Archive | Behind the Spin RSS feed for this section

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.

Opportunties with Behind the Spin

25 Sep


It's the start of a new university year – and time to tell you what's happening with Behind the Spin, the CIPR-supported PR student magazine.

We always welcome news and articles of interest to our readers, and are particularly inviting contributions on the following themes:

  • Placement year experiences
  • Celebrities and public relations
  • PR courses

Contact me ( as soon as possible if you're interested: articles on these themes will be published through October. Looking further ahead, there are some forward features listed on the About page.

Note the opportunity next year for a guest editor (or guest editorial team) to decide the content, commission articles and help with the editing process.

We're also looking for a news editor to manage the News page. I can tell you more about the role, but it's a good opportunity to learn more about how the PR business works and to network with practitioners and other universities.

I'll be discussing all this when I meet the new CIPR student reps in London on 4 November.

New theme: music and public relations

15 Jun

I've had some enquiries about running a music theme in Behind the Spin – so here's your chance to write about your favourite topic. We're a public relations magazine, remember, so here are some possible angles:

  • Use of social media to promote music
  • Festival promotion 
  • PR careers in music 
  • The decline of the hit and rise of the long tail (and what this means for the industry)
  • Downloads, copyright and legal issues 
  • Who's who in the music press
  • The use of sound in public relations 
  • The revival of radio 

Your ideas and articles are very welcome over the coming weeks. 

Call for contributions: Behind the Spin magazine

2 Jan

BehindtheSpin We're looking for ideas and writers for the next two major updates of Behind the Spin.

March 2009: Public Sector PR (local government, health service, police etc)

June 2009: PR consultancies & technology sector PR

As well as these changing themes, we always welcome articles on PR careers, courses and placements and also off-topic but publishable examples of writing from PR students and young practitioners.

Articles from PR students are particularly welcome. You don't have to be an expert on your topic, but you will need to do some research. Here are five ways to get started:

  1. Request an interview with a senior practitioner – or shadow them for a day – and write a profile or interview piece based on this.

  2. Start with a theme (or a question), and speak to as many people as possible who can help you answer the question. Example: 'Do ex-journalists always make the best press officers?'

  3. Write an opinion piece based on your own views and experience.

  4. Conduct a survey on a topic or question and report your findings.

  5. Take an existing research project (your dissertation, say) and turn it into a general interest article.

General guidelines

Articles should be of around 1000 words and of interest to our readership of PR students and young practitioners.

Copy deadline is the end of the month before publication (end of February for March publication). But it's always best to contact the editor first with your outline proposal before researching and writing your piece (do this as soon as possible).



10 Nov
  • The Economist puts blogging into perspective (Oh, grow up). It’s no longer new and exciting – but it has entered the mainstream. Is that so bad?
  • Facebook’s also no longer new, but it’s unquestionably popular. And it’s continuing to grow. The reassuring thing is that it does such normal, conventional things: it allows people to talk to their friends and form communities of interest.
  • I’m putting some time and energy into the PR student magazine, Behind the Spin after a long, sleepy summer break (what’s the summer equivalent of hibernation: estivation?). There’s some new content up there with more to follow. And we’re always looking for ideas and for articles; check it out.

Practitioners: ‘what do you read?’ meme

27 Oct

I’m keen to start a regular ‘bookshelf’ column in Behind the Spin magazine. This will give PR practitioners a chance to say which books they most often consult. In previous issues, Lord Chadlington has mentioned his admiration of the novels of Anthony Trollope. Currently, Karl Milner praises Drew Westen’s The Political Brain (a timely read about the pyschology of US presidential campaigns).

They could be books on politics, business or society; textbooks, style guides, self-help manuals or novels. They could be standards or surprises. Either way, I think it will help today’s students and young practitioners.

Here are the groundrules. Choose up to ten books, and write up to 100 words explaining each choice. Send these to me with your portrait photo in JPG format (email address on right). You’re also welcome to cross-post to your own blog.

To get you thinking, here are the top ten books I most often refer to (space does not allow descriptions):

  1. The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. Strategic Communication Management, by Jon White and Laura Mazur
  3. The Empty Raincoat, Charles Handy
  4. The Economist Style Guide
  5. Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky
  6. Journalism: Truth or Dare?, Ian Hargreaves
  7. Naked Conversations, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel
  8. Permission Marketing, Seth Godin
  9. Evaluating Public Relations, Tom Watson and Paul Noble
  10. The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, Al Ries and Laura Ries

Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People came surprisingly close to being picked and this morning I found myself recommending Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene whilst admitting I’ve never read it myself…

Call for contributions

4 Apr

We’re planning a new edition of Behind the Spin for June. This means I need your proposals by the end of April, words and photos by the end of May. The new themes for the next issue are:

  • Media relations
  • Retail sector PR

In addition, we always welcome news and features on PR courses, careers, skills, professionalism and book reviews.

Tip for students: don’t assume you have to be an expert before writing something. Why not speak to an expert instead? This is your chance to interview a senior practitioner or to visit the PR team at a major retailer.

You can contact me at the university, via this blog, on the Behind the Spin Facebook group or at