Lipstick on a Pig: Winning In the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game by Torie Clarke

Don’t you just love this title?

What is it with pigs and marketing/comms? It reminds me of this quote:

“Creativity is like washing a pig. It’s messy. It has no rules. No clear beginning, middle or end. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, and when you’re done, you’re not sure if the pig is really clean or even why you were washing a pig in the first place.” – From Hey Whipple. 

I digress! In this title Torie is comparing putting lipstick on a pig with trying to dress up/gloss over/hide a really crappy story or action. In other words = spin.

I was so pleasantly surprised with this book, as I’ve never worked in political comms I thought I’d find it quite dull – was I ever wrong! Regardless of your stance on politics – Torie was the communications boss at the Pentagon during the early years of George Bush – this is an amazing insight into what goes down at these high level jobs (Torie was at the Pentagon on September 11) and what we can learn as a result.

And of course it’s hugely practical – which of course I adore. And for those who still believe PR is completely about spin and dodgy dealings – Torie heavily endorses transparent, telling the truth and getting your (accurate) information out their first.

So thank you Torie, wherever you are, for writing such an insightful book that we can all learn from! Personally I absolutely love how you admit your own failings or mistakes in the book – and what you learnt as a result.

Here’s a few of my favourite quotes from the lady herself

And yes I found it incredibly hard just to pick a few. This one has gone onto my recommended reading list over here.  

(headings = mine, quotes all directly from the book) 

1. A way of handling crisis – 3 part strategy
Own up. Stand up. Speak up.
“Speak up. McCain and Hagee spoke up early and often. No matter what’s being alleged, charges unanswered are charges assumed to be true.”

2. Questions to avoid 
“That question put me in a tough spot. A pretty good rule of thumb for dealing with the media is never to answer questions that start with “if.” They’re hypothetical.”

3. Be first with bad news
“The reason is simple: in the Information Age, the bad news is going to get out. The only questions are who will tell it first and will they tell it accurately.”

4. When to slap yourself 
“….you ever hear yourself saying, “Don’t worry, no one will ever find out,” about something unpleasant in your organization, just slap yourself.”

5. An interesting war PR strategy (as a NZer I wasn’t aware of this until I read the book)
“On the home front, the biggest surprise came in how easily the public could follow the war’s developments as they were occurring, thanks to the Pentagon’s decision to “embed” reporters in the field.” …”In an unprecedented arrangement, more than 500 reporters were invited to accompany troops on combat missions.”

6. Make the language easy for the everyday person to understand 
When you study the safety of your products, release everything you find in language the people who actually use them can understand. “If I can understand it,” I have told countless clients, bosses, and colleagues over the years as I pushed them to explain themselves, “anyone can.”

7. Get yourself multiple channels
“Few soldiers would go into battle with one weapon. You shouldn’t in communications warfare either.”

8. Always return your calls.
“First of all, be responsive. That means you need to return calls and return them promptly. By the time a reporter calls you, chances are he’s already getting bugged by his editor and feels under the gun.”

9. Focus groups are key
“Attend focus groups of actual customers at least once a year, preferably more, and hear what real people have to say about your product.”

10. Change is constant 
“…operate outside your comfort zone. Because the one constant in communications is change.”

11. Check your objectives
Objectives— “Generating positive media coverage” is not an objective. It may help accomplish your goals, but positive coverage for positive coverage’s sake isn’t that valuable. Does the coverage drive the bottom line? That’s positive coverage. True objectives might be: Raise awareness among soccer moms about Ford SUV safety features.

12. Everyone makes mistakes – admit it!
“I’d offer this rule of thumb: if you aren’t admitting mistakes at least six times a year, you aren’t being honest. Seriously.”

Have a read of this fabulous book over here.  

Happy reading,
C x

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