In public relations, spin is a usually pejorative term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in one’s own favor of an event or situation; it is a euphemism for propaganda. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, “spin” often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. Politicians are often accused of spin by their political opponents.
Because of the frequent association between “spin” and press conferences (especially government press conferences), the room in which these take place is sometimes described as a spin room. A group of people who develop spin may be referred to as “spin doctors” who engage in “spin doctoring” for the person or group that hired them.
The techniques of spin include:
- Selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one’s position (cherry picking)
- Non-denial denial
- Phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths
- Euphemisms to disguise or promote one’s agenda
Another spin technique involves the delay in the release of bad news so it can be hidden in the “shadow” of more important or favorable news or events. A famous reference to this practice occurred when UK government press officer Jo Moore used the phrase It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury in an email sent on September 11, 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Center. When this email was reported in the press it caused widespread outrage for which Moore was forced to apologize. She was later made to resign when it was claimed she had sent a similar email following the death of Princess Margaret.
Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called “spin doctors”, though probably not to their faces unless it is said facetiously. It is the PR equivalent of calling a writer a “hack.” Perhaps the most well-known person in the UK often described as a “spin doctor” is Alastair Campbell, who was involved with Tony Blair‘s public relations between 1994 and 2003, and also played a controversial role as press relations officer to the British and Irish Lions rugby union side during their 2005 tour of New Zealand.
State-run media in many countries also engage in spin by only allowing news stories that are favorable to the government while censoring anything thatcould be considered critical.
Relationships with other people, whether labeled as employees, customers or suppliers, have been molded around the corporate message or what has become known as “spin” which is a marketing term for hiding the truth. People have know this for decades but have not had the means to speak out collectively against the “spin” until the social web appeared and provided the tools and the means, one to one to millions.
The Power of Spin
The social web has become the medium for open conversations and connections with and between people. While one can find “spin” the majority of the conversations are free flowing expressions about anything and everything, including corporate “spin”. There are millions upon millions of conversations happening daily and the very nature of the web provides the means for these conversations to be open, engaging and with global reach.
People attract people and social technologies enable people to gather and converse in “swarms”. Swarms create movement, shifts, traffic and a collective voice to be heard and recognized as a market. A market that relates based on frank and honest communications, no spin. The spin of the past has reversed to the conversational rivers of the future. The power of one to one to a million conversations goes beyond the power of traditional spin.
The institution called business is measured by profit. Profit is an end result of interactive processes, products, technology and services with people. Advancements in management theories and practices have adapted to the demand for quality, efficiency and effectiveness but have failed in relationships. The next wave of management practices that will significantly enhance profitability is the wave that transforms an organizations relationship with people.
The social web will become the neoclassical school for business because it is a movement reacting to the shortcomings of the historical approaches to management practices and theories that have failed the most important factor of business, the people.
What say you?