Beyond PR

Jan 22, 2016

How to Use Experts to Give Context to Risky Content Topics

Using Subject Matter Experts to Add Credibility

Some of the most memorable marketing moments occur when a brand successfully inserts itself into a trending topic or widely discussed event. Consider the attention Oreo garnered with its good-humored tweet during 2013’s Superbowl black out.

For every example like this, though, there have been other brands whose efforts didn’t turn out so well.

When a trending topic steers toward risky subject matter, brand commentary can be perceived as out-of-context, unrelated, biased or insensitive. And audience reaction to a brand’s mishandling can quickly escalate into a crisis communications nightmare.

However, this doesn’t mean that companies should always shy away from an opportunity to shed light on important issues that are relevant to their brands.

It’s very difficult to do–especially with social and economic topics–but if you provide valuable context, you can make a significant impact.

A notable example of this is when Netflix teamed with the New York Times to investigate the largely overlooked issues affecting incarcerated women. The piece titled Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work intended to promote the latest season of the streaming service’s original series “Orange is the New Black.”

There were many reasons this article worked. Namely, it earned its legitimacy by utilizing investigative reporting and commentary from third-party experts who worked closely with advocacy groups and research institutions related to the cause.

While search engines, databases and books are helpful for basic information gathering and your brand’s own thought leaders may be able to give an industry take, a research analyst, data scientist or other expert can add an important layer of credibility to stories that touch on controversial and difficult topics.

An expert’s body of knowledge can offer insight into real-world issues by connecting your brand with the following resources.

Historical Context

Even if a topic is relevant to a company’s mission, in-depth knowledge from experts may be necessary to maintain the integrity of branded content. In worst case scenarios, content that comments on a timely issue without the proper context can be viewed as tasteless self-promotion.

Part of a research analyst’s job is to gather as much information about the past to make sense of present events and inform predictions about the future. They’re expected to regularly publish their research in academia, written reports and public presentations.

Because of this, the breadth and depth of knowledge an analyst has on a particular subject is more thorough than what can be mustered in a few hours of research.

Data Trends

When a major news event occurs, the most immediate reaction is to understand the underlying reasons or facts that led to why it happened–particularly if the event touches on sensitive subject matter.


Analysts develop and test theories, using information from any relevant sources such as interviews, periodicals, case law, historical papers or statistical sources to connect the dots.

As the Netflix example showed, an analyst’s unique ability to translate the meaning of information to others is another reason why including a third-party perspective is critical.

Access to Other Exclusive Resources

Third-party experts like analysts, professors or researchers are a reliable source for answers because their daily lives are immersed in deconstructing issues that affect the public.

Because significant events and trends rarely happen in a vacuum, analysts often consult with research agencies, the media, government officials and other knowledgeable groups or individuals regarding issues that are important to the public.

This exclusive access to resources lends additional authority to stories with analyst commentary.

For brands, there’s a fine line between playing it safe and going overboard when discussing sensitve subject matter. Ultimately, you need to decide whether your involvement honestly adds value to the topic or distracts from it.

Although commentary that comes solely from a brand can be viewed as pushing the company’s agenda, partnering with an informative and trustworthy third-party source can have a lasting effect on the relationships you’re building with both media and customer audiences.

Connecting journalists on deadline with useful information from a dependable expert can help foster trust with journalists. Additionally, credibility and authenticity are major factors in cementing a customer’s loyalty towards your brand.

If the opportunity arises for you to position your organization as a thought leader who can offer relevant perspective on a topic, it’s important to supplement that perspective with the insight of an analyst or data scientist who can add more value and make your contribution educational rather than promotional.

Download Identifying Opportunities & Issues: Keys to Monitoring Traditional & Social Media for tips on understanding which topics are important to your brand’s target audience. And if you need help connecting with analysts, researchers and other experts, click here to submit a free query through ProfNet.

Author Shannon Ramlochan (@sramloch) is an associate product manager, eCommerce for PR Newswire. Prior to stepping into this role, she supported PR Newswire’s ProfNet service as an audience content specialist.

2 Comments on Blog Post Title

­ rsting 04:06 EST on Jan 26, 2016

its the best.

­ Kam 06:26 EST on Jan 28, 2016

good info, thanks

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