THE BLOG

When Will 'Spin' Finally Be Axed?

18/01/2013 14:46 GMT | Updated 19/03/2013 09:12 GMT

Spin. Doesn't the word just fill your mind with images of Alastair Campbell remonstrating with national news journalists over 'Cheriegate' and other New Labour crises?

So, when an otherwise admirable article about PR in Management Today was entitled 'Spin Masters: How PR is taking over the world', it did little to suggest the industry has moved on in the last 15 years.

Let us be clear - what good PR people do is not spin. Their work may involve the preparation of information in a clear and representative way, but brushing bad news under the carpet has too often resulted in disaster for it to be a credible element of communications. Just ask Jo Moore.

It is the historic behaviour of under-regulated government special advisers - alongside the shadowy realm of certain celebrity publicists - which has brought the industry into the most disrepute. It is no coincidence that these people were not members of the PRCA, and did not subscribe to our code of conduct.

Incidentally, while much of the public outrage is being channelled against PR's sister discipline lobbying, public relations seems to be getting an easier ride, probably as a result of improved standards and better codes of conduct.

With Campbell now promoting his own good causes and Downing Street's new spokesman being the level-headed former BBC journalist Craig Oliver, we're forced to get our fill of spinmastery from The Thick of It's Malcolm Tucker. Either special advisers are cleaning up their act, or they're getting better at covering up their actions.

A PRWeek feature last year saw Oliver praised by the likes of the Spectator's James Forsyth and the Daily Telegraph's Neil Midgley. However since then, the debacle over Oliver's alleged threat to the Telegraph that Maria Miller was 'looking at Leveson' after being asked questions about her expense claims, has damaged his - and political PR's - reputation.

There will always be blips, but the image of the wider PR industry does seem to be improving. The PRCA Reputation of PR Report 2012 found that 46% of board members believe that their organisation values PR and communications more now compared to five years ago, while 71% see its main value as handling corporate reputation management.

51% believe that the role of PR and communications will be valued even more in the future.

And looking to Google Trends, we can see that searches for the term 'spin doctor' have dropped considerably from 80% of peak search volume in January 2004 to just 38% this month.

The most recent peak came in July 2011, thanks to a Daily Mail article about Campbell being 'barracked' at the launch of the Huffington Post UK website for having once been friends with Rebekah Brooks. Old news, once again.

Spin is an anachronistic, meaningless and negative term. So with the world starting to recognise the long-term value of good communications, isn't it time we put the spin to bed for good?