crisis communications

Book Review: When "Spin Sucks"

May 20, 2014

When someone in public relations is said to use “spin,” it is often an accusation of being dishonest — or at least misleading — in interpreting the facts. On a mission to change the PR industry’s negative image, Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, created a blog called Spin Sucks and put what she learned into a new book. According to Gini, "Spin is stretching the truth or a downright lie."

While the word “sucks” is forbidden slang in many circles, Gini’s intent is to present an unvarnished, plain-spoken description of the negative attributes of “spin.”

Divided into four sections, the book includes:

  • How to tell your story without sex or extortion (includes the differences between paid, shared, earned and owned media.)
  • Dealing with scammers, liars and beggars (includes whisper campaigns, media manipulation and the dark side of content.)
  • How your customers influence your brand (Hint: your brand is what your customers think it is.)
  • Spin Sucks (includes media convergence, crisis communications and the future of communications.)

NYWICI Member Tricia Kenney, Chief Communications Officer at Publicis Kaplan Thaler, says that “Spin Doctor” is the worst thing to call a PR practitioner. “There is a huge difference between spinning the story versus turning a negative into a positive authentically," Tricia says. "When your CEO hands you a lemon, make lemonade and turn it into something worth talking about.”

Gini wrote the book with CEOs in mind, but it’s accessible and should appeal to anyone interested in the field. The book is engaging and well written, and held my attention with compelling examples, “how-to” advice, witty anecdotes and recent case studies. I liked the balance of examples between what not to do (Kenneth Cole, Susan G. Komen) with stories about companies that got it right (Zappo’s, Oreo.)

My favorite section is on crisis communications in Chapter 9. Gini contrasts recent case studies from Applebee’s and Domino’s Pizza to illustrate how issues can escalate or be defused depending on how they are handled. She writes:

“When you’re managing an issue so it doesn’t become a crisis, it’s important to remember that often, it’s not the content of the story that matters, but who tells it first. When you tell your story, you have the best opportunity to stay in front of it. Take the punch to the nose. It may break, but it will heal.

When the media finds out about your issue and they tell their [version of the] story, you almost always end up with a crisis. Once your issue becomes a crisis and makes the headline news, there is no way to answer what you knew, when you knew it, and what you’ve already done without looking guilty in the public eye. Wouldn’t you rather be the one in control of that message?”

 

Further reading and viewing

Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich (March 7, 2014) 

Spin Sucks, the book 

What is Public Relations? PRSA 

Publicity is free with no PRs, Financial Times 

A Fundamental Lack of Understanding, Edelman 

Sucks is a Bad Word, Spin Sucks blog

Spin vs. Positioning, Spin Sucks blog 

 

Posted by: 
Giuliana Lonigro
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