This piece follows my previous article on Ethics where I stated that Communication has to take place in an environment of trust where persuasion can only be effective when truthfulness is the intended purpose. There have been countless times that my clients have asked me to put a spin on their messages in their Public Relations (PR) campaigns so as to persuade their audience towards their point of view. As such, I want to shed some light here on the misconception that ‘Spin’ is PR.
Spin is one form of propaganda that an organisation achieves through spinning information about an event, a personality or a campaign to unethically persuade public opinion in its favour. It relies on misleading distortion of facts and entails deceptive as well as manipulative tactics. Spinning is generally attributed to political communication and conveys a sense of manipulation. Nonetheless, there are corporate communicators that utilise spin to manipulate the media and deceive their audiences since they believe that ‘the ends justify the means’.
Conversely, PR is a management function that can help build a positive personality of the organisation and project this to the various publics or stakeholders that the organisation depends on for its success. Good PR is a two-way activity: listening to what the public says and expects as well as disseminating accurate information on the organisation to build and maintain trust. It requires strategic thinking, planning and organising.
For most organisations it is in their best interest to utilise PR to create understanding of their activities as well as their goals and convert this positive perception into goodwill. This goodwill must be nurtured to become the positive support that leads to progressive action. PR efforts can only be effective where the aims of the organisation are compatible with that of the public. Only public-winning policies can win goodwill.
Much of the ‘news’ that you read in the newspapers, listen on the radio, watch on TV and view on the on-line media has its origins in PR materials – news or press releases, sent to the media by organisations that want to promote their products, services or causes. However, these messages – whether good news or bad news, must be communicated with consistency, clarity and honesty. Deceitful tactics employed in ‘Spinning’ to persuade public opinion goes against the grain of truth, ethics and trust – the cornerstones of exemplary PR practice.