SPIN Is A Four Letter Word: How You Use It Is Up To You!


SPIN is a four-letter word that is often frowned upon by PR people. It is basically propaganda where one takes information and manipulating it to benefit them. However, on the other side of the coin, spin actually holds a sweet place in some marketers’ heart. Against popular opinion, it actually is another take on telling the truth in an effective way. So what is Spin? How is it used in PR and social? What are the positive and negative connotations? How to use it to leverage your business?

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SPIN Is A Four Letter Word: How You Use It Is Up To You!

I’m with Sharon Noot from Noot Media Relations. We’re going to be talking about spin and it seems a little hot button with you.

When you say spin, everybody with a traditional PR background has got to be cringing. That’s the four-letter word of PR. Spin is bad.

I’m over on the digital marketing social media side and I don’t look for things that are going to be controversial or making outlandish claims. What is your definition of spin?

In traditional PR, it’s basically propaganda. Spin is not being honest. Spin is taking information and changing it to benefit you. When people talk about spin and public relations, a lot of people automatically think of it as a negative news item. How can you take away the focus either by being dishonest or other means? In PR, we don’t spin things. PR is supposed to be honest and transparent. If you’re working toward manipulating information for your own benefit, that’s not going to end well at all. When they call PR people spinsters or whatever. We’re not spinning news items. We’re telling the truth in a more effective way.

Spin is not being honest. It’s taking information and changing it to benefit you. Click To Tweet

That supports what I think spin is. I hold the word spin near and dear to my heart for all of the years I spent as a spin instructor. When I hear the word spin, I already have a positive response.

I have a negative response when I think about all the times you asked me to take your spin class and I’m like, “Sure,” and then I’m like, “No.”

What you said about spin, I see that though as a positive because every conversation has many truths. I don’t see it’s necessary that you’re using Spin to tell a lie. I see it in my business where you focus on what’s important for your message rather than the entire message. Does that make sense? Did I totally negate my whole argument?

I follow you but it might be a matter of looking at something through a kaleidoscope. Maybe it’s the world of 160 characters or less and the speed of social media and digital media. You have to take your one look at something. You’re one aspect of it and run with it. Spin is more taking that one aspect of it and changing the reality of it, changing the truth of it, and making it not honest.

Let’s unpack that right there. You’re automatically acquainting a negative emotion to spin. You’re saying right off the bat it’s dishonest.

It might be part of the baggage that I have as a PR person because our whole careers are about trying to tell people no. PR people don’t manipulate the news. We don’t change the story. It’s the way lawyers get stereotyped in. “Lawyers are all bad.” If more people knew what PR was about, they probably would have PR jokes just like they have lawyer jokes and it would be awful. Spin is a misleading tactic to try to manipulate the news basically. In good public relations, you’re honest, forthcoming and transparent about your news.

I am all about Law of Attraction, putting things into your vortex, focusing on things that you want, and not focusing on things that you don’t want. That ties in perfectly with what I am envisioning spin or how I use it in where you’re more focusing on the things that are positive or things that you want or that are helpful rather than the negative things. Let’s take an example, you could say there was a terrible accident on the corner. You could say it in different ways. You could say there was an accident. You could focus on the fact that it was a beautiful day. You could focus on the fact that it wasn’t a bad accident. You could focus on the fact that there wasn’t an accident, it was more of a misunderstanding. That’s how I’m looking at spin. None of those are mistruths. None of them are lies.

PR is supposed to be honest and transparent. Click To Tweet

If you’re trying to communicate the information effectively to the audience, if you’re leaving out important facts to make you look better, you’re being misleading. It’s lying through omission. If the accident happened because something was wrong with the automobile and the automobile maker knew. It is dishonest for them to spin that story and say, “It was because the street was wet that day.” That’s not true. It’s because the automobile malfunctioned and it’s going to come out anyway. That’s why in public relations when you’re in a crisis, you don’t look for a spin because it’s not going to help. It’s going to make it worse. You look to respond immediately, effectively, and honestly. Anything else takes you down a bad path.

Spin is talking about what the focus of the story is though.

It’s not changing the story by omitting information. You know who you’re talking to with your audience. If you know that there’s a piece of information you don’t want them to have, it becomes omitted purposely so that they don’t know. You don’t bury information in hopes that you can protect your reputation down the line.

What you’re saying doesn’t sound like spin to me. That sounds like something else. It sounds like you’re trying to lie out of a situation. I’m feeling your negativity. I will not let you bring me out of my vortex.

My vortex right now is not in a happy place.

You gave that amazing presentation. That’s something we could spin a lot of ways. We could say that it was an amazing presentation where you gave valuable information.

I got in a bad mood when you said spin. I didn’t know how you were going to approach the topic, I thought you were going to talk about spin and digital media being more viral Twitter, Facebook spin. The way companies can make something look viral, but it was very intentional. It’s effective but most marketing and PR professionals can see through it and they know, “This wasn’t viral on accident. This was intentionally made viral.” There are whole companies that that’s all they do. They figure out a way to take a funny video that happens to have a logo everywhere on it. You’re not the company with the logo promoting your widget. You’re just sharing a cute puppy dog doing something.

That’s not spin at all. Spin is, and the way I used it in my business, to focus your attention on something. Traditionally, back in PR, it would have been used to get out of something, get out of a problem, an accident, illegal or whatever. The way I see it used mostly in digital and social media is we’re taking your attention to something but not necessarily covering up the facts of something else. For somebody even doing a podcast, there are a million different ways you could use this and a million different reasons you would even want to start one.

SPIN: If you’re trying to communicate the information effectively to the audience by leaving out important facts to make you look better, then you’re being misleading by lying through omission.

The way I approached it with you is that, “I want to do a podcast because it would be a great way for us to be able to share a lot of our knowledge that we’ve built up over the years in both of our areas and share them.” You and I get on the phone all the time and we have conversations this and I’m like, “This would be valuable to other people.” There are things in both of our businesses that you will tell me and I’ll say, “That’s interesting,” and then I’ll tell you stuff. That’s how I’m spinning this, whereas somebody else could look at it and have some other whole take on it. Spin is about attention and focus.

People in our audience might think, “These two girls have too much time on their hands apparently if they’re going to sit around and talk about traditional PR meets digital media.”

I was talking about attention and then in my head, I heard what you had said before intention. That’s how we’re looking at it differently, I’m looking at spin as attention and you’re looking at it as intention. Does that sound correct?

Every conversation has many truths. Click To Tweet

A little bit. As usual, I can’t entirely follow you, but I pretend that I do. I just nod and smile and go, “Yes, I get it.” The truth comes out. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

To spin the word is exciting. You do get the visualization of something going around in a circle and that is energy.

We could boil this whole thing down to that. It’s the way the word affects people in the profession because of what weight it carries. I can tell you with almost 100% accuracy that most traditional PR people cringe when they hear the word spin, whereas maybe in your industry, spin is an exciting tool. In my industry, if you use spin, you are a tool. Use the tool, don’t be the tool. Your idea would be to put a hashtag on that. Put a hashtag on it and have a little animated GIF of a hammer hammering. That would go viral and then all of a sudden everybody would know about this podcast. That’s not necessarily negative. That’s not spin, that’s viral marketing. I learned very early on when digital media was starting to emerge that you should never have a hashtag that’s more than seven characters because you don’t want to take up valuable space. Now, it doesn’t matter. People have seven hashtags and I don’t know if it’s because Twitter made more characters available or if people can’t figure out a way to sum it up better.

I feel your pain over hashtags because if you remember that camping trip that I took with the twenty-year-olds a couple of years ago, they pretty much spoke in hashtag lingo only. Everything was hashtag this, hashtag that to the point where I nearly stabbed them with a marshmallow skewer. It was relentless, “#This, #ClimbAMountain, #DontFallInTheRiver, #GetMyMarshmallows.” I’m like, “What is wrong with you, people?” Talk about negative connotations.

This is a professional question. What is the benefit for a company or a service provider to put a whole bunch of hashtags? I can understand if they do hashtag and then what their business is or whatever the trending hashtag is that they want to be affiliated with. What is the benefit of having a hashtag and then a couple of words that’s the exclamation point on what you’re saying? You’re not going to get searched. Those hashtags aren’t designed to be searched and found. #GreatDay, you’re not looking for people to search #GreatDay and find you. Is it simply a way to add color to what you’re saying?

It becomes part of the copy because it does add color. When you’re talking about something like, “It’s a great day. My dog is sleeping,” or whatever, it’s just #GreatDay. It’s a copy way of doing an emoji or an emoticon. It’s something also that becomes part of the actual conversation. It’s something that you can read instead of just having a smiley face, which could mean many things. If you type something and then have #ThisMadeMeSmile, it can give you more insight into what is written and to the emotion behind it.

I understand that. It’s not what hashtags were designed to do. Hashtags were designed to make things searchable based on what that actual hashtag is. Now, people use it as a way to color what they’re saying.

As with anything in language, as it gets used, the society decides how they use changes and how it grows or morphs. There are lots of words in our language that have come into existence in the last couple of years because people use them all the time and now it’s a thing. There are also words that fall out of use because people don’t use them anymore. The thing with hashtags is it started as one thing, but it’s morphed into this other thing. You can’t say, “It wasn’t meant to do that,” because any language morphs as it gets used and that the society grows.

This is no good because you come across as the hip, new, forward-thinking, digital cyberpunk and I’m the cranky old lady, “Get off my lawn, Twitter.”

Maybe you have more experience in this area or you have a different experience. It comes from where you’ve essentially heard.

It comes from how old and old school you are. I didn’t like the use of smileys back when they were text. Now, there are actual emojis.

You don’t bury information in hopes that you can protect your reputation down the line. Click To Tweet

You’ve used them so much like spin. It’s something that once you see it used in a way and it doesn’t have a negative connotation, you can use it. You’re one of the last holdouts. You don’t even want to have a Facebook page. Isn’t that true?

I don’t need one more thing distracting me from my work.

That’s a difference, but that doesn’t make you any better or worse than me or older or younger than me because they were the exact same age. We have different views on this stuff and it is experience-based.

It’s a sign that I’m rigid in my ways and you’re evolving with the times. I’m going to be a dinosaur if I don’t start. I need to use those emojis. I need to get those animated GIFs into my text. I need to have all these articles 300 words or less with the keywords used seventeen times in the first line. Who cares about communicating intelligently like a human being? In the future, people are going to be buried and their headstone is going to be an emoji and a hashtag.

I’m sure people have hashtagged headstones.

What would your hashtag headstone be like? #Dead, but what’s the hashtag if you didn’t have enough time to do what you wanted? #GoneTooSoon. The way it will be legitimately is the first couple of hashtags would be like, “I get it. #GoneTooSoon,” and then it will be like, “#ShouldntHaveAteAllThatFriedFood.” It would be hashtags of the bad things about the person or the things that would embarrass them. If no one has invented a tombstone creator that you could put out there like they did with the church signs and made it look like it was a real church sign but you knew it wasn’t. You could drop whatever you wanted.

SPIN: Hasthags were designed to make things searchable based on what that actual hashtag is. Now, people use it as a way to color what they’re saying.

I’m seeing conversations more than four years ago where people are asking, “Who’s putting hashtags on headstones?”

Are hashtags the tattoos of the communications industry? Are you going to look back and go, “I’m so embarrassed, why did I use those hashtags?”

You need to have it then tattooed on your body. There’s no record of it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. There’s no fear of that.

Everything on the internet’s forever.

That’s not true, but I want to answer your question you asked me about what my hashtag would be on my headstone. My hashtag would be no breaks and the answer is always yes, so #NoBreaks, #TheAnswerIsAlwaysYes.

I’m going to make sure that is on your tombstone. I’m going to talk to your parents and be like, “No.” Put it into your living will so we can make sure.

What did you say that nothing ever gets erased on the internet?

This was what you wanted, even though it’s only in the moment.

I stand by that, #NoBreaks, #TheAnswerIsAlwaysYes. That’s a good way to live your life. What’s your hashtag? Do you refuse to have one? #NoHashtag?

My hashtag would be #HatesHashtags.

There’s going to be a cemetery full of those. You’re going to have to distinguish yourself in some way.

That’s one reason to be cremated.

#NoSpin, something like that.


If you had a client come to you and one of the first things out of their mouth is that, “You’ve got to spin this for me.” What would you say?

To spin the word is exciting. You get the visualization of energy going around in a circle. Click To Tweet

I’d say, “I don’t do that.” I would educate them on why that’s a bad idea. If their story is that their company is going through a series of layoffs. They want to try to get an article in the business journal that is completely misleading about that then I would say, “You need to be honest about it.” You could still talk about what the company’s looking forward to or how you’re helping those employees, but you can’t be misleading. You can’t try to bury the lead basically because a good reporter is going to get that out of you anyway. Nowadays, the public will get it out of you in the comments of the article. Your own public will be going, “Really? We know.” Now you have hundreds and thousands of people that will call you on your BS, so you need to be honest.

Spin to you still means BS then.

It’s a misleading way to share information.

Maybe that’s what we should call the podcast, The No Spin Zone. I’m sure somebody already has it.

Everything’s taken. Here’s what you would do. Do you think the word propaganda is good sometimes?

I always associate it with the government and I always associate it negatively, like government propaganda.

For traditionalists in PR, they think of spin as propaganda and dishonesty.

I googled The No Spin Zone podcast and you know what showed up? It’s a big news political guy and his show is called The No Spin Zone. I’m not going to mention his name because I don’t want to give him anymore press than he already has. Not that we were going to call this anyway, but he has his own podcast too. We should probably not call this that.

We should call it #IHateHashtags.

Did we even name this in the beginning? Did we say what the name of our podcast was?

Yes, but you could have the name of this episode be #UseToolsDontBeATool.

I’m going to use that, #UseTheToolDontBeATool. This is a great conversation to talk about on our podcast because we didn’t mention the title of our podcast in the beginning. Did we when I did the show intro?

You listed it. You read it and said what it is.

TraDigital podcast, but this is a good conversation for that. There are many things in both of our worlds that have different connotations. We’re learning with this. A lot of it has to do with your prior experience and your own emotions to words, situations or whatever. I never got you on a spin bike because it might have helped.

Probably the future podcast will. It’s highlighting how I am a dinosaur in my industry and you are young, hip, and everything new. I don’t want to say that there’s no place for digital marketing, digital PR, or whatever you want to call it. That’s an effective part of the marketing mix. I get frustrated when traditional PR is put on the back burner in favor of fly by the seat of your pants. I don’t want to insult you.

I like to embrace change. I’m all about embracing change in my life. I’m looking at a lot of different situations as there’s good, bad, gray, black, white, and red, whatever. Everything to me has many different tones. Every situation, there’s a kaleidoscope of how it could be perceived. Going back to it, like spin, in general, is more attention. What you’re putting your attention on. I understand what you’re saying that it can be used in a negative way to hide stuff. Maybe that needs to be your role in PR, that you educate them that spin can be a good thing as long as you’re not lying.

I feel the whole gist of this podcast has been that for a professional communicator, which is basically what I do, I cannot communicate today. I’ve been fumbling nonstop. Do you ever have those days? It’s like writer’s block of the spoken language.

Everything on the Internet is forever. Click To Tweet

I noticed since I’m the one in-charge of the recording of this podcast, there’s a button right next to your name that says kick. I can kick you out at any time, which I will. At this point though, it might be a good thing because we’re coming up on our time.

I don’t want you to start some tradition where you kick me out at the end.

I can play a sound effect and then my dog could bark. I can’t believe we haven’t heard your dogs barking. Congratulations.

They’re locked up. They’re locked off.

My dog, Lacie, is sleeping as she always does in the afternoon because she needs to be up all night long racing around my apartment. Your dogs are locked up.

Animal lovers are like, “What do you mean locked?” That means they’re lounging happily on my bed. I even turn the electric blanket on for them because that makes an extra treat. They don’t get to lie on the bed in the bedroom lounging, so they’re happy. Otherwise, they would be out here.

SPIN: Use the tool. Don’t be the tool.

You run a doggy spa over there. That’s why you’re the only place that I ever take my little Lacie when I’m leaving town or I need someone to watch her because you run the Noot Spa.

I had so much fun watching your dog that I asked my husband like, “Why don’t we do those Rover or whatever where you can babysitter the dogs.” It’s not even so much about the money. It’s about the joy of having other dogs come and go. He was like, “No, that’s a bad idea.”

It’s like anything else. You are inheriting somebody else’s problems. Lacie is a unicorn. She is perfect. We are done for this show. Thank you so much. This has been awesome. Next time, you pick the topic. You’ll have a better response to it. With that said, thank you so much for joining us. Join us next time when we will talk about how traditional PR and digital marketing intersect, interrupt each other, walk over each other and collide.

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