To Spin Or Not To Spin – A PR and Social Media Question
"Achievements on the golf course are not what matters, decency and honesty are what matter."
There seems to be a particular irony about this quote. In light of recent developments it doesn't quite ring true. And it also illustrates the conundrum surrounding PR and social media – how does one pursue honesty in a practice that many people associate with the spewing of information just south of the truth?
To Spin or Not to Spin
The profession of public relations has long had to deal with a certain duality of nature. On one hand, public relations is seen as a connector between companies, individuals, causes, 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 on an almost more visceral level – the PR Flack, the Huckster, the Spin Doctor.
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.
As PR and social media now collide, the challenge for earnest practitioners is this -- influencing without engaging in a bullying spin mentality. And the accompanying question begs an answer -- with all the opportunities to mold, twist and manufacture messages amidst the billions of pieces of information rocketing across the net every day, can honesty co-exist with PR and social media?
An Essential Co-existence
In fact they can and do. PR and social media practices can harness the incredible power of the spoken and written word and build bridges between consumers and companies or causes and audiences. By using the channels and tools available today, PR practitioners can positively influence audiences through discussion and engagement.
For the Internet after all, is much akin to the town square of old. When merchants turned to dishonest dealings, word spread fast and consequences were harsh – the townspeople more often than not turned those deceitful vendors out.
Imagine an example from today's cyber town square. An airline makes a claim that bags fly free to destinations but when passengers arrive at the counter, they find a fraudulent caveat – free flying luggage must weigh 25 pounds or less.
Within minutes the townspeople will grumble. Tweets will flood cyberspace, Facebook updates will include photos of offending bags. Comments will explode across hundreds of channels via real-time access.
Think that airline won't quickly change its practice? Despite their initial misstep, they can right the ship via ownership of their mistakes on the social media channels and tactics and they'll benefit from the lesson that honesty must be reinforced in future campaigns.
Turn A Bad Thing Around With A Good Apology
Domino's Pizza is a positive example of a brand owning up to a negative situation, apologizing for it and then surviving the public backlash. After an infamous 2009 video highlighting less than appetizing pizza preparation, the brand hit the problem head on through a campaign of honesty and pro-active solutions – themes which still permeate their marketing efforts today.
Honesty Is The Only Policy
So here is the PR and social media takeaway. While there will always be Spin Doctors trolling the Internet town square, the brands that take their responsibilities to consumers seriously will be those that ultimately fare better in the end.
Honesty shouldn't be your best policy, it should be your only one. Long term success in the digital marketplace will depend on it.
For more information on successful marketing in the online marketplace, check out our blog post, PR and Social Media Intervention – Things You Need To Know.
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