Can your ideas stand up to critics?


Not everyone agrees with my thoughts on media relations.  For example, I recommend to my clients that, when they pitch a story, they alert the journalist to a contact who disagrees with them! That’s because I ensure my views and ideas can stand up to critics.

I have good reasons for my position on this. It’s a journalist’s job to put knowledge in context and when provide the context for your own knowledge or point of view, you help a journo out. And you impress them. It’s cool. You are willing to put your ideas up against detractors, and stand by them. Nice.

If you are building your media profile (as all women who aspire to leadership should be doing) helping and impressing journos is a good thing.

In my view, knowledge is more valuable — and empowering — when it is put in context.

As a business journalist, one of the most contentious questions I asked leaders of private companies was about their company’s revenue. Asking someone ‘what was your revenue in the last financial year?’ is a bit like asking ‘is your mother dead?’ – It’s simply not done in polite society.

Why did I want to publish these numbers? The main reason was to put the company in context in a way that could be substantiated. A company may claim to have grown at 5247% in the past 12 months, but if their turnover is actually $5247 now and was $1 a year ago, readers instantly understand a lot!

We all love context. Gina Reinhart is the richest woman in Australia, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was the biggest company in the world in 2013, cat movies are the most watched on YouTube. It’s the reason why we love reading blog posts like ‘The 10 best books on media relations’.

Lawyers are good at putting their knowledge in context. Whenever I managed to get an interview with a lawyer (rarely), they were great! They’d put both side of the story for me!

If I am trying to pitch a story about a new approach to media relations to a journalist. I get an interview, explain my view and then add: ‘If you want to talk to someone who disagrees with me, try Jane Doe at Jane’s PR Agency. She’d never advise anyone to alert a journalist to a detractor.’

This works in blogs, podcasts, and business presentations too. You increase your own credibility and cool if you put your point of view with the caveat: critics might say …

Critics might say, for example, that my detractor might outshine me, that I am giving a rival a free kick or even that the journalist will not trust any name that I supply. All are possible, but I believe it’s well worth the risk.


About Kath Walters

Trainer. Mentor. Speaker. Kath Walters is a former Fairfax business journalist turned expert in media relations and content marketing. Kath trains and mentors businesses that want to use media and content to build their profile and profits -- and change the world for the better -- sharing everything she has learned over 16 years of writing and editing for top quality print and digital media mastheads. Kath has written an estimated 1.3 million compelling, informative and carefully researched words. The mastheads that have published them include: LeadingCompany, BRW, Australian Financial Review, SmartCompany, Business Spectator, Crikey, Women’s Agenda, Property Observer.

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