I recently had the pleasure of working on an article for a national paper, looking at how a particular scientific technique could reveal new insights into the world. Working closely with leading experts in this field at the client, we produced a piece which offered genuine insight into an area which few people would be aware of.
This type of approach – whilst of course not right for everything – feels quite rare in PR. The guiding principle for many seems to be controversy, not insight, is the easy route to coverage.
What this overlooks is that there are different types of writing, which elicit different responses. At school we are taught a mix of creative, persuasive and analytical (I was, anyway), with the latter developed further at university. Much PR and indeed journalism fuses creative and persuasive – hooking the reader in stirring up passions using emotive language.
This makes for good, easy reading (and therefore coverage). I enjoy such articles, but I rarely base any serious business or life decisions on them.
More considered articles, which make a balanced case, and reference facts, independent research or solid examples to back up their point, however, do influence my thinking. It’s not just long in-depth articles; plenty of short blogs, one-off comments and even lists offer useful insight (read Tom Chivers at Buzzfeed if you want to see how to combine easy reading with integrity). But in my experience conveying some level of expertise and credibility tends to get a more useful reaction from the kind of people who make important decisions (eg to buy your product, collaborate with you, or invest in you).
It is something for communications professionals to consider. What are we trying to achieve when we write? Do we just want coverage – to build brand awareness (and yes, sometimes we do) – in which case the controversial comment is probably not a bad route to take. Or do we want to inspire trust and confidence in what we do?
It would also be nice to think that PR – in the process of making our clients look good – enriches the media, rather than dumbing it down. In a world where journalists are time poor, we can help them access informed insight and conduct research which adds to industry understanding. The result will be more rewarding for our clients, journalists and their readers.