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
Why, we asked, do so few journalists associate spin with sales (57.7%),
the law (30.3%) and most startling still, business management
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’
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
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.