Book Review: #SpinSucks by @GiniDietrich

Jon Pittman is our VP of Corporate Strategy for Autodesk, although sometimes I wonder if he is the VP of Corporal Strategy[link]. I kid. I kid. Actually our CEO, Carl Bass, says his management team says that he has only two management styles: the carrot and the stick. Carl's retort is that "I can't figure out how to hit them hard enough with the carrot." All kidding aside, for Christmas, Jon gave me an Amazon echo dot, a Dilbert calendar, and a copy of SPIN SUCKS: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age by Gini Dietrich.

The book contains a bunch of best practices for public relations. I am happy to report that Autodesk has an excellent PR department in that, from what I can tell, we practice all of them. This includes our use of social media. I can recall the days of yore when Shaan Hurley wanted to start the first Autodesk blog. As a technologist, the PR team was nervous about a non-PR person communicating directly with the public. Today, Autodesk has many blogs with a social media policy that provides guidance on blogging, posting, tweeting, and image sharing. We're all one big happy family. We avoid the black hat techniques like gaming search engines with industry keywords and employ white hat techniques by having interesting stories to tell in unique ways.

One of my favorite blogs is called indexed. Indexed author, Jessica Hagy, displays thought provoking ideas on index cards.

Visit her site

I have done this for book reviews before (FLOW, Codermetrics, Shutting Up, The Infinite Resource, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service), so I thought I'd try my hand at being a Jessica Hagy by providing an index card for each chapter of SPIN SUCKS. Hopefully, it's interesting in a unique way.

Here are some key concepts from the book.

  1. Sex Sells


    "People are not rational creatures. We do not behave in predictable patterns. As much as we'd like to apply science to our communications, it's nearly impossible to do so." [page 9]

  2. The Google Drama


    "...Google prioritizes fresh, educational, and valuable new content when crawling your website." [page 27]

  3. Shareable and Valuable Content Creation


    "Like attorneys and accountants, we [PR professionals] sell our brains for a living." [page 46]

  4. Whisper Campaigns and Anonymous Attackers


    "According to Campaigns & Elections, astroturfing is a 'grassroots program that involves the instant manufacturing of public support for a point-of-view in which either uninformed activists are recruited or means of deception are used to recruit them.'" [page 60]

  5. Media Manipulation


    "Should there be a footnote at the end of every written piece saying which PR firms or professionals helped with the story?" [page 75]

  6. The Dark Side of Content


    "Sometimes the longest distance between two points is the shortcut." [page 83]

  7. Your Customers Control the Brand


    "When you look at your own behavior — how you get your information, where you participate online [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn], where you read your news [] — you can tell things have changed. But, for some reason, we want to hold on to the idea that we have control over how people perceive our brands." [page 103]

    Note: The world does change fast. SPIN SUCKS was published in 2014 and includes FourSquare as a popular social media avenue.

  8. The Convergence of Media


    "Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation and Ctrl Alt Delete..., said you don't have a community until the members begin to talk to one another without the help of the author or moderator." [page 117]

  9. Crisis Communications: Trolls, Critics, and Detractors


    "Unfortunately, the social Web won't let things die if they can prove you wrong." [page 120]

  10. The Future of Communications


    "The investors who support your business are important to keep in mind, but they don't buy from you... They don't tell their friends and family about you. [Customers do.] ...It's also hard for employees to get their heads around 'There's been a drop in earnings.' [instead of] 'We missed the mark with our customers.'" [page 138]

Many chapters start with a short story of a PR activity gone wrong. This leads to a set of guidelines to ensure PR-related company success. For people who are new to the PR profession, the guidelines are a great recipe for what one needs to know. They are also beneficial for anyone engaged in social media who has a curiosity about how "public relations" works. As I was already familiar with many of the guidelines from my work with our Autodesk PR team, I would have loved even more horror stories.

Thanks for the book, Jon.

A no-spin zone is alive in the lab.