spin doctor definition: 1. someone whose job is to make ideas, events, etc. seem better than they really are, especially in politics 2. slang – a person who will help one side hurt another.
The world of public relations (PR) creates as many mysteries as it resolves. Our sector prides itself on giving people a voice, helping them to convey their messages with clarity and through the appropriate medium.
So why do we choose to confuse the world by referring to our industry as “public relations”? Apart from those we already work with, how many people have a clue what we do?
Which is perhaps why pundits opt for easier, more evocative descriptions. I am often referred to as a master of the dark arts … the Darth Vader of Brighton. I used to be called Eastbourne’s answer to Max Clifford, but since his imprisonment for sexual offences and subsequent death, I have discouraged that association!
One description of my work that I still hear is spin doctor. Although I neither like the term nor its ramifications, I understand why it remains popular. Some think my job is to take a slab of manure and magic it into a rose bush. I do this, observers think, by burying the smells, grossly exaggerating the positives, and giving the person/organisation a platform to tell their audiences that they have been badly wronged. Nothing could be further from the truth … at least for Cobb PR.
The classic depiction of a spin doctor is Malcolm Tucker, the anti-hero in the fantastic comedy series The Thick of It. His role is widely assumed to be based on Alastair Campbell’s time as communications director in the Blair government.
Tucker’s job was to safeguard the reputation of his boss (the Prime Minister) usually at the expense of other cabinet ministers. He was not averse to threatening journalists with a variety of punishments. Tucker would often keep the truth at arms-length, as he spun unbelievable scenarios to keep his boss smelling of roses and everybody else firmly in the dung heap.
Cobb PR spends about 30% of its time working with companies, organisations and individuals going through a tough time. Sometimes that “tough time” is brought on by themselves; but usually it is a perfect storm of issues that has pushed them into a difficult arena.
We have supported colleges facing financial mismanagement, bullying issues at schools, councils in the firing line, and charities in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
In all cases, we advise our clients to be truthful, no matter how tough it might be. Are there shades of truth? Probably. Our guideline is simple … is there a chance – even a highly unlikely, but possible chance – that you could be identified at some point as having been evasive with the truth? If the answer is yes, then we advise great caution going forward.
On the positive side, we remind our clients that it’s hard to keep bashing somebody once they have admitted they got it wrong and have apologised. Honesty is invariably the best policy.
If you or your organisation needs help navigating through a difficult situation. Give us a call on 01323 416999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.