An amazing thing happened during the Oscars Sunday night. A major news outlet used a PR tactic to reframe an argument and put its opposition on the defense. The newspaper also took control of its brand and positioned itself as not only a newspaper you should buy, but as something much larger—the defenders of Truth. (I capitalized the “T” on purpose.)

“The Truth is Hard” is the NYT’s first TV ad in seven years, and the very first time they’ve taken out an ad during the Oscars.

This is exciting for me because it’s a direct response to a brand perception problem. The Trump administration continues to accuse the NYT (and other news outlets) of being “Fake News”. In response, the NYT’s advertising agency, Droga5, smartly leveraged the opportunity to tackle the accusation head-on, to reframe the brand, and to execute the brand repositioning on multiple channels with strong creative execution. This PR-driven campaign is something our team has practiced over the past couple of years and has encouraged our clients to act upon.

PR is no longer only about pitching your brand to the media or reacting to communications emergencies. Instead, it’s a way to look at a brand, think about how you want that brand to be perceived and then work every single day to find ways to shore up your reputation.

Sometimes that involves long-term actions like corporate partnerships or two-year campaigns—and sometimes, it’s about making sure your staff reply on Facebook in a way that sounds like your organization.

For the NYT to develop a brand position like “The Defender of Truth,” there’s room to expand into new channels and product categories that stay true to its stated mission (but may not have been thought of or invented yet). The same idea relates to the Washington Post, who last week placed a new slogan under its online masthead, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Yes, both the NYT and Washington Post started as print newspapers, but is there really any reason either company couldn’t use its mission and investigative approach to succeed in the augmented reality sphere?

There is so much potential for the future of branding and PR – and I think these two media outlets are reframing their positioning beautifully. I look forward to seeing what they and others come up with next.

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