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The Curse of the Spin in Public Relations.

The Curse of the Spin in Public Relations.
The Curse of the Spin in Public Relations.

The profession of public relations has long had to deal with a certain duality of nature. On one hand, public relation is seen as a connector between companies, individuals, courses, products and people; the process of communicating throughout cultures beyond borders and across all sorts of channels in positive ways. However, PR also has an ugly cousin that people associate with an almost more instinctive level; the curse of the spin associated with the PR flack, the huckster and the spin doctor.

In public relations, spin is an act of propaganda realised through providing an interpretation of or campaign to persuade public opinion in favour or against a certain organisation or public figure. Spin can also mean confusing an issue, distorting or even lying.

Edward Louis Bernays known as the founder and father of public relations in 1918 is as well regarded as the father of spin. Bernays was able to help tobacco and alcohol companies use techniques to make certain behaviours more acceptable in the United States back in the 20th century.

A PR professional’s ability to inform the masses and sway public opinion can take a nasty turn into the world of spin where politicians’ posture, celebrities dish and dishonest public figures insist on their innocence. This can be likened to crisis management where in cases of crisis concerning an organisation or individual, the professional steps in to do what is known as damage control and prevention. Spin doctors are political press agents or publicist employed to promote a favourable interpretation of events to journalist. In other words, spin doctors are professional spinners.  

Examples of known spin doctors in our world are Edward Louis Bernays, Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson and Karl Rove. Some techniques used by spin doctors include:

  • Cherry picking (selectively presenting facts and quotes that supports one’s position)
  • Non denial (a statement [possibly evasive] that is not a denial of an existent problem)
  • Non apology (Refusal to own up to a negative situation or happening.)
  • Euphemisms (To disguise or promote one’s agenda.)
  • Burying bad news (announcing one popular thing among several unpopular things to gain prominence.)

Traditional (T.V, radio and print) and social media platforms (face book, twitter, viber) serve as good grounds where spin takes place. These are avenues where audiences can be located or reached out to in order to persuade and gain an acceptance for or against a position. Information in the form of words, pictures and videos are churned out for consumption to convince one beyond reasonable doubt.

Spinning is antithetical to the proper practice of public relations and therefore has hurt the profession so much. In public relations, if you lie one time, you will not be trusted anymore. An opinion from the popular golfer, Tiger Woods reads that, “Achievements on the golf course are not what matters, decency and honesty are what matter.”

The golfer based on his own personal experiences places honest and decent dealings over his accomplishments; an eye opener for all. Honesty is the only policy.  As practitioners, honesty should not be our best policy but our only one. Long term success in the digital and analog market place will depend on it.

Your comments and views are welcome in the comment section below. And for further consultation or questions, please email to hrforumonline@gmail.com. 

Also Read: The functions of Public Relations.

Source: HR Forum Media

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