The Art of Spin: Why Earned Media Matters

Posted by Chris Steer on December 28, 2012

Recently, CBC Newsworld held a “Year in Politics Review” with political insiders assessing the best and worst moments for Canada’s political parties.  I was struck by a comment from Peter Mansbridge when he opened the “best in spin” segment, that he believed the public saw spin as a dirty word.

It is ironic that many public relations and communications professionals are unable to communicate what they do without falling into jargon.  Part of the distrust aimed at PR firms is that the public and the media misinterpret what PR practitioners do.

“Spin” and “earned media” are two phrases that define public relations. Both are often misunderstood by the public at large.

Spin is often considered synonymous with lying. This is a result of its use by politicians to defend the indefensible. Despite this common misconception, the act of ‘spin’ itself never involves lying and is simply pushing your side of the story.

In politics, as in life, there are few facts, and many opinions. Politics tends to involve many diametrically opposite opinions, but the job of media is to boil it down into a simple story for the public to understand. PR pros use spin to get their story in the news in favourable terms.

Earned media is when a client gets their press release or story in the news without spending money on traditional advertising. The newspaper/TV news disseminates the story to the public on the client’s behalf. This is as opposed to paid media where a client pays for advertising, which is considerably more expensive and results in a smaller audience.

At Broadview we use earned media to tell our clients’ stories.  A good story has a challenge at the beginning, problem solving in the middle and a successful conclusion.  By presenting our clients’ point of view, and “spinning”, we make sure that our clients’ views are heard.

The benefit of earned media is that generally people look at news media as unbiased, while the bias of advertising is inherent. By having others tell your story, it becomes more believable and more importantly becomes a story people share. Positive media also applies pressure to politicians, who are often compelled to make decisions with which their constituents agree. Community pressure and positive media are among the best and most effective forces that can bring a politician to reconsider their positions.

At Broadview, we mobilize community support for our clients and build a story for the media that is worth telling. We leverage that community support and media attention to encourage decision makers to create favourable outcomes for our clients.

The bottom line is ‘spin’ itself isn’t good or bad, but merely an effort to present one’s viewpoint to an audience in hopes of shifting their opinion on the topic.