Gini Dietrich is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PR firm, Arment Dietrich, Inc. a firm that uses non-traditional marketing in a digital world. She is the founder the professional development site for PR and marketing pros, Spin Sucks Pro, and co-author of the forthcoming Marketing In the Round. She also runs a blog called Spin Sucks, the 2010 Readers Choice PR Blog of the Year, one of Social Media Examiner’s Top 10 Social Media Blogs for 2011 and is currently listed on the Ad Age Power 150, a ranking of the top media and marketing blogs.
One of the top rated communication professionals on the social networks, Gini was recently named the number one PR person, according to Klout and TechCrunch, on the channels, and number one on Twitter, according to TweetLevel. She also can be found writing at Crain’s Chicago Business, AllBusiness, and Franchise Times. She is a member of the Vistage coaching program, speaker, communicator, avid cyclist and foodie. You can follow her on twitter @ginidietrich.
Tatjana spoke with Gini about public relations, social media and much more.
You are from Salt Lake City. How did you end up in Chicago?
It was easy! I went to Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. From there, I went to work at Fleishman-Hillard in Kansas City. I moved to Chicago in February 2001. I’ve been moving east since high school. Maybe I’ll eventually end up in Europe!
You started your PR agency Arment Dietrich in 2005. How did the PR industry change since then, particularly in regard to the Internet?
It’s completely changed! There are many, many PR professionals who still do things the way they’ve always been done. But it’s time to adjust, adapt, and move forward. When I started my career, email was just being incorporated into businesses so we shipped documents to clients for approvals, they marked them up with red pens, and shipped them back. We had these great, big green books that listed all of the reporters. You had to make copies of the pages you want and you picked up the phone and called them. One of my very first projects, as a new college graduate, was to create Potato Planners. Using the Steven Covey day planners, we created planners for potato farmers that highlighted different weed, insect, and fungus control and when to spray chemicals to control each. Today, having a three ring binder planner like that is unheard of. The Internet has completely changed the way we do our jobs.
Absolutely! Not all of them are using the social networks, but we do that by design. We do a lot of B2B work so it doesn’t make sense for some to be on Twitter, for instance.
I get pretty tired of telling people I do PR for a living and they say, “Oh so you spin the truth?” When we started the blog in 2006, spinsucks.com was available and, if you read the blog, you’ll notice I say the word “sucks” a lot. So it fit our culture and personality, but also allows us to drive the message that spin sucks and we aren’t all liars.
My days vary. For instance, I spent all day yesterday in a board meeting with a company that is growing like crazy. My job is to make sure their marketing team stays on task and evolves. But, typically, Mondays I do all of my client and employee meetings. I usually travel 2-3 days a week. Fridays I block to work on the business or to catch up on things I missed during the week. I spend the first hour of every day (5-6 a.m.) blogging.
Inside PR was started by David Jones and Terry Fallis five or six years ago. About two years ago, Terry’s business partner, Joe Thornley, and our mutual friend, Martin Waxman, called and said they wanted to have a U.S. presence and a woman on the podcast and asked if I was interested. I love doing it! We talk PR, marketing, social media, and how it all intersects. I’ve learned a lot about Canadian politics from them.
We have one program I’m really proud of from last year. My team developed an integrated marketing communication program that increased sales for a client by $2.2 million. The return-on-investment was pretty significant.
Yes! Subscribe to Spin Sucks Pro!
YES! It takes some time, but this works really well. We call it the response campaign. Just like many of us comment on blogs, you can do the same with trade publications. Comment on their articles. Provide smart commentary. Write letters to the editor. Offer to write columns for them (make sure they’re educational and not sales-y).
Twitter changed my life because I began to meet people like you. Never before would I have had the opportunity to not only meet someone in Serbia, but to become friends and be part of their day-to-day lives. It also really gave us a competitive edge. All of the big PR firms are in Chicago. We can compete now because companies have heard of us. Four years ago, no one had ever heard of us.
I think Klout is ridiculous. There is a difference between influence and popularity. Klout measures popularity. But, just because you’re popular, doesn’t mean people trust you or buy based on your recommendations. A person who has 100 blog readers and can recommend something and they all buy has far more influence than someone with 30,000 Twitter followers. We’re all obsessed with numbers. I have 20,000+ Twitter followers. But we’ve gotten business from maybe two clients through Twitter. It’s great for networking and building a brand. It sucks for business results.
In the U.S., it’s unethical to not disclose what (or who) you’re tweeting for. We have an internal policy that any tweeting we do on behalf of client is disclosed with (client). I’d rather err on the side of disclosure and be ethical than not.
It’s really interesting that you’re the second person outside of the U.S. to ask me about this during an interview. I think Occupy Wall Street was a big deal here, but it was really unorganized, it didn’t have one voice, and they couldn’t figure out their messaging. It sounds like it was a bigger deal for those of you outside of the U.S. looking in. It seemed to have had a lot of attention for a couple of months and then it died off. It also could be that it turned cold in most states so no one wanted to sit outside and protest.
I know Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t think so. But I do think it will bring sustained revolution. It allows us to gather around passions, interests, and issues really quickly. Much more quickly than any other communication method. It also gives lower classes a voice – a voice they didn’t have before.
Of course it’s gamed. Just like anything else. I hate the term “spin doctor” because I’m pretty ethical. But there are people in the PR industry who lie for a living. And they’ re OK with doing it. It’s the same thing with anything else. People are people. If there is a short cut or a way to game a system, there are those who will do it.
Well…we’re coming up on the primary elections for the Republican Presidential candidate who will run against Obama. These last few days will see a lot of attack ads, mean spirited debates, and people’s names dragged through the mud. It’s not fun. Most of us turn the TV and radio off until after the elections.