by Kiley Herndon*
As a future public relations professional, it is my imperative to kill the infamous “spin doctor” stereotype that has so infested the truth we all know of public relations. Friday, September 19, Gini Dietrich, author of the blog and book Spin Sucks, spoke at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), where I am president of our PRSSA chapter, about how to disassociate “spin” and PR.
Dietrich first talked about our favorite celebrity, Miley Cyrus, and the brilliant case study she presents with her transition from Disney’s Hannah Montana to the Miley we all know today. Hannah Montana “was murdered,” Miley Cyrus explained on Saturday Night Live, like we must murder negative stereotypes of PR.
Cyrus’s intentional transition from child star to sexualized pop icon was the exact kind of marathon PR that professionals try to emulate. As Dietrich explained, “we are not wizards, there’s no one behind the screen.” Although a client might want to be on the front page of The New York Times tomorrow, we know that, even if we get that front page, it is not the end of the story. As professionals, we must strive to finish their story and help our clients to become transparent and lasting. Like Miley, we have to know our audience, our mission, and the most effective way to accomplish our goals with lasting impressions.
Dietrich also spoke to our crowd of eager future professionals about ethics, fitting for the month of September with PRSA, since September is dedicated to discussing ethics in PRSA. We learned that using fake accounts to post positive comments about our organization is unethical. Further, she challenged us to decide if it is ethical to write op-eds for executives and not state that a firm produced all the content.
Dietrich suggests we may be moving to a time when executives are forced into a state of actual transparency. This would suggest that future practices will require op-eds and other PR-produced content to state whether or not a firm authored the piece. Though the concepts of “spin” and media manipulation seem to plague our every move as PR professionals, it must be our mission to defeat that tyrant of a stereotype and get the first and most accurate story. Dietrich quotes TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington who stated, “Getting it right is expensive, getting it first is cheap.” Such remarks are exactly what we must combat to prove the ethical standards we hold ourselves to.
As I walked away from Dietrich’s presentation, I felt heightened vigor for public relations and knew the passion I have for the field is what can rid “spin” from outside definitions of PR. Consciously working in an ethical manner is the first step to achieving this transition. I do believe Dietrich was correct; we can change the world. Haven’t we already begun?
Photos by Kiley Herndon
About the author:
My name is Kiley Herndon and I am a senior English major at SIUE. I am the SIUE PRSSA chapter President, Marketing Officer of Student Government, and social content intern at Robust Wine Bar. I love to travel, read, and, oddly enough, research. I cannot wait to graduate in May!