Why You Should Read Spin Sucks: a BOOK REPORT

Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich

Spin Sucks, is a much-needed, pragmatic explanation of the changing communication landscape.

The book’s author, Gini Diterich, dives into this changing landscape and clearly articulates how its changed — without hyperbole, fifty cent words or, of course, spin. The book is practical, clearly written and helpful as a result.

It’s no surprise Dietrich hails from the Midwest…we’re known for this kind of counsel. The fact that Spin Sucks is written for clients should encourage, not discourage, practitioners from reading it. This ultimately helps the reader better articulate how communication has changed to their own clients.


Spin Sucks Basics
As you can imagine, social media, content marketing and search are all topics of discussion in Spin Sucks. Each chapter includes plenty of explanation, how-to instruction and great examples to support its assertions. It is a quick read with 10 chapters, organized into four sections, comprising the just under 150 page book. And it’s written in a way that you can read it in the old-school, linear fashion or get all millennial up in here and jump around based on your interest or needs.

A Point of Contention
The only thing I disagree with in Spin Sucks is Dietrich’s classification of social media as shared media — a fourth silo along with paid, owned and earned media.

Social media has disrupted our industry. Social sharing has become so critical to what we do, it’s becoming a seamless part of communication. And there are examples of paid, owned and earned on nearly any social platform today. This and the fact that technology convergence has been eliminating media silos for years, something I’ve promoted for some time, is the basis for why I do not carve out social media separately.

In her defense, Dietrich notes in Spin Sucks that consumers are distinguishing less and less between “the four types of media.” And that “the lines between communication, marketing, ads, sales, customer experience, product development and human resources will become blurred.”

The bottom line is I think the lines are already blurred and this assumption didn’t change the validity of anything Dietrich proposes in her book.

The Hybrid Skills Trend
One topic Spin Sucks touches on, a trend worthy of its own book, is how changing technology and consumer habits are pushing the need for more hybrid skill sets (inclusive of traditional and non-traditional communication skills).

“Today, public relations professionals have to be knowledgeable about web development, search engine optimization, mobile marketing, content marketing and more.”

Work culture is shifting to address this trend. But things are changing so rapidly the academic world still has some work to do. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, we must be willing to test, learn and iterate what we do more frequently and consistently than we have done in the past.

Dietrich speaks to this as well, noting “your culture must be about experimentation, and you must be willing to take some risk.” This is critical because more than ever as an individuals biggest skill may become the ability to “tolerate failure, quickly pivot and try again.”

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Dietrich’s mantra throughout this book is to “remember, it’s a marathon and not a sprint.” And our industry needs to be chanting this mantra.

The key is to be able to show clients why  it’s a marathon, and to ultimately follow up with the results this approach will yield.

Click here for a video about the book. And for more Spin Sucks in general, click here to dig into the community.


Kevin Dugan, @prblog

Twitter Civics 101: What It Is & Why You Should Care

The most common question we hear from clients these days is, “How can we maximize Twitter?” Many giant companies went the route of letting the kids (literally) handle arguably their most visible and direct public face this summer, some with disastrous results. But that’s just not the way. The lesson is simple: Twitter is a communication vehicle. It is relatively new, but it is not a flash in the pan. It’s not just for the kids and Lady Gaga or Yoko Ono. And it isn’t just about what you had for breakfast. Just as one would never staff engineering or sales departments with interns alone, treating social media (more on Facebook in future but same rule applies) as a quantitative proposition alone is a sure path to disaster. To understand a communication vehicle, we need to come to grips with what it is and how it works—then figure out how to use it to support business objectives. We’ll address the first one here.

Twitter is Public

The single most important element everyone in your organization needs to know about Twitter is that almost everything on it is available to everyone in the wide world. What your brand—and that means your management—say on Twitter therefore affects your whole company. Some folks—journalists and those working in politics are perfect examples—try to get around this by having employees put in their profiles that their posts are personal rather than professional. This can work for some, but not for the people listed on the Management page of your website. Make no mistake: As a communications professional, it is your responsibility to understand Twitter and (take a seat for this revelation) make sure everyone in your organization does, too. If you don’t get how this works, for the love of whatever you believe in, ask for some advice!

Twitter is Mainstream

With social media, numbers are always tricky. Number of registered users? Active users? Visitors? Impressions? Twinkies? Twitter’s numbers don’t matter. Let me repeat that: Twitter’s numbers don’t matter. By any measure, there are a few more than millions of people on Twitter. Name a media outlet with a reach of more than a million that’s not important to your brand. (Crickets) Exactly.

Twitter is Two-Way…if you want it to be

The best way to understand the interactions on Twitter is to think of it like walking into your family doctor’s waiting room. By definition, you have something in common with everyone there and yet the specifics are likely entirely different. You might be there for a regular physical while the person next to you is suffering from acute appendicitis. But you’re both there for a reason related to health. Just because you’re in the same waiting room, though, doesn’t mean you necessarily want to talk with anyone—or everyone. You can read that fascinating article about Bennifer from the August, 2003 issue of People or you can choose to strike up a conversation either in response to something you overhear or because you like someone’s shoes. If you do start chatting, just about everything you say will be audible to all your co-waiters. If you start that conversation and the guy across the room over-listens and wants to participate, he’ll jump right in. Just like Twitter.

Twitter has its Own Language

Sure there’s Twitter jargon—hashtag, stream, @ reply, DM, auto-DM, feed—but keep in mind that specific communities within Twitter have their own language as well, necessitated by its 140-character format. For example, I read a lot of crime fiction, and I interact with lots of others who do. We talk about our TBR pile and #fridayreads.

Twitter is All Free

This is not a duh. Its nature is such that it is tempting to put Twitter in advertising terms, but this is as problematic as reading The Communist Manifesto to comprehend democracy. Or trying to understand American government without reading the U.S. Constitution. Have you noticed I still haven’t told you how to get more followers? Yeah, and I’m not going to—not today. I want you to keep anticipating what I say next…just like on Twitter. Oh and for the record, anyone who tells you there’s a formula for Twitter success is a fake guru and is just as misguided as those who suggest that pay-for-play is a viable model for effective media relations. On that, I step down from my box. Questions? Email or tweet @erinfaye.