There are many facets to the world of public relations–highlighting the release of a new album, or making sure that the media knows how much charity work an A-list actor is involved in. But in the world of politics, PR is a 24/7 bloodsport that can make or break not just careers, but can have lasting impacts on the world that we live in. The rise and fall of politicians coincides directly with the rise and fall of the political ideas they champion, and with today’s tuned-in public, the way every word and every action is spun in the media dictates the outcome of the most important questions this country faces.
5W Public Relations CEO Ronn Torossian believes political spin is at the crux of our national discourse, and rightfully so. When a democrat or republican makes a newsworthy declaration, it becomes attached to their entire party, whether right or wrong.
In the 2012 election cycle, republicans were harmed by Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Missouri) comments on women’s reproductive rights, when during his senate campaign, he claimed that women who had been raped have the capacity to will their bodies to stop the pregnancy. With his wording of “legitimate rape,” this became a blight that hung over the heads of many mid-western GOP candidates, and hurt the party on many of their issues.
Likewise, when married Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-New York) was exposed for sending explicit pictures and messages to women online, he became a national joke. In both cases, actions by elected officials tainted their fellow party members. Each respective party went into spin mode either attacking the other, or defending against the media onslaught. It’s also worth noting that, generally, when this happens, the spin is never focused on policy or platform, and instead is focused on the hyperbole and rhetoric of political sniping.
With social networking and massive, constant media continuing to feed the beast, political spin is less about politics and more about the art of being political. With talking heads throwing in their two cents, followed by canned apologies from the politicians (as was the case with both Rep. Akin and Rep. Weiner), followed by more talking heads repeating their partisan critiques, the public relations matter of handling political spin grows into a snake eating its own tail.
This is business as usual in the political PR world, but it has the strange side effect of alienating many of those it seeks to reach. Instead of choosing one side of the spin or the other, most Americans choose to dislike both. Congress is at record-low approval numbers, and politicians are considered to be the least trustworthy members of our society. Like bad theater, it’s a poorly acted play that won’t come to its final run. A pox on both the houses of the democrats and republicans, political spin is beginning to spin out of control, and only the American people can choose to get off the merry-go-round.