Should PR and Media Pro’s Offer Opinions?

I was recently contacted by Jess Todd about a particular controversy that I couldn’t help but weigh in on. For the entire encounter you can read over his blog, but in a nutshell he was basically lambasted for offering his opinions on a topic that he happened to know something about, rather than go the standard PR route. Those of you in PR know what I’m talking about, something  happens, or will happen and you send a release, the reporters call and you hand them off to an “expert” of some sort, or occasionally just someone else. Well what Todd did was streamline the process by contacting the media directly and simply stating that ” “as a media consultant, I have thoughts and opinions on the story and am available for interview or quotes.”

A few media outlets took him up on his offer and called him. Others however…went off calling his methods into question, accusing him of dictating what they should print, that it was their job to go find the “news” yada yada yada.

So this brings up a very good question. Is there a more efficient way to do things, some of the time? I have never been one to say that just because we have new methods we have to use them exclusively. However there have been many times when I knew I could make the reporter’s job a hell of a lot easier if I simply contacted them first with ALL the info they would need, rather than require them to have to go on a fishing expedition that they most likely don’t have time for anyway. So many story ideas get dropped for this very reason. Tight deadlines and stiff competition for space/time means that the days of the reporter who does all his or her own pounding of the pavement are long gone. PR professionals are here to help…so let us help. So to get back to the particular situation, which was his commenting on the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner, he shot me an email saying he wanted my take on the situation and my response to him was this:

“I think you are actually right on the money. I used to work in-house PR sending out the standard releases and when reporters would call, it was always me putting them in touch with someone else, one more step for them to take, and not because I wasn’t qualified but because that was simply how things were done where I worked. We were PR people, and treated by management as having little value – just get the right people to the reporters. Well, having been in the media business myself, having worked as a social media consultant, I too have an opinion on many subjects. Am I always the best? No. Am I an expert at everything I like to talk about? No. But then I don’t claim to be either. I am simply someone with experience that knows a few things about what is going on in the world, especially if it has to do with social media, PR or wildlife conservation.”

Where is the best place for those of us who have become hybrids at what we do? Is there a time when being efficient becomes overstepping our bounds as PR and Media professionals? Professionally I find nothing wrong with what Todd did or the idea of offering our services straight out whether they be quotes, opinions, whatever help we can provide to reporters so that they can get their job done faster, better and with better quality. Isn’t that after all one of the core responsibilities of public relations?

I applaud Todd for staying on top of the newest methods of breaking through to media. In today’s lighting quick world, when a plane crash is faster tweeted than reported on the six-o-clock news, it is all too important that people like him, people like me even continue the all important work of media and social media research to make sure that the public is always well-informed.

Think I’m wrong? Right? Have your own opinion you’re just dying to share? I welcome your comments.

(image courtesy of PRtalknow.com)

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4 Responses to “Should PR and Media Pro’s Offer Opinions?”

  1. megsworldview Says:

    The news doesn’t do any investigation anymore, so press releases and PR information is usually regurgitated verbatim. I was in the news business for almost a decade and witnessed the decay of the medium from real news and investigative reporting to PR/Corporate mouthpiece. I have also worked in the PR industry and do not fault them for this turn of events. I believe those of us who are entrusted with communicating information to the media do so with the best of intentions for our clients. It is the media’s responsibility to flesh out the story and follow it to its factual conclusion. We have to remember that facts are the most important part of these exchanges. Opinion has no place in media, and since it seems to dominate the news of late, we all need to be a bit more vigilant and responsible about the information we send out.

    • Kristina Summers Says:

      While I agree that facts should be the core of news coverage I entirely disagree when you say that opinion has no place. When we, as an expert on a subject matter give a quote, that is an opinion and of course it belongs in the story, the story would be nothing without it. The public values opinion leaders, that is why these people are called upon to give their ideas and thoughts in interviews and news articles. Reporters should double check all their facts of course and also check out their sources to make sure the opinions they use are not from Billy-bob hayseed who just might happen to have a web site, which is becoming the case more and more often. But as a media consultant, like Jess Todd, he is perfectly within his professional rights to offer his opinion on a subject matter he is familiar with and then leave it to the reporter to verify. Yes it is true that sadly many so-called web sites and media outlets do regurgitate press releases, but that doesn’t mean that opinions don’t matter or have no place, especially when you are on deadline. I too have worked on both sides of the fence and am a firm believer that yes we as reporters are entrusted with reporting the news. As PR professionals we are entrusted too, with providing the information that reporters need to get their jobs done. I appreciate your comment, thanks for stopping by.

  2. Jackbarganza Says:

    I stand in favor of the points mentioned here. The media tries to explore newest ways of ideating the information before presenting it to the world. With limited scope of period and insufficient facts, it often becomes difficult to make it a HIT! People are now free to express their thoughts and opinions in any way; it’s the interpretations that bring criticism. In this lightning fast world of communication, Todd’s idea of offering services can help reporters their job done faster. Give your own opinion, once you read his blog and view the http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yelST1iWR4o , you would be uttering words in support to him.


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