Archive | Behind the Spin RSS feed for this section

Behind the Spin: next themes

31 Mar

BehindtheSpin We've had our busiest ever month at Behind the Spin.

There has been a focus on political communication (with thanks to guest editor Darren Lilleker); there have been articles on PR and social media and a stream of stories from our news editor, Adam Burns.

We're not yet finished for the academic year, though. I'm seeking articles on graduate prospects for publication between now and June, and also more articles (like this one) on PR in the public sector.

See the About page for more information, or contact to discuss your contribution.

Politics: personality or policy?

6 Mar

Parliament at night We've published an Election Special at Behind the Spin – with thanks to Darren Lilleker of Bournemouth University who commissioned and vetted the articles.

In overview, the articles belong in one of two camps. Those written by professionals are concerned with the process of elections: campaigning tactics and issues of electoral reform. Those written by students are primarily interested in the personalities of political leaders.

It's hard for someone of my generation (my first election as a voter brought Margaret Thatcher to power) to view politics from the perspective of the post-Cold War generation. Left-right no longer has any meaning, and there are few clear ideological lines between the main parties. What's a young voter to do? Turn off politics and turn on The X Factor.

If there's no longer meaning in left-right, here are some issues that should cause young voters to be concerned or angry:

  • The previous generation have borrowed and spent to such an extent that they will most probably be poorer than their parents. (This could even be the first generation in seven centuries to be poorer, less healthy and to die younger than their parents). Money matters. The coming election will be about finances more than anything else.
  • Previous generations have been taking natural resources from the planet with no thought for the future. There will be a price to pay. The environment is a major issue that sits outside conventional left-right party politics.

I'm still accepting articles for publication on politics, political communication or the other issues we cover. Please keep sending them to

It’s about ideas, not events

17 Feb

News used to be the currency of public relations. Event-led stories were our speciality (pseudo-events if you like). But it's a dying craft and most practitioners need to move on (and advise their clients accordingly). Here's why news is limited:

  • It has a short shelf-life that's becoming ever shorter in the social media age
  • Neither PR people nor journalists have a monopoly on news any more
  • There are fewer publications taking PR news
  • The conventional press release is treated like spam

If news is no longer our currency, what should be? How about ideas, or content? Note how Edelman has appointed a senior BBC executive as 'chief content officer'.

Content, conversations, communities are what it should be about (Jim Macnamara goes further and lists 8 Cs that count in the current media landscape).

Or to put it a different way, don't be so fixated on getting your news event mentioned that you pass up the opportunity to contribute an ideas-based feature to the same publication.

It's about ideas, not events. Adapt or die!

Behind the Spin, March 2010

25 Jan

Big Ben There are two themes for the next major update of Behind the Spin (in March).

  • Political communications (guest edited by Darren Lilleker of Bournemouth University), timed for the imminent UK general election. Please contact the guest editor if you're interested in writing on this topic.
  • PR and social media: please contact me ( with your angle or idea if you'd like to write on this topic.

In addition, we are always looking for news of interest to or from PR students and graduates (, or for book reviews (particularly of recent books covering the two main topics outlined above).

Deadline for articles is end of February.

Photo: Joe Sharp

Advice for Behind the Spin contributors

13 Jan

I welcome approaches to write for Behind the Spin, but frequently find myself having similar email exchanges with would-be contributors. So this post should make the process clearer for all (and save me some time).

We are a magazine for public relations students and graduates. If you have news of interest to our readers, then please contact If you would like to write a feature, then contact

What is news?

We're very keen to hear news about PR students or PR degree courses. 

News typically describes an event, frequently in the recent past. News tends to be written in the past tense, is usually objective (it or they, not I or we), and news articles should be as short as possible. The best way to write news is to answer this question: what happened? 

What is a feature?

A feature article should be about a theme or idea. It can be longer than a news article (our features are typically 1000 words) and can be personal. But your feature does not have to express your opinion: you can contact others and include a range of opinions in the form of quotations. Or you can write a profile on one person.

What can I write about?

We give some indication of the type of features we're looking for on the About page. But you're also welcome to contact us with your own ideas. You could:

  • Write a profile of a senior practitioner
  • Spend a day with a junior PR practitioner and write about their working day
  • Focus on careers: how to get a graduate job in a top consultancy; how to earn big money
  • Focus on issues: why are there so few men in PR?
  • Focus on sectors: how to find work in fashion PR?; what's it like working in NHS comms?
  • Focus on change: how is social media changing PR?
  • Focus on courses: is a PR degree worth it?
  • Answer a question: is media relations declining in importance?
  • Turn your dissertation or essay into an article
  • Write a review of a recent book about (or of relevance to) public relations

Is WordPress the future of the printing press?

30 Nov

Eastlondonlines Today's Media Guardian tells of a magazine run by enterprising journalism students at Goldsmiths, University of London.

It's WordPress-based publication EastLondonLines

The students are 'to build an audience from scratch, market it, make it attractive to advertisers and make contact with … potential sources of revenue.'

It's clearly an active site with an emphasis on breaking news, as you'd expect from journalism students.

Our effort at student magazine journalism is much less news-driven, but this article vindicates my decision to create a WordPress-based niche magazine, Behind the Spin, two years ago.

I've had some interest in the vacancies on this magazine and will be announcing who has been appointed very soon.

Lecturer’s lament

25 Nov

Borrowing a classic Seth Godin formula, I sometimes feel:

The more I teach the less they learn; the less they learn the more I teach.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this. With experienced and well-read groups, classroom discussions can become an exercise in two-way participation and engagement. With less sophisticated groups, the lecturer has to do most of the work (one-way).

It's not just me, because students from other universities frequently contact me in my role as a magazine editor:

'I'd like to contribute to the magazine. Can you tell me what to write about and what style I should write in?'

The questions are reasonable ones, but they shouldn't have to be asked. They are because we're encouraging students to respond to the essay questions we set, in a prescribed format (academic writing complete with Harvard referencing). So the better we teach them to do well at university, the less we're equipping students to cope in the outside world where initiative rules over instructions.