media update’s Taylor Goodman looks at what spin PR is, the ethics behind it and explores why the industry has surpassed the need to 'spin' a story. 

You’ve probably heard the quote 'there’s no such thing as bad publicity', and we hate to break it to you, but that is an old school idea.

There’s been a shift in consumer culture, which is why 'spin' PR is a dated approach in the world of reputation management. For example, in the digital age, ‘cancel culture’ on social media is booming, and is certainly not for the faint-hearted because of the pressure it places on brands to change the way they handle crises. 

Nowadays, consumers want the businesses they support to be transparent, honest and authentic — especially when they’re in hot water. And that is exactly why spinning a story to show a brand or client in a positive light is not the answer. 

The relationship between spin and PR

PR professionals often get a bad rap for using ‘spin’ to twist a story to fit their narrative, but in reality, this is a surface level assumption of an intricate and complex industry. 

Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for PR professionals to get ahead of bad press and to spin the story in such a way that absolves their client of any guilt. 

Common spin tactics were things like having ins with journalists, placing the blame on other parties or embellishing a story with exaggerated information. 

Going to these lengths to exonerate a client often meant those working in the industry had to leave their integrity at the door. This made it easy for the public perception of PR to sour as these strategies are considered to be misleading and dishonest. 

This is not to say that this is how all PR professionals used to operate, but there were enough people using these questionable tactics to stigmatise the industry as a whole. 

How the digital age killed spin PR

Easily the biggest downfall of spin tactics is that even though it isn’t common, people still equate it with public relations— even though this is not how every PR professional does business. 

The negative attention the PR industry received due to spinning coupled with the consumer’s desire for transparency is what forced these tactics out for more promising (and ethical) methods like reputation and crisis management. 

Once again, this proves the power of social media in moulding the industries we work in and giving audiences a say in how they want brands to communicate. 

Why PR is about more than just spinning 

One thing will never change: PR will always be focused on public perception; however, the way the professionals working in the industry influence the consumer’s understanding has grown to be far more nuanced than telling a deceptive spin story. 

Reputation management and crisis communication are two of the most important roles in public relations. These tactics are also the way those working in PR can ethically influence public perception without relying on fluff. 

This can involve monitoring interactions consumers have with your brand online, responding promptly to complaints, taking accountability for any missteps and regularly communicating with your audience. 

Although reputation management is crucial to protecting your brand in social spaces, it can be fickle. Something as ‘small’ as a negative customer review, a rumour or a personnel misstep could derail your business. 

For this reason, PR pros abandoning spin tactics for reputation management strategies is the best way to go about solidifying a brand as something consumers can trust. 

As a PR pro, what tactics do you use to manage your brand’s reputation? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Want more about how to step up your reputation management game? Then be sure to check out 100 words or less: Three ways to protect your brand online.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy