Learn how to spin the system

Book valuable tool to handling media matters

'Spin: The Art of Managing The Media' is published by Penguin
'Spin: The Art of Managing The Media' is published by Penguin

Spin: The Art of Managing The Media by Nick Clelland and Ryan Coetzee, published by Penguin, R160

What a fascinating little paperback this is, giving tips to “spin” your point of view to members of the media.

As a journalist it was an eye opener to read the words of those on the other side of the trenches – and believe me, ploughing through media releases from PRs who do not know how we work, can be a gruelling slog for a journalist!

And, have you ever wondered how political parties, for example the DA or ANC, get so much publicity? Part of the answer lies in their professional communications teams: they know radio and print deadlines and how the system works, and they use this to their benefit.

I promise you – as someone “embedded” at The Herald – it is not a case of deliberate bias but rather that they know to “spin” the system.

Depending on who is being quoted and why, you do need to engage your brain when reading the paper
Gillian McAinsh

Both Clelland and Coetzee were in fact politicians and it shows: they are sharp, cynical and on point. As they state: “The paradigm should be clear: ordinary comment is ordinary, good news is boring, conflict is news, so, pick a fight.”

What’s more, “explaining is losing” and “always give them as little as possible”.

Hence they teach a “curious mix of science and chaos”, saying “there are things you can control, which this book is about, and things you cannot, which this book helps you respond to”.

The authors claim to be able to teach more than just how to manage the media, however.
“You will learn the secret of how to become famous” they promise, but while politicians always welcome the oxygen of publicity, so too do many other professions.

Spin can be valuable to CEOs, sports people, politicians, social media users, celebrities, thought leaders, academics, bloggers and authors who all at times will need to know what to do or say to the media.

Then there are those who do not necessarily want attention all the time but still do need to know how to handle press queries.

This book offers clear and invaluable advice for how to do just that.

There are chapters on building a brand, practical media skills, how to drive issues (or become famous), using social media and how to handle a communications crisis.

Even if you read nothing else, read the appendix of tips, which pretty much sums up the book’s contents.

Tellingly, the title of the book is Spin not Truth.

Which means that, depending on who is being quoted and why, you do need to engage your brain when reading the paper – particularly if they have been trained by the guys writing this book.

Because they know their subject – and how to spin it! – Gillian McAinsh