If you’re gonna spin, at least spin the truth

How honest should corporate communicators be? Exactly as honest as Hunter S. Thompson.

Have you ever written a PR press release saying the erstwhile Mr. Big left the organization “to pursue other interests,” when you knew full well he was leaving the organization because he had already pursued other interests—specifically, everyone who wore a skirt on the executive floor?

Have you wondered whether you did the right thing? Have you ever yearned for an ethical guide—but one that seemed to come not from some goody-two-shoes ethics consultant but rather from a hard-charging communicator who had a real, honest-to-goodness point of view?

Not too many people hold up the late Hunter S. Thompson as a standard-bearer of journalistic principle—most people hold him up as a drug-frenzied maniac—but he did have a philosophy of journalism that, when I read it in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine, struck me as just as useful as a philosophy of corporate communication.

In a memo to Rolling Stone editor Jan Wenner in 1972, Dr. Gonzo sounded pretty sober as he explained his approach in Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.

Thompson wrote in part:

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