Sandra Ericson|Sep 12, 2013

Opinion editorials, known as “op-eds,” can be an extremely effective tool in the PR toolbox to deliver a message in a client’s own words – often on complex or controversial issues being covered in the news.

Op-eds are often penned by C-level executives, legislators, and even famous actors and actresses. Angelina Jolie used the forum to deliver news of her preemptive double mastectomy and Anna Gunn recently authored an opinion piece on her “Breaking Bad” character.

In a way, op-eds are an opportunity to bypass the system – to ensure one’s thoughts are delivered directly and in no way adapted by a reporter’s intended or unintended media filter.

They are usually not a vehicle for foreign policy, but Vladimir Putin’s op-ed in the New York Times may have changed that.

I won’t opine on whether the New York Times should have run the piece. My interest lies in the strategy behind it, which was highly developed. The piece sends a strong message, not just in its language but also in the channel used.

Mr. Putin could have delivered a press conference – certainly there is no shortage of media coverage of the developments of the U.S. stance on Syria. Instead, he went directly to the people. The head of another state bypassed ambassadors, our secretary of state and even our president to ensure his message was heard by U.S. residents – unaltered and in his own words.

Regardless of whether we agree with Mr. Putin’s stance, the boldness of his entrance into our morning ritual sends a message in and of itself.

Politics and PR have always gone hand in hand. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s weekly “Fireside Chats” radio addresses are studied by many PR practitioners till this day. President Obama’s administration has used social media extremely effectively to deliver messages and raise campaign funds.

In this day and age, there is no shortage of ways to reach audiences directly. With declining media staffing and increased accusations of bias, the op-ed is a method that can make a lot of sense.

A quick review of the comments to Putin’s piece shows he got his message out loud and clear. While many are skeptical of his sincerity, commenters used words like “respect,” “guts” and “bravo” to describe their thoughts on his effort to reach them. Remember folks, we are talking about Russia here.

One of the most talked about points of Putin’s op-ed is where he responds to President Obama’s speech on Syria: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

The irony of Mr. Putin’s point is that his op-ed could be one of the most exceptional PR moves in recent history.


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