In this year of unspeakable campaigning-for-POTUS tumult, there’s been lots of conversation around spin.  Who has it.  Who uses it well (and who doesn’t).  Why they say what they say – and the gurus behind it.  And, yes, if the public knows it’s being manipulated.

Get real.

First, know that spin – the deliberate crafting of words and images for political effect – has been around since the early Greek orators honed their rhetoric to arouse and persuade.  Since Kings and Queens took forever to decide on a particular portrait or silhouette.  And since Teddy Roosevelt’s primitive press conferences or séances, when he’d ask six or 12 reporters to join him over a shave and food.

Second, John and Jane Q. Public have a good sense of the inauthentic and the dishonest, the promotions and the scripted laugh lines.  Behind unreadable exteriors (despite what pollsters say), Americans have a terrific capacity to resist spin, seeking and trusting the agreeable in very logical reasoning.  

And sad but true:  We’ve become immune to spin, since it surrounds us daily.  Via advertising in all media.  Through content marketing that pretends to be impartial and not devoted to specific brands and companies.   Even inside companies, when executives run town halls and informal chats, the words don’t always resonate.

Do we need a 21st century Diogenes?


Was Brian Williams’ demotion the death knell for anchorpeople?

Or does it symbolize (as we believe) how thin the claims of credibility and authenticity can be?

Think with us here.  Ever since Walter Cronkite earned the CBS anchorman sobriquet in the early 1950s, we used to regard our news readers as serious professionals, men (for the most part) who earned their authenticity in the trenches, reporting first-hand on serious and important stories.  That opinion continued to be fostered by the late Peter Jennings and the Huntley-Brinkley duet.  Fairly recently, though, the perception of anchor-folks waffled between entertainment and news; the buzz, in short, became more critical than the news.  And credibility zeroed out. 

In a sense, that TV contract of confidence between viewers and news readers is somewhat akin to the unspoken bond between employees and their corporate leaders.  Parallels abound:  Breaking news is a hard-won prize by skilled reporters.  Delivering information about workplace and corporate changes must also be a task assumed by the C-suite, provided straightforwardly yet with a sense of humane-ness.  Another:  We highly respect sector expertise, say, the political know-how of a David Todd or the late Tim Russert.  The same holds true for business chieftains who are not afraid to tell us the truth accurately, seriously, and relay what it means to us.

We could go on (and just might, later).  In your opinion, dear reader, which CEOs are today’s ‘most trusted (wo)men in America” – and why?


Maybe Facebook got it right.

Social media ‘likes,’ it turns out, are a pretty good predictor of who gets hired, who gets help at work, who’s trusted.  According to University of Massachusetts’ researchers, no matter how strong the business case, if auditors presented well-organized arguments, managers complied.  On networks like LinkedIn, recruiters seek individuals who seem to have a high level of trust – and authenticity.

What does this have to do with us communicators and designers and marketers?  Likeability boils down to a few personal attributes that, not surprisingly, are common to compelling communications:  Empathy, warmth, eye contact, and confidence.   Let’s see how they’re translated:

  • Empathy.  Think listening.  Does your brand or your company have an ear to the ground – and actively project what others are asking and needing?
  • Warmth.  It’s all about fake – and its opposite, credibility.  Genuine care and concern are easy to spot; the opposite, just as simple to pinpoint.  Take a good look at how you’re saying and doing; it might be a true indicator of external perception.
  • Eye contact.  Personal appeals work, if they’re sincere.  So even if your medium is print, it’s not hard to infuse the pictures with a sense of individuality and ‘I’m talking straight to you.’
  • Confidence.  Selling in an idea or initiative relies on the power of your belief, the faith you show in presentations and conversations and other media.  Infuse it with curiosity and a true concern about your audience – and bingo!  A sale.

Experts say likability can be taught, unlike charisma.  How do you (and your communications) measure up?


Resolutions and a new year go hand in hand.

We’re bucking that trend in 2015. 

Instead, we’re more determined than ever to adopt a realistic state of mind.  Not optimistic.  But not pessimistic either.

Why the change?  Reading  umpteen surveys that show pessimists are likely to live longer, healthier lives than those wearing rose-colored glasses.  And then encountering caveats from research psychologists who note that every response is situational.  Their points:  Getting on the defensive, for example, helps lower expectations and anticipate what could go wrong.  [ Which many of us do for a living.]  On the other hand, those with positive outlooks might find a job more easily.

Our point of view? 

A balance between two extremes, sometimes difficult to maintain, is optimal.  In fact, many businesses could profit by learning that being realistic is the way to go.  Shareholders, employees, and other significant audiences aren’t necessarily fooled by cheery prognostications and smiley-faced quotes.  “Spin” doesn’t work in our transparent world.  Everyone is seeking the mean, an authentic picture of current events and a realistic perspective of what this all means in the future.

No less a promoter of positive psychology than the University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Seligman is, amazingly, modifying his own “gotta be upbeat” views.  To flourish, he says in Flourish, demands four attributes:  a positive emotion, engagement with what one is doing, a sense of accomplishment, and good relationships.  All of which result in a life of well-being. 

How are you un-spinning?