Back in March, Duane Brown noted that spin doctors “really need to start working on how we are viewed in the public forum.” While it’s a commonly accept fact that the average Joe doesn’t think much of professional spin doctors, a lot of us in the biz have trouble wrapping our heads around exactly why that is.

The fact of the matter is that most people are stubborn, proud, and don’t like being manipulated influenced by others, regardless of whether it’s for their own (or the greater) good. Even if we are providing them with facts and perspectives on issues that they may have not otherwise considered, we’re interfering with their autonomy and independent thought process. As far as they’re concerned, then, even if we’re bringing them closer to the facts truth, they still feel that we’re clouding their judgment.

Part of this, of course, is attributable to industry practices that are explicitly intended to mislead, misinform, and manipulate, such as the method out lined in a recent MyRagan blog post. You have to be logged in and registered to view it, so I’ve reproduced some of the highlights below:

Verbs are the most intractable part of speech, so fear of them is widespread among novice business writers. And with good reason: Verbs energize readers, making them alert and curious. These are not the qualities you want in an audience, as they tend to make readers critical and more difficult to impress.
Verb-depletion clusters. One of the best ways to handle standard verbs is to sap their energy with verb-depletion clusters (VDCs). The VDC does not eliminate verbs, but it does drastically reduce their ungovernable variety. […]

The VDC is easy to create:

1. Identify the main action in your sentence and turn the verb that describes it into a noun.
2. Make that noun into the object of one of the depleting verbs.
The more words you can add to a cluster, the more readers will decide it’s not worth the energy needed to plow through them — and readers who aren’t tough enough to make it through your VDCs aren’t likely to ask tough questions. […] These VDCs make reading such a chore and convey so little sense of action that most readers will forget there is an investigation even while they are reading your sentences. Mission accomplished.

What’s curious about professional communicators is that they’re their own kryptonite. So much of the demand for their damage control crisis management skills stems from someone, somewhere along the line, having not been able to keep their mouth shut. Like all Catch 22s, though, how else are said communicators supposed to share their knowledge and train their staff if they don’t share the tricks of the trade?

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