13 Jul A career in communications
I spent the past weekend chain watching the popular Danish TV drama Borgen with my mum. If you haven’t heard of Borgen, think of a Nordic version of The West Wing meets House of Cards. Produced in Danish with English subtitles, the program tells the story of charismatic politician Birgritte Nyborg, her staffers, rivals, and family members. Unfortunately one of the only frequently used English phrases in the show is the title given to Birgrittes communications advisor, Kasper Juul, and is a term my mother now uses to describe me: Spin Doctor.
Something you notice when you embark on a career in communications is not many people outside the industry understand what you do. Besides the Samantha Jones syndrome (think Sex and The City), the most common misconception is that we PRs live a life of spin. People that work in PR do so because they’re passionate about stories, creativity, ideas, and working with brands to build and defend their reputation. We’re not interested in hoodwinking consumers or peddling propaganda as the word ‘spin’ implies.
I know it shouldn’t really bother me being called a ‘little spin doctor’ but it doesn’t sit right. Even as a term of endearment, I feel like it denotes deceit, when in reality an important part of our industry is transparency. In fact, as I sit here writing this, the values stuck to the office wall are staring down at me telling me to talk straight, have mutual respect and take responsibility among other things.
Good communication is ethical communication. Day to day as we work for our clients there is little room for spin. Readers and viewers have stopped receiving multiple pieces of news from a single source to receiving a single news item from multiple sources. There’s no one authority, one story or one opinion. Everything we present can be easily checked, cross checked, and challenged.
In a similar way good business is ethical business. Companies who are open and contribute to public discourse earn trust, and trust breeds loyalty. As communication consultants it’s in both our and our clients’ interest, to play by the rules.
I think Borgen sums up this idea perfectly in an Epigraph in the third season “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time” – Abraham Lincoln.