This morning I read an interesting article by a social media expert Jason Falls. The article examined the evolution of the public relations industry as corporations and well-intended employees/advocates spin news stories and stretch the truth in order to present themselves in the best possible light.

Now, let me start by saying, I am NO public relations expert (thank God for Allison), but Jason’s thought-provoking comments gave me new insight into how complex the “truth” can be.  For example he told the story of a PR professional who he greatly respects blamed a problem on a cause almost totally unrelated  to the issue. Here’s an excerpt:

“When my friend and noble public relations professional Geoff Livingston recently told us (or more likely repeated an assertion that) fried chicken causes breast cancer, I shook my head at another unfortunate and unsuspecting victim of good spin doctoring. For the record, obesity is frequently a predictive factor in breast cancer, not eating fried chicken. If someone eats too much fried chicken, they may very well become obese, but the person’s inability to eat in moderation is to blame, not the chicken. Geoff’s assertion is akin to saying Apple, Microsoft, Cisco and Dell cause Internet porn.”

I feel like I see this kind of thing all the time. Any time a tragedy or problem occurs, what’s the first thing we do? Place blame. Identify a scapegoat. Find a culprit (or make one up).

Toward the end of the article, Jason goes on to ask the reader to look within and think about how they digest the information presented to them:

“But what happened to us as a society that we’re so apt and willing to believe a one-sided story? When did self-directed decision-making leave our conscious?

Did ‘good’ PR kill good PR? Is our ADD society producing droves of drones who’d rather accept the common thread rather than raise a hand and ask questions? Will the consumer-based marketplace reverse the trend or will the socially-adept extremes dictate popular belief?”

The article definitely made me think about how I viewed the news. I can be honest enough with myself to know I constantly jump to conclusions. What do you think? Does the emergence of social media dictate that the old methods of “spin” are extinct? Is Jason right?  How far can you stretch the truth before it snaps?

To read the full article (which I highly recommend), click here.


Side note:  I first heard Jason Falls speak at a Confluence event in Indy last summer.   He is as interesting in person as he is in print. If you are looking for a chance to hear him, he will be back in town for BlogIndiana later this summer.