14 mars 2004

Unspinning a spin

A few days ago, Daron Letts, the editor of fred, an independent newspaper in Fredericton, posted unraveling the spin: separating news from PR on rabble.ca. First you need to understand that rabble.ca is all about. In their words:
"rabble.ca is a new kind of publication, one built on the efforts of progressive journalists, writers, artists and activists across the country. (...) rabble.ca fuses the hot energy of activism with the cool eye of journalism."
I wrote back to Daron and posted the text of my email in the comments section of his article. Here goes:

Hi Daron,

Although I fully agree with Jack Layton's comments about the potential for scandals that comes from Paul Martin’s hiring of so many people who were until very recently lobbyists, I find that I have to disagree with the “spin” you gave your article Unravelling the spin: separating news from PR. I read the comments on rabble.ca and mine will be different: I hope you don’t mind if it’s a little more critical :)

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know right off the bat that I’m a communications consultant myself, but not a lobbyist. To get to “know” me a bit better, you should know I maintain a blog where you can read some of my comments on other issues.

Like I said, I’ve got a major problem with your article. So here goes.

My problem is that you don’t make any distinctions between communicators and lobbyists. In fact, you write your article as if they were one and the same.
News flash: they aren’t. The great majority of communicators don’t lobby. And most lobbyists don’t communicate (except with government officials).

I’ve been in this business for twelve years. I have almost never been tasked with lobbying. There are some people that worked with me whose job was to lobby. My job was communicate with both external stakeholders (such as the media, trade groups and others) and with internal stakeholders (such as employees and their families, members, shareholders and others).

PR isn’t lobbying and lobbying isn’t PR. And I think that even John Stauber would agree with that.

In fact, Wikipedia (I hope you’ll agree that this is a neutral resource) defines public relations as “internal and external communication (use of symbols and symbolic acts) to inform or influence specific publics using writing, marketing, advertising, publicity, promotions, and special events.”

Wikipedia then goes on to defines lobbying as “the practice of influencing a governing body in order to reflect an individual's or organisation's point of view in the legislature.”

Bottom line: your headline and part of your lead are misleading. Since blog users often crow about the net’s power as an editing tool, I hope you don’t mind my comments.

By the way, I found it somewhat amusing that the very next article on rabble.ca, the one by David Schreck covering Elayne Brenzinger leaving Gordon Capbell’s caucus, devoted almost as much text to advising others on how to communicate the fact that they were leaving the caucus than what it devoted to the news item itself.


Marc Snyder
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
communications consulting/
project management/writing
corporate identity/crisis management
Don't you find it ironic when someone takes an anti-PR spin but gets his/her concepts all wrong?

Don't you find it funny when people on the right "snob" activists, but those on the left criticize the Big Business "spin?"

People, communication (and its subset, PR) is a good thing. Let's all try to forget our prejudices before trying to analyse something. Please?

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