The Changing Landscape of ‘Spin’

Recently I came across a magazine called ‘Total Film’ which had a section called ‘Spin Interview’, which had a full-bleed visual of Colin Farrell staring at the reader pointblank. Celebrities have managed to spin themselves into the limelight. But, I’m wondering – is the age of ‘spin-doctoring’ over?

PR has been transformed by social media, but does that mean people’s perceptions of so-called ‘spin doctors’ have changed?

A ‘spin doctor’ you could say, is neither good nor bad. What a spin doctor does is to take the real truth (sometimes bitter truth) and put it into a positive angle for his client. It’s not changing the truth altogether, but what he may do is to overlook something negative and highlight what is good or favourable.

Everyone tries to present important events in the best possible light – even we, in our personal lives.

The last elections in India had all political parties aflutter, trying to grab the limelight, and portray themselves as the party to vote for. “Elections ahead, netas call in spin doctors for facelift” – was a headline splashed in a leading daily. Many parties were in need of media monitoring – like the BSP, BJD; but what about parties like Trinamool Congress, CPI-M, Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena or AIDMK?  Recently, it was in the news that AAP was on the lookout for a PR consultancy to take over their media management.

Now, with the US election campaigns in full swing, I wonder how much of spin will Donald Trump’s PR team have to double up for, to get him a ticket. A headline screamed – “Democracy is a joke, says China – just look at Donald Trump!”

To me, the most memorable example of spinning and doctoring reputations is the classic movie – Wag the Dog. We can watch the hot-shot spin doctor Robert De Niro trying to save a US President, who gets into trouble during an election campaign. A master spin strategy is put in place – an award-winning Hollywood producer Dustin Hoffman, is recruited by the President to help him shoot an imaginary sequence, which triggers off war between America and Albania! This crack team manages to divert the attention of the nation!

You can witness some great spinning by De Niro, the President’s Press Relations head. The country’s attention is diverted on the enemy – Albania. The President is duly re-elected.

This film throws up some great questions about how PR ‘spinning’ and other elements work together to change environments/community or socio-political sentiments. You find a critical analysis of media and how politics can be devised to influence an entire nation. Interestingly, the important thing is – the immense power that lies behind images and words! PR cannot be put aside here. And what did it do? Here, PR did ‘wag the dog’.

Most marketers are always trying to create tactics to distract competition; they are seen mulling over how each part of the marketing mix can impact their macro plan.

To spin or not to spin – that is the question. The PR world has had a certain duality of nature. A PR professional’s ability to communicate to the masses and sway public opinion can sometimes stray into the world of spin – where business heads, politicians, celebrities and dishonest public figures are involved!

Anil Kumble hit the headlines recently, when he was appointed coach of Team India. Another headline blazed: “The spin doctor now has a jumbo task at hand”.

At the crux of it all, what I feel is that spin has evolved, and it can indeed, be a game changer.

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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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