Having an opinion…

Written by Steve Carey

When I started out in journalism it was drilled into me from Day 1, “You’re not the story mate, you’re here to tell the story. Deliver the facts and let the audience decide whose right and who is wrong.”

Over the decade that I ran 7 News, I was determined to retain that sense of impartiality and fairness. Not always a popular path, but a crucial one for our credibility and brand. In fact, it took me years to join an AFL club, on the basis that no-one could accuse me of playing favourites.

How times have changed!

Now, everyone has an opinion… not just newspaper columnists, TV presenters and radio commentators.

Thanks to the social media explosion, everyone can have their say. From the laughable to the serious, if you want to be heard, read or seen on any subject you care to imagine, you can find a platform to deliver it and an audience to share it with.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, but these days it’s about how businesses, organisations and individuals manage and react to all those information flows in order to know what’s important. Particularly when it’s bad news being delivered!

For example, a bad restaurant review by a disgruntled customer would not carry the same weight of opinion as a newspaper food critic delivering the same news. Unless the customer happens to have a large online following or the review goes ‘viral’.

Makes sense doesn’t it? Yet over time I’ve been staggered by how some companies and individuals respond to negative commentary.

Sometimes sticking their heads in the sand… sometimes conducting huge and expensive campaigns to counter any slight – real or imagined.

Here’s what you need to consider:

  1. Does the person or organisation generating the opinion have credibility and authority?
  2. Is that opinion fair and reasonable, or is it factually flawed?
  3. What does it add to common knowledge and public debate?
  4. Is it a ‘hot’ media issue which will continue to run through many news cycles?
  5. How much interest and attention does the opinion piece generate (across all media platforms)?
  6. What are the risks in ignoring the opinion? Fighting the opinion?

If you consider all or some of those points it becomes easier to judge a response.

Myer boss, Bernie Brookes, learnt a lesson he won’t forget, as described in the May 6th issue of the Australian Financial Review, after he was attacked on social media last week over comments he made online about the about proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Mr Brookes told the Financial Review, on Sunday, that he’d been ‘“hurt” by a barrage of social media attacks last week from outraged consumers’ who called him “hard and uncaring” after suggesting a boost to the Medicare levy to fund the NDIS may mean fewer customers coming through his company’s doors.

Public opinion was fast and brutal. The hashtag #BoycottMyer began trending on Twitter soon after the comments, leading to a swift public apology from the Myer chief.

My opinion – always choose your words carefully…