Aug 30 2006

Effective communication and ‘spin’ are not the same

Published by at 2:51 pm under Comms,Politics

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Now that we’re almost into September, the Conservative Party seems ready to call
time on the political Summer holiday by opening a debate on the perceived proliferation of government Press Officers under Labour.

Before I weigh in, I have to declare an interest here. Having spent eight years as a Civil Servant I still tend to get a little irritated by needless civil-service-bashing, particularly when motivated by a desire to shift blame or fill column inches.

Immediately before joining Hill & Knowlton, I spent six months as a government Press Officer. Six hectic months, at times filled with seven-day weeks and fourteen, eighteen and sometimes twenty-four hour days. Six months where I found it increasingly difficult to leave my work behind when I left the office. But, at the same time, six months which proved both challenging and rewarding in equal measure. No, Mr Heald, I don’t believe there were too many of us, although my experience is admittedly limited.

More fundamentally, though, I think it’s all too easy to confuse communication and ‘spin’. As a professional communicator it’s hardly surprising that I believe wholeheartedly in the value for any organisation of effective and frank communication with its stakeholders. But I have never thought of myself as a ‘spin doctor‘.

‘Spin’, to me, implies bias, intentional occlusion of the facts, perhaps even deceit. Communication, on the other hand, must be based on imparting facts, viewpoints and positions as clearly as possible.

Unfortunately to many observers the difference is not so clear cut but, for the sake of professionalism, it is surely incumbent upon the communications industry to make this distinction as starkly as possible.

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