EDITORIAL: Perplexing world of spin, part two

In last week’s Spin Special Issue, PRWeek pointed out the apparent naivete of journalists in their attitudes to and understanding of spin.

In last week’s Spin Special Issue, PRWeek pointed out the apparent naivete of journalists in their attitudes to and understanding of spin.

In last week’s Spin Special Issue, PRWeek pointed out the apparent

naivete of journalists in their attitudes to and understanding of

spin.



Why, we asked, do so few journalists associate spin with sales (57.7%),

the law (30.3%) and most startling still, business management

(25.2%)?



Even the accountant, as we pointed out, will ’massage’ the figures in

order to smooth out the bumps.



But it’s clear from our PRWeek/Impulse spin poll that many PR pros are

in their own way equally at sea in their definitions of spin. While the

vast majority (97%) believe that journalists spin, it’s the attitude

toward spinning that is most confused.



The most popular definition of spin (50.5%) is ’the presentation of a

company or product or individual in the best possible light.’ Other

definitions included ’presenting a company or individual or product in

the best possible light regardless of the circumstances’ (27.6%); and

’providing the context to a story’ (19%).



These are all valid definitions, and like the word spin itself, they

cover a range of positive, harmless and negative connotations. But when

we asked if they saw their definition of spin as ’bad,’ we received

ambivalent answers on the most popular definitions.



Curiously, 6% of PR pros considered ’the presentation of a company or

product or individual in the best possible light’ to be a ’bad’

thing.



Why is that so? Also puzzling is the fact that when asked how often PR

people spin in this sense, only 36% said they did it ’all the time’ and

25% did it ’often,’ while 21% said they did it ’sometimes’ and 19% said

’very rarely.’ Why would PR pros not seek to present the company or

product that they represent in the best possible light, all of the

time?



Could it be that while many PR pros define the word spin as they

understand it, in a positive sense, the mere mention of the term has

them running scared?



Even more perplexing, though, is the fact that 41% of respondents to the

survey felt that ’presenting a company or individual or product in the

best possible light - regardless of the circumstances,’ was not a bad

thing. If the circumstances are bad, an attempt to present the company

(or product) in a positive light - or to put it another way, to pull the

wool over the journalist’s or public’s eyes - is a potentially

disastrous attitude. And this practice does much to explain the

journalist’s attitude to public relations and spin.



But that’s the interesting aspect of this definition. For even if the

circumstances look particularly bad, it is still possible to present the

company (or product) in a positive light - not by pulling the wool over

the eyes, or pretending that nothing’s happened or omitting certain

facts from your summary.



The answer is to admit the wrongdoing. To apologize. And to let the

journalist and the public know exactly and forcefully what you are going

to do about it and what you have already done about it. And it is just

as important to keep updating them on your achievements.



If that’s ’spin,’ then the PR industry should be unapologetic. It’s

smart PR. It’s honest. And it works.



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