Friday, March 18, 2011

Definition of SPIN

As my colleague Gini Dietrich does so well in her SPINsucks blog, the "fight against destructive spin" becomes a constant battle for PR pros.

More and more PR pros are challenging blanket accusations by journalists and others.

We had to do it again this week during our PRSA/Los Angeles chapter event featuring three of Los Angeles' top television new anchors. (Check back in a few days for the video!).

Carlos Amezcua, who I count as a very credible and ethical TV journalist now at the local Fox affiliate, casually threw out a statement during the program along the lines of: "And, spin is what you do. I get that...."

Mike Furtney, a PR veteran, top crisis communicator and one of the most respected corporate comm guys I know, challenged Carlos' statement by plainly stating: "I don't spin." Which brought a retort from Carlos: "You do. See, you were spinning just then."

Of course, you always think of the better reply on the drive home, such as: "No, I'm just giving you additional facts and another side of the story that you can use in how you want to report.."

Now, it seems, we PR pros need to have in our wallets a little "briefing card" that defines spin and offers bullet points that we can use at a moment's notice.

I'll get this started. Feel free to add to this in the comments and I'll come up with a card we can all live with:

  • SPIN is destructive and, therefore, not something Public Relations professionals want to be associated with.
  • SPIN suggests manipulating the truth, hiding facts or presenting false information. My professional ethics prohibit me from doing any of that.
  • Do not confuse SPIN with the simple act of providing the other side of a story with facts and important points of view.
  • PR professionals are hired for a variety of needs, including the establishment of beneficial relationships between key audiences and a company, person or initiative. In the course of this effort, we are obligated to provide accurate information as well as important points of view to be considered. It's our job. Don't demean it by saying we "spin."
  • Journalist who believe all we do is "spin" - are not listening. We hope journalists listen and gather all the facts and information BEFORE they broadcast or publish their stories. Whether it's a PR pro or someone else in a credible, important position offering information doesn't change the fact that facts and important points of view are coming out of our mouths. Please, listen....carefully.
  • Journalists regularly count on PR pros to tip them off to a good story, to bring experts and officials to their microphones, telephones and tape recorders, and to present them with reports, documentation and other details they need to offer a balanced story.
  • PR pros recognize the best way they can perform their job is to earn a reporter's trust. PR pros around the world earn this trust every day, every hour. How? By being credible, through honesty and with clarity.
  • Are PR pros frustratingly quiet sometimes? Yes, when there are issues of the law, personal safety and similar serious consequences involved.
  • Do all those practicing public relations honest and credible? No. Just as their are "bad" doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc., there are "bad" PR pros.

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