The nasty, dirty word “spin”

I just read a piece on Ragan.com that I just have to share. It talks about what not to do when pitching journalists. It always amazes me when I see such common sense criteria put forward. It feels like as communicators—especially as media relations professionals—not doing these things should be pretty much standard in our roles. You should read this and if you are doing any of these things—stop immediately (and call me!).

One of the challenges our industry faces is that we aren’t taken seriously or we aren’t trusted by reporters. I can’t tell you how much I dislike the word “spin” when it is used in context of what we do as communicators. It’s a nasty, dirty word as far as I am concerned. As many regular readers of this blog know, I spent a great deal of my career working at Maclean’s. I worked with some of the best journalists in the country and I had the opportunity to learn a great deal from them. Some of the best lessons came from the discussions around news releases or pitches from PR people. Journalists can smell spin a mile away and they are trained to question, investigate and research the claims that are made about everything. Even today, when budgets have been cut, when there are less journalists to do the work, it shocks me when an organization puts forward a claim that isn’t true or that has been changed to suit their purposes.

Good journalists have a sixth sense for the truth and, believe it or not, they all aren’t out to damage your organization’s reputation. They are on a quest for the truth and see it as their role to inform the public. And in this day and age of social media and citizen journalism, if you tell a fib, a white lie or an outright lie, you will be called on it. It’s that simple. And if you made a mistake, acknowledge it. Explain what happened and what you are going to do to make it right and ensure it never happens again. It’s pretty straightforward. And consumers, shareholders and the general public have been telling us for years that’s what they want. It’s when you are deceitful, dishonest or inauthentic that the issue grows.

I think that one of the reasons that our brand journalism services are of interest to organizations is that through a range of mediums (videos, podcasts, articles, Q&As, etc.) they are able to tell their story with authenticity and credibility. This approach allows the organization to talk about the challenges (which every organization has) in a way that also allows them to showcase their successes.

How are you handling your media relations outreach and how does that reflect your organization’s culture when it comes to your reputation?

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