Is It Just Spin?

Public Relations…What Is It???

According to Edelman on his blog (, “The general public puts PR into the box of master manipulators (“spinners”) or publicists.”

In the words of Mickie Kennedy (, people tend to associate public relations with “”spin” or “covering up a scandal.””

Similarly, Jason Falls believes it is unfortunate that “[…] the education most public relations professionals received, coupled with the company-first doctrine of the business world means most public relations, by nature, isn’t good. It’s spin” (

Do you see a trend yet?

Most people view public relations as nothing more than spin.  Such predisposed, or perhaps cognitive, beliefs undoubtedly make it hard for people to accept a PR degree as one of value and substance.  In fact, many PR graduates, such as Christina Holm, have witnessed the lack of significance of holding a PR degree to be successful in the field.  Holms said that while on the job, she has heard all sorts opinions about obtaining a PR degree, such as”[…] a lot of people in PR […] don’t have degrees and they are doing fine” ( She has even heard someone undermine PR degrees so badly until they insisted that a bartender with a hint of creativity and the right attitude could carry out the tasks of a PR practitioner.

Certainly, we can see that there is a problem: The public does not value the importance and seriousness of having a PR degree.  Instead, at the mention of public relations, most people instantly think about “spin.”

So, what should be done about this issue in order to bring PR into a better light?

Perhaps PR practitioners can adhere to some of the following suggestions:

  • Change the connotation of PR:  In actuality, a functioning definition of PR is “the management function that identifies, establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on which its success and failure depend.  Does this sound like spin to you?  Certainly not, so what does this mean?  The notion that PR is centered around spin was added to the associations of this word, perhaps because of several cases of bad public relations.
  • Change the content of PR being spin:  In order for people to recognize a change, there must actually be a change.  Therefore, it is pointless to attempt to argue that PR is more than spin if the practitioners are not working in a manner consistent with this belief.
  • Change the perception of PR being associated with spin doctrine: It wouldn’t be wise to go into an uproar about the word’s negative usage because your anger behind these accusations could strengthen the public’s view that PR is simply spin.  However, you also cannot simply ignore the fact that this is being said about your profession.  What, then, are you to do?  You should place a SPIN on this perception.  Instead of associating “spin” with negative meanings, find a way to change the meaning of this term so that it becomes neutral, or even positive.

PR practitioners cannot let people’s misconstrued views of their work discourage them from persevering.  After all, like Tim Penning said, “[…] more often than not, particularly in politics, “spin” is perpetuated by people who do not have a degree in PR, and are not members of PRSA and aware of its ethics code, and therefore should not be considered exemplary of PR as commonly practiced.”  Simply put, a lot of the people who claim PR is simply spin do not have a sufficient amount of knowledge on the topic to make such obscene statements.


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