Publicist Matthew Hiltzik's New Gossip Strategy: Trust the Journalist, Not the Outlet

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Matthew Hiltzik

"While many brands are trustworthy, ultimately it's about the individual — and it's unfortunate that a few select people who pose as journalists are cheap-shot artists."

This story first appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

How has the gossip culture changed the job of a top media consultant?

Increased competition among media has led to evolving standards about what is acceptable to report. Many reporters have — or are seeking to become — brands of their own and have their own specific approaches, which may or may not fit with their outlet. People used to say X publication made a mistake. Now it's more that Y reporter made the mistake on X platform.

What's the best way to combat a bad story?

It depends on which audience would care about the story, how damaging it might be and whether a strong response makes the story bigger or leads to other unintended consequences. If we're confident that the story will eventually prove to be false, we might leave it alone because it might not have much impact in the new, fast news cycle. The more well known the person, the easier it is to communicate directly with their audience through social or other media, while someone with a more limited public and online profile faces fewer options.

Do you trust media less now?

The relationship with the reporter is paramount. While many brands are trustworthy and appreciated, ultimately it is about the individual … and it's unfortunate that a few select people who pose as journalists are cheap-shot artists.

Hiltzik is president and CEO of Hiltzik Strategies, which has represented Miramax, Katie Couric and Alec Baldwin.

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