Sounding Like an Idiot

As the digital ad space gets more and more complex, and as more journalists are being turned on to the privacy concerns, disruption in the space and the sheer volume of dollars being poured into it, I find myself spending significant amounts of time with reporters to explain concepts. 

I'm from a reporting background.  Heck, I worked together with a bunch of neighbors to get a newspaper started in my hometown.  I've got a Journalism & Mass Communications degree from the university that established the country's first formal journalism program.   I've had press training.

The digital ad ecosystem is complex.  Reporters often come to me not understanding who the players are, how the technology works, or where the pain points are.  More times than I care to admit, I've explained this stuff "on background" with reporters, pointing them toward concepts to examine, companies and people to talk to, and identifying the pitfalls for them. 

I feel like I'm being very upfront with these reporters.  "This is on background," I tell them.  "Here's where you should look," or "Here's who you might want to talk to."  Whenever somebody used the word "background" with me when I was a reporter, it meant that I was being given the information to help me with my story, but that none of it would be attributable.

Why, then, am I seeing myself quoted by reporters who cover the space when I do this?  Further, why does the reporter see the need to quote me in the voice that I use when I'm talking on background?  The voice I use in that case is very informal, in the language I might use if I were trying to explain a concept at a cocktail party to someone who has a 101-level understanding of the space. 

What I'm finding is that I'm spending hours giving background, and I'm being 'rewarded' with a single, out-of-context quote that makes me look like an idiot.   In these instances, I don't even want to link to the article from our company Twitter feed, LinkedIn page or Facebook page.

This means that in the future, I'm going to have to have 101-level discussions with reporters about the rules of engagement - Stuff they should have covered in J-school but that I can't be certain they've ever been exposed to.