Warning: this post contains a picture of a naked Frenchmen. I’m not joking. That is not a ploy or a cheap copywriter trick to get you to keep reading. I kind of wish it was, actually.
A French fashion brand got caught with their pants down this week when they accidentally posted a picture of a naked man in a children’s clothing advertisement. According to a Stylist.co.uk article, the fashion line La Redoute posted the picture on its website, much to the outrage of French consumers.
Quoth the French blog 20Minutes.fr: “Gros «fail» de La Redoute.”
Naturally, La Redoute posted an embarrassed apology and pledged to take down the unfortunate photobomb. But here’s the scary thing: I can totally see it happening to anyone.
Put down your torches and pitchforks, readers: I know a nude Frenchman rising out of the waters like some middle-aged, balding Aphrodite isn’t exactly obscure. But with the constant push for fresh content and tight deadlines, things can and do fall through the cracks– things like naked Frenchmen in a children’s advertisement, for example.
Taking that extra ten minutes to comb through your work means the difference between a solid piece of content and a PR fail. Don’t let your site suffer a “le fail” a la La Redourte: here’s a checklist of content fails to look out for before you hit that “submit” button.
Forget writing and editing: for me, the most time-consuming part of producing web content is the image-hunting. I’m looking for the true diamond in the Creative Commons rough: that high-quality, eye-catching photo that’s still completely relevant to my content. It’s maddening. By the time I’ve found a decent image, it’s taken so long that it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if there was a whole tribe of naked Frenchmen tap-dancing in the corner.
Questions to ask yourself before you hit publish on those images:
- Is there anything inappropriate or questionable in the background?
Look close– your readers can zoom in pretty far into that picture. You should too.
- Are any of the subjects wearing anything inappropriate? Are they wearing any symbols or logos you don’t recognize?
Look out for T-shirt slogans and keep an eye out for anything you’re not sure of– the last thing you’d want is to unknowingly post a picture of the international Neonazi Care Bear symbol.
- Is the watermark appropriate? Check closely — and also take the time to check out the photographer. Promoting an avid pornographer’s work generally isn’t considered a good business practice.
Granted, video fails aren’t always a bad thing: the road to everything from America’s Funniest Home Videos to Youtube was paved with video fails. At the same time, you generally want to be the one doing the pointing and laughing rather than having another site point at you.
The number one rule for preventing video fails is to watch the entire video. Watch it twice. I don’t care if it’s a 50-minute lecture from Ben Stein– watch the entire thing. Keep an ear out for cursing or slurs.
Can we start with the obvious and the most obnoxious?
Kids, watch your grammar and spelling. Lord knows I’ve made enough typos to keep Merriam-Webster in business for 200 years, but it’s no excuse: proof your stuff. Have someone else proof your stuff. Hire an editor or coerce a friend to check your content. You lose your credibility with each typo that slips through.
Plus, you know there’s always going to be that one commenter who feels morally obligated to passive-aggressively point out your spelling error.
Other text fails include:
- Freudian slips or other mix-ups. I wrote “bubble tape” instead of “bubble wrap” three times this morning. Other recent personal mistakes include writing “waterboarding” instead of “wakeboarding.” I’ll say it again: proof your stuff.
- Broken or misdirected links. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS check your links before you hit publish.
- Misquotes. Triple-check anything you quote: hell hath no fury like a misquoted source.
- Untrustworthy sources. Wikipedia still is not a trustworthy source, guys. Neither is that sketchy Geocities site from 1999. If you’re in doubt, don’t link to it.
Let one fail slip through and the hungry pack of Internet commenters will turn on you in a second. It’s your choice: catch those fails today, or write a public apology for your naked Frenchman incident tomorrow.
Nicki Porter is a working writer, fledgling foodie, and admitted alliterationaddict from Boston. She once accidentally wound up on a nude beach in the Outer Banks and couldn’t figure out why everyone else was naked. You can follow her on Twitter at @nickimporter. And don’t forget to come hang out with CopyPress on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr!