best of the spin sucks questionAs 2018 comes to a close, it’s fun (and crucial) to look back upon all that we’ve learned… it’s been a busy year!

There were a number of “big questions” that we addressed, so many in fact that we decided in October to stop calling it “The Big Question,” in favor of The Spin Sucks Question (#SpinSucksQuestion).

“Big” didn’t seem to fit anymore. They’re all, arguably, big questions.

But, more importantly, they’re questions that matter to the Spin Sucks Community.

Which were the best? That’s a pretty subjective question, and a definitive answer is elusive, but over the next two columns (this week’s and the next), we’ll break down what we consider the best of the lot.

The Best, or the Most?

Let’s get some of the vanity metrics out of the way.

This week, we’ll address the first half of the year (from January until the end of June 2018).

I refer to “most” over “best” because, well, if something engendered a ton of traffic or social shares, that doesn’t mean it’s “the best,” right?

Ask Gini Dietrich about her possible new venture, coined by Laura Petrolino, and you’ll see what I mean… (codeword: “Spin Clucks”). Fun? Yes. Best? No.

The point? We are all very aware that just because something gets a lot of likes, clicks, and/or shares, that doesn’t translate into “best,” but we’re going to start there for now.

The Future of PR

The Question with the most social shares and the most traffic from January to June focused on the future of PR.

Which is appropriate, no? We are one of the top resources for communication professionals online, so it stands to reason that our audience is keen to discuss the future of our industry.

There were a number of amazing responses but, ultimately, one thing became abundantly clear:

Whatever the future of PR looks like, it’s not one thing.

Think of the innovation during the past 20 years. The “internet.” Social media. Smart devices.

Innovations abound. But it’s how we navigate and implement those innovations that will help the PR picture develop.

Ultimately, we comprise the past, present, and future of PR, marketing, and communications.

As long as we keep asking the big questions, I’m excited about the forthcoming answers.
– Source: A really smart person… ok, it was me.

The Best Email Newsletters

In terms of traffic alone, “The Best Email Newsletters” came right behind “What is the Future of PR.”

We all get a lot (A LOT) of email, so identifying the one(s) you actively opt-in to and eagerly anticipate each day, week, or month, is pretty impressive.

What we discovered, though, was more than impressive. In fact, it was a little scary.

Here’s an excerpt from that column:

Christopher Penn, literally (yes, that is the proper use of literally) reads/scans top articles from almost 1,500 blogs on a regular basis.

In turn, he runs “Feedly and Pocket to manage the subscriptions, then I put all my flagged/starred items into a custom database that scans each URL for social shares and click-throughs, plus checks for topics I care about.”

“That tells me what to pay most attention to,” Penn explains.

Ultimately, his favorites include:

Avinash’s TMAI – analytics POV from an industry leader
Scott Monty’s Full Monty – roundup of general business news
KDnuggets – the latest from a high frequency blog
Data Science Central – a solid recap of the industry
Data is Plural – interesting data sets every week

Scary, right? Smart. Effective. Helpful. But scary, as well.

Most Time…

While social shares and traffic are interesting to look at, time spent is also relevant. From January to June 2018, the Big Question that had the most time spent on it wasn’t actually from that period at all.

The Big Question: How Do You Track Results?” (from September 2017) recorded a whopping 30 minutes of time spent on it during that period. For context, the average is generally around three-to-five minutes.

Which, again, is pretty appropriate. Measurement and accountability is something we get asked about constantly.

An excerpt from that column:

Arguably, one of the most interesting byproducts of measuring SEO success is it illustrates that what we do as PR and marketing practitioners isn’t easy.

Sales may be the goal in many cases, but how you generated that first sale versus the last is likely very different.

It’s hard to replicate and mass-produce those results.

And we can’t rest on our laurels: How do we improve if we don’t know how we succeeded in the first place?

Measuring SEO success and the tools we use to do that isn’t just about showing our work, it’s about learning from it.

We’re going to make mistakes on our path to success.

If we don’t track our activities, if we don’t pay attention to what’s working and what’s not, we’re doomed to repeat them.
– Source: Another crazy smart person… where do we find them??

The Spin Sucks Question: Most Talked About

The clear winner for the Question that generated the most discussion was, perhaps unsurprisingly, “The Big Question: The Mark Zuckerberg Testimony.”

This wasn’t about impact. It didn’t necessarily affect communication professionals and practitioners overtly. But it was widely discussed and debated.

It brings to bear bigger issues. Issues that are less about social media tactics and strategy, and more about privacy, the security of our information, and how much (or little) the government is aware of, or understands, when it comes to, well, the internet.

Like us, we’re sure you’re seeing various takeawaysawkward moments, and more questions and consternation over what to make of it.

Yes, the testimony discussed the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election, and more generally, the dissemination of disinformation.

Sure, it’s an exercise in crisis communications,

But what does it all mean? What are the takeaways that matter to you? To us?

The Spin Sucks Question: Biggest Impact

While it wasn’t the talk around the water cooler (virtual or otherwise) or something that generated a ton of social shares, our discussion and question(s) around the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance arguably had the biggest impact of all our Spin Sucks Questions in the first half of 2018, if not the whole year.

We’ve already noted how important/prominent email is in our professional and personal lives, so when GDPR took effect on May 25, 2018, we had already been preparing and discussing readiness and implications for months.

The sheer number of questions and responses around compliance, whether it affected practitioners and businesses in the United States or Canada, and who will enforce it worldwide, were staggering. Many of those questions persist, which is the hallmark of the very best questions.

With that in mind, if you missed that Big Question, or if you still have GDPR questions or concerns, check out Laura’s “Communicator’s GDPR Checklist and Resource Guide,” along with pretty well everything else you need to know about GDPR compliance.

The Best of the Spin Sucks Question: Honorable Mention

This Big Question didn’t necessarily get the most traffic, the most comments, or the most social shares. But it definitely created a stir. It piqued interest and got people talking, and continues to come up in conversation.

It still has me asking questions (big or otherwise): Reddit.

Do you use it? So. Many. People. Do. And yet, I know few “power” users. It fascinates me, and, clearly, the respondents to the Big Question itself last April.

Back then, I said I loved it. And I do. But despite those feelings, I don’t use it as much or as effectively as I know it can be used.

“Reddit’s popularity has never been in doubt. It is the sixth most trafficked site in the world. Number four in the United States,” we noted in another article.

And yet…

Its active users are tribal. Cultish. We know it’s popular. But popularity doesn’t assume we should use it.

Dabblers are welcome, but true success on the platform requires time, commitment, and a thick skin. Attributes and resources many brands and organizations don’t have in abundance.

Reddit can be a labor.

And while the organization and its members are transparent about what they will and won’t abide when it comes to advertising and marketing, effectively marketing or publishing in that environment is often more trouble than it’s worth.

This one made the “honorable mention” list because I think it’s one that will be revisited again and again.

Reddit might not be actively used amongst (most?) communications professionals (yet?), but it’s also not going anywhere. Will it establish a firm(er) foothold amongst our peers, or will it remain relegated behind the scenes?

We’d welcome your thoughts!

The Best of The Spin Sucks Question: Part 2

Watch for Part 2 next week! In it, we’ll address the popular posts from the second half of the year, along with some discussion around what we can/should be asking about in the new year.

Note: If you have thoughts on the most popular Spin Sucks Questions over the past year, or feel there are questions we’ve left woefully answered, please comment below, in our free Spin Sucks Community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

Happy Holidays!

Mike Connell

Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

View all posts by Mike Connell