Telling it straight: Spin

Telling it straight: Spin
SHARE
THIS



In a new monthly series hosted by B&T, Ogilvy will be regularly putting the spotlight on PR. In this first installment, Parker & Partners’ Mathew Jones takes a look at the world of spin.

Spin in the eyes of the beholder

Last week it was reported that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison had directed his Department to call those people who arrive in Australia by boat without a visa ‘illegal’ rather than ‘irregular’ asylum seekers, and once they are processed as ‘detainees’ not ‘clients’.

“I’m not going to make any apologies for not using politically correct language to describe something that I am trying to stop,” the minister said. “I’m not going to engage in some sort of clever language to try and mask anything here… I’m going to call a spade a spade.”

The lesson we can learn from Morrison’s quote is, I suppose, that spin is in the eyes of the beholder. What he calls a spade others might call a shovel, a trowel or even a non-mechanical digging implement. All could be argued to be correct, it’s just a matter of shading and emphasis.

The politics of irregular – sorry, illegal – asylum seekers aside, do such changes in language have an impact on the way people think about a political issue? Would a ‘School Hall Building Program’ have less impact than ‘Building the Education Revolution’, or would voters like and respond to political language that describes what is actually being done?

Prime Minister Abbott has said his Government will dump the Gillard Government’s clunky, agrammatical and patronising Disability Care and revert to the more utilitarian National Disability Insurance Scheme. While this certainly doesn’t signal the end of spin, it does reflect an understanding that it is possible to push political language to its breaking point where it becomes meaningless, and that to revert to a plainer way of speaking can be a relief for the listener and the speaker.

Of course the issue of political spin goes further than just language, but to a willingness to even engage in a particular debate or area of discussion. If a minister is asked a question ten times, as Environment Minister Greg Hunt was last week by an ABC journalist, does he do himself and the issue he supports more damage by not engaging than he would by just answering the question?

Hunt has obviously been media trained and is an experienced and assured media performer. But using acquired techniques to move away from an unwanted question to a key message is one thing; infuriating the audience by patently refusing to answer the question is another.

At this point I have to confess that I was once a spinner, a media adviser in politics whose job it was to liaise with the press gallery, putting my boss’s perspective to the fourth estate – sometimes aggressively but mostly, I hope, with charm and persuasion.

In my experience the only spin that worked was the truth. We all know the saying “you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter”. But there’s a much better way – don’t create turds in the first place. “Look after the policy and the politics will look after itself,” my minister was fond of saying.

Nevertheless, sometimes my friends in the press gallery would say “but that’s just spin”, although the more honest ones would concede that they were spinning too, just in the opposite direction. It’s pretty hard to read articles in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on bike paths and not get dizzy from the amount of spinning going on. Likewise Fairfax’s or the ABC’s planning coverage, which sees every new building as a blight on the landscape.

To avoid spin it’s not just the words that must have integrity, but the presentation as well. Anyone who has had a personal interaction with former Prime Minister Gillard will say she is warm, witty, smart and engaged. Yet apart from a few famous moments, in her time as PM she came across on camera as wooden, controlled, and flat. Voters thought her inauthentic, when those who have met her know she is not.

The public is awake to spin – not just from politicians, but from celebrities, brands, the media, and even their boss. They crave authenticity, for realness, for a lack of bullshit.

This doesn’t mean throwing out communication techniques, or saying whatever comes in to your head. It does mean treating the public – the millions of people on the other end of that TV camera or on Facebook – with respect and as adults.

Those who are able to be authentic – regardless of what side of politics they are on – will build a relationship with their constituents that will get them through the tough political times, while those who aren’t will still be putting a red pen through the words their department uses in an effort to shape how we think.

Mathew Jones is the managing director of Parker & Partners, Ogilvy Public Relations’ public affairs specialist.

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Host/Havas Takes Out Cannes Grand Prix With Palau Pledge
  • Advertising

Host/Havas Takes Out Cannes Grand Prix With Palau Pledge

Host/Havas has secured Australia’s first grand prix award at Cannes overnight, taking out the top gong for the direct lions with its work Palau Pledge. The work, which sees all visitors to the tiny island nation have their passport stamped with a pledge to be a good environmental citizen, which they must sign before entering […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Instagram Launches Long-Form Video
  • Technology

Instagram Launches Long-Form Video

Instagram unveils new eye-catching feature. Slicing onions while reading this will also make it eye-watering.

Ridley Scott Unveils New Directors Showcase At Cannes
  • Media

Ridley Scott Unveils New Directors Showcase At Cannes

Curated this year by Ridley Scott, famed director of Alien, The Martian and other classics, The New Directors Showcase at Cannes is now in its 28th year. Acting as a platform for talented new directors to have their work premiered to a global audience, Scott took to the stage in front of a full house […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
ANZ, PHD & JCDecaux Harness The Power Of Data
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

ANZ, PHD & JCDecaux Harness The Power Of Data

ANZ and media agency PHD have partnered with JCDecaux to launch a unique campaign that harnesses the power of data across three cities incorporating actual tram, train and bus timetable information to align with the new ANZ App.

Report: Consumers Are Hitting Play On Mobile Video
  • Technology

Report: Consumers Are Hitting Play On Mobile Video

Ooyala survey finds media companies created and processed nearly three times as much video content in Q1 as Media Companies Created & Processed Nearly Three Times As Much Video Content in Q1 2018 vs. Q1 2017.

Intrepid Travel Go Back 30 Years, Posting Classified Adverts In Newspapers
  • Campaigns

Intrepid Travel Go Back 30 Years, Posting Classified Adverts In Newspapers

Intrepid Travel has gone back in time and is placing classified adverts for a new ‘mystery expedition’ to places that yet mapped by Google.  The adverts to be placed in Courier Mail, Herald Sun and Sunday Telegraph are calling for intrepid people to join a journey with “long travel days, intermittent electricity, no Wi-Fi, cold […]

Watching tv and using remote control
  • Advertising
  • Media

GroupM Investment Forecast For Australia: TV On The Rise As Digital Slips

GroupM has updated its 2018 ad investment forecasts and released its initial 2019 outlook. GroupM predicts $24B in net new advertising investment this year, the best annual increment since the bounce back from the global recession in 2010 when $26B was added to investment. GroupM estimates total advertising investment will grow by 4.5 per cent this year […]

Indigenous Campaign Deemed Too Controversial By APN Media To Run
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

Indigenous Campaign Deemed Too Controversial By APN Media To Run

Aboriginal Victoria’s campaign in support of Australia’s first-ever treaty legislation, Deadly Questions, has been deemed too controversial to run by one of Australia’s leading outdoor media providers, APN Media. Online platform Deadly Questions provides a safe space for people to ask questions and have them answered by Aboriginal Victorians, to learn more about their cultures, […]

Introducing: YouTube Music Australia
  • Technology

Introducing: YouTube Music Australia

The wait is over! Starting today, YouTube Music is available to everyone in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S, Mexico and South Korea in addition to 12 new countries including Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Now fans around the world can find more of the music […]

Will PR Finally Earn Its Stripes At Cannes This Year?
  • Opinion

Will PR Finally Earn Its Stripes At Cannes This Year?

In this guest post, Haystac’s national general manager, Jason Carnew (pictured below), says with all this talk of Cannes at this time of year, it’s a kindly reminder that the PR business needs to get its act together in terms of awards, work and judging… All eyes on are Cannes as some of the best […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Ex-DDBer Unveils Designer Headscarves For Cancer Survivors
  • Campaigns

Ex-DDBer Unveils Designer Headscarves For Cancer Survivors

Two-times cancer survivor, Frankie Good Stuff Award Winner, ex-DDBer and founder of Bravery Co. Emily Somers has collaborated with a range of top-notch illustrators to produce Australia’s first range of designer headscarves for young cancer warriors. She is now crowdfunding $40,000 to produce the scarves and donate one to all the young women in their 20’s […]

New Advertising Platform Launches Down Under
  • Advertising

New Advertising Platform Launches Down Under

Following its massive success in Europe, Asia and the UAE, the Polishoe concept, which brings a high-demand shoe polish service and HD digital advertising platform together, has landed in Australia.

Women In Media Profile: Aimee Buchanan
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Aimee Buchanan

No Women in Media series would be complete without the irrepressible Aimee Buchanan. Read all her pressibles here.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Set for blue sky, different clouds icons, cloud shapes, labels, symbols, icons. Flat graphic vector elements
  • Technology

PubMatic Unveils Cloud for Publishers And Tech Companies

PubMatic has launched PubMatic Cloud for publishers and tech companies looking to implement and control their own programmatic technology. By accessing PubMatic’s technology, global infrastructure and demand connections on a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) basis, clients are able to achieve full transparency and achieve greater control over their programmatic monetization. As programmatic trading becomes mainstream, innovations such as […]

Women In Media Profile: Claudine Hall
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Claudine Hall

The Women in Media Awards are back for 2018! To celebrate this wonderful fact, and to recognise some of the killer women in our industry, we’ve created a women in media series – and have profiled some pretty inspiring women so far. This week, we chat with Bauer Media head of trade marketing Claudine Hall. […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Cancer Council and Target Tradies Tackle On-The-Job Skin Cancer Risks
  • Campaigns

Cancer Council and Target Tradies Tackle On-The-Job Skin Cancer Risks

Workers on construction sites receive five to 10 times more UV exposure every year compared to indoor workers. Target Tradies and Cancer Council have announced the launch of a partnership to help educate Australian construction workers about the importance of being SunSmart at work. With evidence showing that outdoor workers receive five to 10 times […]