Author: Patricia Vaccarino
Most of us have heard the term “spin,” but what exactly is it and why is it important? These topics and numerous others are discussed in Patricia Vaccarino's slim well-written tome American Spin: How spinmeisters tell you what to think about people, products, issues and companies. This is a book that does much of the heavy lifting of many others twice its size dealing with the same subject matter in presenting an intelligible discussion of the importance of spin weather you are in politics, banking, finance, agriculture, manufacturing, education, technology, the arts, entertainment, or charity.
Vaccarino begins her exploration with a description of spin which she states is the positioning from which a story is told and the precise way facts are sliced and diced. In addition, it is the sequence or layering of facts and the exact order in which the facts are presented to the intended recipient. As further noted, spin is created by propaganda, also known as the message, however, its association with propaganda often gives it a bad name. Now we may ask, is there such a thing as good spin as opposed to bad spin and if there is, how do we differentiate one from the other? According to Vaccarino, “good spin is simply a good story well told that grabs your attention and gets you to feel powerful emotion.” Succinctly, it is a way of packaging the truth. On the other hand, when we have bad spin, we are in the presence of lying and sooner or later it is exposed resulting in negative public opinion. Another form of bad spin is hype where we have an excessive amount of noise that far exceeds its integrity and intrinsic value. Bad spin can also arise when the spin or angle of the story was all wrong for the audience. This occurs when you don't know your target audience.
From here Vaccarino discusses the problem with the media where presently it is very difficult for most individuals to get placed in the media no matter what field they may be and the message they wish to convey. Even P.R. professionals are having difficulty as their spin can be ignored as not being newsworthy enough to command attention. Within the same territory Vaccarino traces the importance of branding and its true measure and how P.R. tools must be used in getting your message across despite your profession or trade. And speaking about the message, an entire chapter is devoted to the message “which must be as unfailingly consistent and in its consistency as constant as the North Star.” We have all heard the complaint that we are bombarded with media clutter. How do we overcome this clutter to get our message across is another interesting chapter that provides a better understanding of what we are up against and how we can travel through the clutter. One of the topics I found quite fascinating was in the chapter entitled “Getting Away With Murder” where Vaccarino illustrates how clever P.R. spinmeisters use their skills to control damage caused to a company or individual. Examples referred to are the case of Kenneth Lay of the Enron scandal in 2001, the O.J. Simpson trial, and the B.P. Oil spill disaster. Other chapters delve into the topic of the rich and powerful and their use of spin to sway the public as well as protecting their interests, the importance of attaching yourself to a “head honcho” or as Vaccarino terms, “the head beagle,” how to be a master and look like one or how to run and good P.R. campaign. Vaccarino backs up many of her assertions with references and notes found at the end of the book.
Vaccarino knows what she is talking about with her more than twenty years of expertise working with a wide range of national and international clients. Readers who wish to get a basic understanding of spin and its importance will find this book an excellent starting point, though by no means the last word.