Monday, July 02, 2007

Death To Spin

There is no word in the English language that I hate more than “spin.” It is used by politicos, business executives and many others to address difficult situations that they need to “put over” on the public. “How shall we spin it?” Or how shall we shape or even fabricate the story so that we can gain public acceptance or at least tolerance? Public relations professionals are often referred to as “spin doctors.” The media attribute “spin” to the quotes they get from their sources. And so the concept of “spinning” gains traction.

As a public relations professional who believes in and practices truth over “truthiness,” I long for the total annihilation of “spinning.” So it was with great pleasure that I read Tom Friedman’s column, “The Whole World is Watching,” in the New York Times, June 27, in which he emphasizes that transparency trumps spinning, whether you like it or not, and, most importantly, gives organizations a new opportunity to distinguish themselves.

The question is what does he mean by that? He cites the new book, “How,”
by Dov Seidman, CEO of a business ethics company. Friedman says:

Seidman’s simple thesis is that in this transparent world “how” you live your life and “how” you conduct your business matters more than ever, because so many people can now see into what you do and tell so many other people about it on their own, without any [newspaper] editor…More and more of what you say or do or write will end up as a digital fingerprint that never gets erased…So the only way to get ahead in life will be by getting your “hows” right.
Seidman points out, according to Friedman, that today “what” you make is quickly copied and sold by everyone. But “how” you engage your customers, “how” you keep your promises, and “how” you collaborate with partners – that is not as easy to copy, and this is where companies can really differentiate themselves.

According to Seidman, “The tapestry of human behavior is so varied, so rich and so global that it presents a rare opportunity, the opportunity to outbehave the competition.”

How can you outbehave the competition? Friedman cites several examples from Seidman’s book: “One hospital taught its doctors to apologize when they make mistakes, and dramatically cut their malpractice claims…A New York street doughnut-seller trusted his customers to make their own change and found he could serve more people faster and build the loyalty that keeps them coming back.” A large auto dealer allowed every mechanic to spend whatever it took to do the job right, and saw costs decline as customer satisfaction increased.

Friedman concludes: Seidman says “we do not live in glass houses (houses have walls); we live on glass microscope slides…visible and exposed to all.”

Thus, companies or people can try to “spin” all they want, but everyone will know the truth about it. So, Friedman advises, get your “hows” right, because people will know about that too…when you do and when you don’t.

Technorati Tags: spin, Tom Friedman, Dov Seidman, transparency, truth, outbehave, business, communications, public relations

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