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3 little words every spin doctor should know

MAN BITES DOG

There’s an old saying among media hacks that a good story has to be a little different or unusual to catch our attention. Dogs biting humans is an everyday occurrence, a story is when the man bites the dog back.  Anyone who has seen the movie, “The World According to Garp,” will remember the scene where Robin Williams (Garp) bites off bonkers’ ear.

I try to do the ‘man bites dog’ test on every press release or pitch I submit. I try to be objective and ask myself honestly would this story interest me as a reader, viewer or listener? 
What’s interesting to the Client (promoting their product, brand, service, event, partnership, exhibition, relaunch and so on) doesn’t always make for interesting reading, viewing or listening. How often have we sat through tedious television or radio interviews where the presenter trots out the pre-defined questions and gets back pre-scripted answers? The answer is too often. We could switch channel and hear the exact same content on a different show;  likewise in print.

It’s not enough to just get media coverage, the goal is to get your message across and churning out one-sided self serving media content demonstrates, to me, a profound lack of imagination or laziness.

There is always an angle, always a hook. The challenge is to take off the media shoes and put back on your own shoes as a reader, viewer or listener – to think out of the box – then you’ll have more of a chance of getting coverage.

MAN BITES DOG, WOMAN TAMES DOG

I like to go one step further and try to tame, rather than bite, the dog. Sometimes the ‘man bites dog’ angle is enough to whet the publisher/producer’s appetite but it doesn’t have to be the full story. Once the exchange of ideas and content begins, there is usually room to re-spin and pad out because the trust has been established. Like any spin doctor, there are few things more rewarding in life than seeing your own words quoted verbatim by somebody else, just make sure those words are something you’d be interested in reading, hearing or seeing.

I often joke that the three little words I don’t hear enough are ‘I’ll pay cash,” and those who know me well would know I’m not really joking. All joking aside, I hope this ‘Man bites dog’ post reminds any aspiring or practicing PR person of the most important three little words in our profession.

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