Public relations does not mean “spin doctoring”

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It annoys me that, over the years, the term “spin doctoring” has become synonymous with public relations. The thing that rankles is that to most people, "spin" means the art of misleading or even deceiving – especially in a political context.

It annoys me that, over the years, the term “spin doctoring” has become synonymous with public relations.

The thing that rankles is that to most people, “spin” means the art of misleading or even deceiving – especially in a political context. It is now associated with lying or being economical with the truth.

That’s not what public relations is about, particularly the media relations side. Most honest toilers in public relations (and I’d like to think I’m one) see their role as helping clients communicate through the media – helping them to reach the people they want to influence.

But this doesn’t mean lying to journalists or hoping to get flattering untruths published, even though this seems to be the attitude for many members of parliament and ministers these days.

Indeed the help that public relations practitioners have provided to their clients in recent times is often under-estimated, especially in the corporate world.

There are many commercial organisations whose operations are now much more transparent than they once were, thanks in part to the assistance of public relations advisers and the influence they have over chief executives who trust them.

Organisations now place greater importance on the need for communications, and public relations practitioners can take a large measure of credit in helping this to happen.

One example of the changes influenced by public relations people is the simple one of journalists being allowed, if not actively encouraged, to attend public companies’ annual general meetings.

It wasn’t so very long ago that journalists had to obtain a proxy to attend a company’s AGM, even those of the largest Australian listed companies such as banks.

There are probably other countless examples of the influence for positive change that public relations has helped introduce, so it irritates when it is all dismissed as ‘spin’.