Book Review:Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age (Que Biz-Tech) by Gini Dietrich
In a world where public relations firms have been revered for their ability to “spin” stories for their clients, calling a book (and a related website) “Spin Sucks” seems counterintuitive. But, to author Gini Dietrich, it makes perfect sense.
According to Dietrich, “spin” implies untruth. Beyond any moral implications, lying is bad business, she says. In these days of social media and forced transparency, being truthful is the only viable approach.
Contrary to what one might expect, Spin Sucks isn’t all about the business of public relations, nor it it about the dramatic changes that industry is experiencing in today’s digital world.
Instead, Spin Sucks is a practical marketing communications how-to book for businesses large and small.
The biggest chunk of the book is devoted to two areas that underpin today’s marketing communications: content marketing and community building.
Creating great content is the key to success in multiple areas. Dietrich doesn’t get into nuts-and-bolts search engine optimization details, but she explains how Google’s algorithm (and the Panda update in particular) reward quality content and punish the bad stuff.
For a Better Truth, Read Fiction?
Considering her emphasis on telling the truth, Dietrich recommends marketers read plenty of great fiction. Why? She says you need a company story, and you can learn a lot about telling compelling stories from successful fiction writers and the structure they use.
Two key elements of a great story are the protagonist and antagonist, or, simply put, the hero and villain. A business story might identify a difficult problem as the antagonist, or another group of customers. (One of my favorite examples is Apple’s creation of a social identity for its own users at the expense of PC users – see Revealed: How Steve Jobs Turns Customers into Fanatics.)
An area where brands and companies often fail is in building and managing their communities, either on owned sites or in the broader world of social media. Dietrich describes a variety of strategies for engaging supporters and detractors.
Usually, detractors simply want the company to pay attention – either they need a problem solved, or they want the firm to acknowledge that there was a problem. A quick, open, and effective response will satisfy most people who complain publicly. The discussion should be shifted to a private channel if at all possible to avoid a public rehashing of problematic details.
Occasionally, a detractor will prove to be a “troll” – someone for whom there is no specific solution, and who is content to keep up a stream of negativity. Continued engagement with trolls is unproductive, though outright deletion of their content should be a last resort.
Dietrich gets into a variety of other topics, including crisis communications and real-time marketing. Overall, Spin Sucks is an easy-to-read guide packed with actionable strategies. Whether you plan to handle these areas internally or hire an outside firm to help, Dietrich’s book is a great starting point.
Around the Web
Web critics have liked Spin Sucks. Rosemary O’Neill of Successful Blog said, “I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is running a business (large or small), regardless of whether you’re working with an agency or doing it guerrilla style.” Michael White of Thought Symposium called it, “a useful and clear read.” Steamfeed’s Julie Long termed the book “a holistic guide to navigating the PR field” and said it “should be considered your bible!” Macy Koch of Brand Drive Digital found Spin Sucks to be, “Filled with practical tips, tricks, and tools,” and said it should be considered a “desk reference or guide.”
[Related: Listen to my interview with Gini on The Brainfluence Podcast.]