When you think of horror stories, you might picture masked men or psychotic clowns. Who can forget Friday the 13th’s Jason Vorhees, Halloween’s Michael Myers, or Stephen King’s IT? For many of us, being scared is a lot of fun — as long as it’s all make-believe. Of course, sometimes bad things happen to people in real life. And while they may not always end in blood and gore, they can still be horrifying.

We recently sent out a call for the best content horror stories. We were looking for the kinds of gaffes that would haunt you in your nightmares or, at the very least, leave your skin crawling. Much to our ghoulish delight, you came through with dozens of haunting tales of content gone wrong.

Below we’re sharing five of the best real-life stories we received. They’re full of content-related madness, murder, and mayhem. Well, maybe not quite that extreme, but horrifying nonetheless. Read on if you dare…

  1. Context Is King

We heard about a sports apparel brand that came up with the hashtag #winningsolveseverything, which they tweeted after one of Tiger Woods’ big golf wins. The problem was that they’d written the hashtag a month before. And no one noticed the breaking news that Woods had just been busted for infidelity right before they used it. 

According to our source, the media pounced on the tweet. You could “hear the sound of 1,500 hands slapping foreheads across the company,” the source added. Ultimately, the sports apparel brand took a hit and several people lost their jobs. Today, we’re told the company’s director of social media has to give final approval for any and all copy that’s published across the brand’s 689 social channels.

  1. Shi* Happens

The you-know-what hit the fan at a global technology company when a typo made its way to scores of customer inboxes around the world. In their rush to get a newsletter out, the company’s corporate communications team had accidentally missed the letter f when typing the word shift. And while they received lots of colorful feedback for the mistake, including plenty of good-natured ribbing, the company has since taken steps to avoid running into similar issues again. 

  1. What’s the Score?

From Australia, we heard about how an attentive web team averted an awkward messaging crisis. The team was asked to upload an advertisement to an Australian university’s homepage, but immediately noticed something was wrong. The ad belonged to a campaign about how the university didn’t require applicants to achieve a particular score in a national ranking, as part of its admissions process. The problem was that it featured a picture of one of the university’s female students and the words “You’re more than just a score.” Apparently, the marketing team that produced the ad was oblivious to how people might interpret the reference to the young girl as a “score.”   

  1. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda… DITA

When a European low code development platform started publishing manuals using DITA Open Toolkit (an open-source publishing engine for XML content authored in the Darwin Information Typing Architecture), it ran into problems. Unfortunately, no one noticed that topics were being pulled into the manual automatically that weren’t actually part of the DITAMAPs. It was the company’s customers who ultimately found the error, after being completely baffled as to why they’d found instructions in the documentation that weren’t actually relevant for the product they were using. We’re told the team responsible got chewed out for a week because of the mistake.

  1. What’s in a Name?

Book publishing is famously known for its content errors. Yet one publisher we heard from had a story that takes the cake. She and her team were surprised when they received an angry call from an author who had just received an advance copy of her book. When the author opened the package, she was alarmed to see that her name was nowhere to be found on the book’s cover. Worse yet, the book was her memoir. While plenty of people had seen the cover, no one had spotted the omission. Ultimately, the publisher had to trash 10,000 already-printed copies and delay the book’s release.

Scared to Death? Don’t Be.

In every horror movie you’ve ever seen, there’s always that moment when you find yourself wanting to scream at the characters. Don’t go investigate that noise in the attic by yourself! Don’t walk home alone when you know there’s a killer on the loose! Don’t be a big shot when it could cost you your life!

If there’s a parallel lesson for content creators, it’s don’t take anything for granted. You can’t just assume things are right. You need to make sure. That means checking your work and checking it again. Because even with the best intentions, mistakes happen. And sometimes, they have dire consequences. Anything you can do to help eliminate errors, like adopting the right governance technology, can be the difference between content success and living your own content horror story. 

You can learn more about how Acrolinx can help you steer clear of content nightmares here. Or, check out our product demo video:

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