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An explanation of how Mike Ashley is using PR spin on Newcastle United fans

3 years ago

After being involved in advertising, printing and publications throughout my career I recently found an explanation that comes from a Public Relations expert that sets out in lay man’s terms the strategies that are used within this industry, I thought I’d share them to try and reach a wider Magpie audience with regard to Mike Ashley…

There are two types of spin which PR companies use.

Whether these be for political parties or anyone else who spend their lives manipulating the masses, thus using smoke and mirrors (doublespeak for lies and deception) to create confusion amongst their particular victims.

Simply divide and conquer while conducting business behind the scenes to better your own means.

These two types of spin are Overt and Covert.

Overt refers to standard or benign public relations tactics, such as writing press releases, staging events, giving speeches and appearing in the media.

Covert, on the other hand, refers to a range of cynical techniques to manage information – these are the more malign tactics most people associate with “spin” (Mike Ashley and his PR spin man Keith Bishop pictured above).

The list below contains a wide range of “covert” tactics drawn. Each of these tactics is employed in a bid to exert control over the way the news media report the message:

The leak:

These are strategic leaks offered by the principle or their staff to journalists, in exchange for no scrutiny. In other words, you only get the leak if you promise not to seek comment from the opposing side, or other critics. (This is increasing and is a real problem with Mike Ashley/Newcastle United..)

The freeze:

Punishing journalists for negative reporting (such as when the NUFC accounts were revealed in April, Lee Charnley only met and spoke to selected journalists. Or alternatively when Mike Ashley has totally banned journalists/newspapers in the past).

The spray: 

A form of bullying and intimidation, this is another way of punishing journalists/opposition for negative coverage. Many reporters who file an unfavourable story can expect to “cop a spray” over the phone after it’s published.

The drip:

The act of keeping favoured reporters on a drip of exclusive information (NUFC feeding official media partners).

Staying on message:

The goal of every public appearance or interview by the principle. In itself, it’s not a malign tactic, but the constant repetition of the same messages without answering questions can be a form of obfuscation.


This refers to shifting away from a difficult question or issue to the one he or she wants to talk about.

The vomit principle:

This rule of thumb is widely referred to in principle offices (ED: As opposed to pub fireplaces…). The idea is that if you repeat something so often you feel like vomiting, only then is it likely to be cutting through with the public.

Playing a dead bat:

This refers to not responding to a media inquiry or giving a minimal response in an effort to kill the story (No comment throughout this Summer when Ashley/NUFC asked to give clarity to Newcastle fans about a potential takeover).

The truth, but not the whole truth:

This refers to being selective with what one reveals, sharing only the most beneficial or least damaging information.

Throwing out the bodies/taking out the garbage:

These tactics are used to disclose damaging information under the cover of a major distraction (at NUFC this would be anything taking place under the cover of another takeover story). Other common ways to bury bad news are: announcements on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, or undercover of any major event or news story that can distract the masses.

Get rid of it now:

The aim of this tactic is to release all of the damaging information on an issue at one time, so the negative story can be dealt with quickly rather than allowing it to bleed on for weeks in the media. Eg If you’ve got to eat a sh.. sandwich you’ve got to eat it straight away… The advice was always, ‘Get rid of it now. Go and deal with it now’.”


Setting up or staging a diversion to distract attention away from another issue. eg launching a new policy to distract from a negative issue in an attempt to shift the media’s attention.


This means testing or floating an idea before making a commitment to announce it.

Feeding or starving a story:

Feeding a story means keeping it alive by commenting on it in the media. Starving a story means starving it of oxygen by not commenting on it. The theory being that after a while the media will get bored and move on.

Keeping out of the media/being a small target:

This is a useful tactic if the principle is unpopular and affects their standing to their public.

Flying under the radar:

This refers to just quietly getting on with things without publicising it.

Dishing dirt;

This is where old claims suddenly emerge publicly in an effort to smear someone’s reputation. The “dirt” can come from outside or inside an organisation. It’s a tactic used to try to destroy someone’s career or reputation (Compare this with the recent dismissal of Rafa and the usual mouthpieces that crawl out from under their rocks spouting ‘He left for the money. Mike had promised him XYZ so he’s just a mercenary blah blah blah.’ Thank you Keys, Wise, Harmison etc).


Using specific subtle language and messages to target a particular section of the audience.

This is all you need to know about Ashley’s modus operandi through Keith Bishop and all of the other sycophants they use. All of the points above have achieved his goal for the past 12 years. It’s still happening as can be observed by the amount of punters turning up week after week ‘Because we’ve always done it, we’re true fans’.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

Why don’t the masses dare to be different and see if by working together they can achieve a different more positive outcome for this once great club?


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