The Death of Spin

I talk a lot about transparency on this blog, especially when it comes to marketing and PR activities. With the unprecedented access we have to information today, the truth will come out (just ask Dan Rather).

That’s why I was impressed to read a story about the PR person for the Metrolink train system in California. If you have been watching the news lately, you have probably heard about the collision of a commuter train and a freight train which killed 25 people, at current count. In a horrific accident like this, the first thing most companies would do would be to hide the truth, skirt the issues, and “spin” the story. It all comes back to controlling the message.

However, in this case, the PR representative came right out and said after preliminary investigation that it appeared that the accident was the fault of the Metrolink engineer. This obviously didn’t make her bosses happy and they came out 2 days later and said the announcement was “premature”. The very next day, the PR representative, Denise Tyrell, resigned.

Now, the first rule in PR is to make sure you have a coordinated message and Ms. Tyrell may have acted without consensus, which simply makes you look bad. However, I have to give her major credit for not hiding the truth, but coming right out and stating the facts. The families of the victims deserved it, the people of California deserved it.

There is a verse of scripture that is often quoted that says, “and the truth shall set you free.” I never understood the philosophy behind politicians, athletes, and CEOs lying to the public and thinking that it will all just go away and they won’t be discovered. John Edwards and Roger Clemens are only the latest two victims of this practice.

The reality is that we all make mistakes. In out day and age, honesty is refreshing. I can tell you for a fact that the public is much quicker to forgive those who are honest up front than those who are forced to be honest. Though Bill Clinton may have been a pretty good president, he will always be remembered for his lesson on what the “definition of “is” is”. What?

The lesson: be honest up front, even if it hurts. Tell the public that your sorry and outline how you plan to resolve the issue. Forgiveness comes much quicker to those who reveal the truth themselves because, eventually, the truth will come out. We have too many citizen journalists today who will scoop it.

Any examples of honest “spin” that you have seen?

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