for Authority
Have you noticed how, on the internet, everyone is an expert? E-How.com is the perfect example of this.
You’ll find articles on healthcare written by stay-at-home moms who list “arts and crafts” as their passion. You’ll find articles on legal topics written by auto mechanics and, yes, real estate advice from people who have neither ever sold a home nor held a real estate license.
Look at the author’s credentials. Ensure that the person who wrote the article is knowledgeable and always – always – always determine if there is an ulterior motive to publishing the piece.
“P” is for Purpose
Even on sites you may consider highly credible, such as Forbes.com, you’ll find pieces about topics for which the author has a vested interest – such as one I recently came across about predictive analytics, a topic I’m keenly interested in.
Before reading it, however, I searched the author’s bio and, lo and behold, the guy is a salesperson for a certain predictive analytics firm. So, no, I didn’t bother reading it.
What about government sources – can they be trusted? Not particularly.
Who has a more vested interest in setting the narrative and engineering our thoughts than the United States Government? Let’s use the jobs numbers – which the media relies on so heavily — as an example.
Years ago, during the Obama administration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics changed a number of key metrics used to determine whether or not someone was employed or unemployed.
For example, you are not considered unemployed if you don’t have a job but have stopped looking for work over the past month. Even if you desire work, that is BLS’ criteria to be counted among the unemployed.
Here’s another one: “an out-of-work engineer, construction worker or retail manager who performs a minimum of one hour of work a week and receives at least $20 in compensation,” is not considered unemployed, according to Gallup News.
So, are the unemployment numbers released by the government a reflection of reality? Of course not.
Feel free to ask yourself “why?” but truly, the answer is a no-brainer. Just don’t take what you read as fact, even if it comes from the government.
As a real estate agent, you understand how important honesty is. You warn your clients to be painfully honest on the disclosure statement they must submit to the buyer. You understand what you can and cannot legally state in your advertising.
It’s a pity that the same relentless adherence to veracity isn’t exercised by so many agents in their website content.
Demand that your real estate writer exhibits a healthy skepticism, the ability to think critically, be obsessed with accuracy and has the ability and willingness to thoroughly research and evaluate sources before writing on the topics you assign.
By the way, the C.R.A.P. analysis was developed by Molly Beestrum, library instruction coordinator at Columbia College Chicago.