Beyond Spin: The Power of Strategic Corporate Journalism

Article excerpt

by Markos Kounalakis, Drew Banks and Kim Daus

Jossey-Bass, U.S.$27.00

In an era when mega-merger media companies are pushing traditional journalism toward the tabloid toilet, the authors of "Beyond Spin" argue that organizational communicators "must go in the opposite direction: away from sensationalism, hype and propaganda, which are no longer acceptable to knowledge-rich employees." Furthermore, they write, "to be effective in today's corporate environment, communication must be accurate, timely and strategically weighted." That is the essence of what they mean by strategic corporate journalism.

What a concept. Treat employees as if they are skeptical, thinking humans and give them "the straight dope," as Hemingway might say. Just the sketchiest outline of this argument elicited an appreciative gasp at a recent gathering of San Francisco IABC chapter leaders. "Beyond Spin" is sure to strike a similar responsive chord among other organizational communicators.

In truth, the idea of bringing journalistic values and practices into organizational communication is not new. Journalists frequently follow the dollars into the corporate world. But these transplants have rarely been afforded the access and independence that are essential to achieving reportorial accuracy, which, as the authors point out, is the hallmark of traditional journalism and distinguishes it from propaganda.

According to Kounalakis, Banks and Daus -- who worked together at SGI (formerly Silicon Graphics, Inc.) during that company's s meteoric rise, subsequent collapse and incipient comeback -- converging trends will soon force companies to adopt new communication models. Chief among these trends are "the dominance of the knowledge work force, democratization of the work place, diversification of the organization, the challenges of the information age, and the overwhelming increase in the pace of change." The authors discuss these trends and the challenges they present to old communication models in their provocative first chapter.

They devote their second chapter to a detailed examination of the elements of an organizational communication strategy. Here they intelligently discuss issues of content, style and distribution that must be considered in conjunction with the "organizational landscape" for the strategy to achieve "positive organizational alignment and action," which, in their book, is the point of organizational communication. In chapter three they perform a similar analysis of journalism, examining the values, elements and challenges of traditional journalistic practices. …