New Zealand
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PR Dark Arts, Good For My Business

The op-ed “Ditch the spin” by Heather Claycomb, Chair of the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ) , expressed a frustration that our communications profession risks being exclusively defined as 'spin doctors', to which I would add 'masters of the dark arts'.

Her op-ed was written in response to references to spin doctors in a recent Newshub story: "Government blames COVID-19 for 46 percent increase in communications staff.”

The PRINZ chair takes issue with the use of the term ‘spin doctors’ as an acceptable synonym for communications professionals. She demands that one: “Recognise the incredible insult it is to call ethical PR practitioners ‘spin doctors.’ Not only is it offensive, it’s hurtful at a very personal level.”

I confess to being proud of belonging to a profession whose creativity, style and eloquence inspired the outstanding satirical dark comedy “Absolute Power”.

It stars Stephen Fry in one of his best roles, as the senior partner whose grasp of public relations' dark arts and ability to spin the truth, whatever the situation, is both hugely amusing and appalling.

For their part, reporters accept that the title“hack" and being a descendent of "grub street" is a small part of their colourful heritage. We, as a profession, should also accept our 'spin doctor'/'dark arts' reputation as a small fragment of our vibrant legacy.

The real issues facing our profession are both the decline of the print and broadcast newsrooms and the rise of social media. This has resulted in journalists being perceived by some sections of society as having reduced credibility. The rise of fake news and alternative facts presents every increasing challenges. How we, as a profession, deal with this new environment is a conversation PRINZ should be promoting.

As professional communications experts, we spend most of our time ethically advising and working with and for our clients. However, my experience has taught me that we can’t guarantee our clients - they are human beings and occasionally have a capacity to endlessly compose new variations of public relations problems.

We, as a profession, deal with human beings and I relish this challenge. Besides, I confess to not telling everyone of my strategies, as a little mystery or dark arts is good for my business.

David Lynch

Momentus Public Relations Ltd

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