I detest the word “spin.” It is used, lazily and glibly, to paint as inaccurate and/or insincere statements made by public-relations professionals like me or authors, experts, speakers, coaches and consultants like my clients. Is it a tactic some in those above groups employ when trying to obfuscate and dodge an unflattering truth? Of course. But those who stoop to it in my profession are the ambulance chasers of the art—sleazy and hopefully not carrying business cards for long that identify them as being in the PR game.
As for those I represent, when something they say is labeled spin, the labeler is saying he or she is lying—without having the guts to say it straight. The critic is hoping the nasty connotations of the word do all the dirty work and the author, expert, speaker, etc., is marginalized. And what are those nasty connotations? Here’s the definition as supplied by Wikipedia— a source I rarely cite because it is not serious or authoritative. I only use it now because “spin” doesn’t deserve a definition from a serious or authoritative source. “‘(S)pin’ is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favor or against some organization or public figure,” Wikipedia drones. “While traditional public relations and advertising may also rely on altering the presentation of the facts, ‘spin’ often implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive, and highly manipulative tactics.”
So if the language of PR isn’t spin, what is it? What are we doing when we arrange words into sentences in a way that draws others to us? When we talk about what we do and how we do it with an eye toward getting others to heed us or hire us, what do we call it? Hang on; hang on. I’m getting to it. I still need to draw this out a bit for maximum payoff. So let me describe it some more before I name it: We are positioning ourselves advantageously, encapsulating and presenting our brand in a way that emphasizes our authority, insight, expertise, compassion, wisdom or anything else we want to spotlight to create a favorable impression of ourselves. We are not spinning or lying; we are not trying to pass ourselves off as Batman, as popular social media memes urge us, just to make our audience think we’re some sort of superhero.
We’re simply and succinctly putting our best reputational foot forward by using our best rhetorical skills. We are framing.
That’s the word to remember every time you place your brand before the masses. Framing is the artful positioning of thoughts, actions and results to build the greatest affinity and authority with an audience. “Build” may be the most important word in that definition, because proper framing really is a construction process—the word itself comes from construction, meaning to fit together pieces to give a structure support and shape.
Properly frame what you want to tell others about yourself, and you’ll have a house that could survive PR storms, but likely won’t have to.