The One, The Only Gini Dietrich: A Very Candid Q & A

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Here’s how I remember it: In the Fall of 2002, I agreed to help judge awards entries on behalf of PRSA Chicago. The judging was to take place at the offices of a small PR firm — Arment Dietrich — run by a charming, smart young woman named Gini Dietrich.

Gini Dietrich, founder and president of Arment Dietrich.

Gini Dietrich, founder and president of Arment Dietrich.

In the dozen years since, Gini has grown her business and cultivated a national reputation for innovative integrated marketing communications. A very in-demand speaker, Gini is the founder of a blog called Spin Sucks, rated by many sources (including me) as among the best in the communications industry. And, she’s the co-author of “Marketing in the Round,” a guide book on developing integrated marketing campaigns, and author of “Spin Sucks,” a primer for managing communications in the digital age.

I could go on, but will conclude that Gini Dietrich is my friend, and I’m thrilled she took the time to respond to some questions from The PRDude. Here’s an unedited account of our email exchange.

 1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the vast majority — if not all — of your career has been on the public relations agency side. A purposefully loaded question, but are agency PR professionals “better” than those who work in corporate or non-profit environments?

Heck, no! Why would they be better? I can tell you we’re not any better than our client counterparts. The experience is just different. It would be kind of nice to work on only one client, like you do when you’re in-house. But I think I’d also miss the not really knowing what you’re going to do from day to day. For instance, a client’s attorney called me the other night and said they needed me in a board meeting the next day, but that I had to sign a special NDA that evening. I was NOT planning on being in a board room for three days that week, but so be it. I kind of love that about working on the agency side.

2. You built Arment Dietrich from a one-person (plus intern) consultancy to a powerhouse communications business serving a vast range of big name clients. What one thing did you do right?

Spin SucksJust one!? Come on, EB! You know I’m perfect. I’ve done everything right. This will lead to your next question, but pivoting the business in 2010, before any other PR firm did was a pretty smart move. The truth is, it wasn’t very strategic. I was just tired of being seen as a firm that only does media relations. So I changed the conversation.

3. My sources tell (full disclosure: I read it on your blog) that “Arment Dietrich is no longer a PR firm.”  If you’re no longer a PR firm, what are you?

Unfortunately, when most executives think “PR,” they think “media relations.” The truth is we, of course, are still a PR firm, but writing that blog post and changing our messaging turned the conversation with prospects from “I want to get on Oprah” to “how can you help me grow my business?” I’d much rather have the second conversation.

4. Your current personal schedule requires travel. Lots of Arment Dietrichtravel. Do you miss the “good old days” built around client meetings, strategy sessions and new business development? When was the last time you wrote a news release?

I’m lucky that I still get to do client meetings and strategy sessions and about 75% of my job is business development, which is where the travel comes in (speaking is, by far, one of the best ways to generate qualified leads). But the last time I wrote a news release or did any tactical work like that? A looooong time ago. I will share with you that about six years ago, a friend and adviser told me I had to decide if I wanted to be a really good communications professional or if I wanted to grow a company. He said, if it were the latter, I had to get out of the weeds. So I made the decision to grow a business and haven’t looked back.

5. My sources also told me (okay, I think you told me) that you’re originally from Utah and like to ski. Why, oh why did an avid skier move to Chicago?  Are there mountains around here I don’t know about?

I did grow up in Utah! I also couldn’t escape quickly enough. You know how, when you’re young and you have the whole world in front of you, you don’t think about getting homesick or leaving a part of your soul in the mountains? When I moved to Chicago, I had NO IDEA I’d get ridiculously homesick in October and it would last through March. This year hasn’t been so bad, though, because Utah has had barely any snow so they’re skiing on the crappy manmade kind and that’s not fun skiing. Someday, when this business is at its next level, we’ll buy a condo in Colorado so I can ski all winter and enjoy Chicago in the summer.

* * *

The PRDude has had the honor of publishing posts from other public relations leaders. Visit the links below to read posts featuring:

1. Nick Kalm, founder and president of Reputation Partners, a dynamic Chicago firm.

2. Gerry Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA, the past Chair and CEO of PRSA and founder of strategic consultancy Redphlag of California.

3. Chris Ruys, founder and president of Chris Ruys Communications, a boutique Chicago PR firm started more than 30 years ago.

4. Ron Culp, a legendary figure in Chicago public relations (and I don’t use that word lightly) and now on the faculty at DePaul University.

Advertisements

Hey PR Pros: What Can You Learn After Analyzing 50K Press Releases?

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Well, one answer to the question in the title of this post can be found in the info graphic you’ll find below.  (Click on the image to enlarge.)

what-can-we-learn-from-50000-press-releases_54bfd0a7f2975_w907The graphic and analysis is the work of pr.co, an Amsterdam-headquartered news release distribution company operated by five guys, some with great hair. If you want to get a better visual perspective, just visit this page; you’ll be sent to an article found in a communication I received last week from the folks at PR News.

I’ll let the graphic speak for itself on what the pr.com guys found out after spending a lot of time concluding that press (or news, if you prefer) releases get the most views on Wednesday and customized distribution campaigns are more cost-effective, among other findings.

(Please, no offense intended to the pr.co team, but I would argue that any of us who have risen to the level of a public relations strategist could have concluded the latter in the comment above was true. Defining your publics is an integral part of developing a strategy, you know.)

Well, the PRDude doesn’t have analytical data based on the distribution of 10,000 news releases, but he does have three thoughts to share on this most ubiquitous of communications mediums, one that isn’t showing any signs of fading away in this new digital communications frontier.

1. Boring, With a Capital “B.” It’s hard to comprehend that even today, some news releases feature this type of introduction: “ABC Amalgamated, a Chicago-headquartered recognized leader in widget manufacturing and 2015 “Widget Maker of the Year” award, today announced …” Clearly, the wrong direction, one that will get the reader to hit the delete key, providing he’s still awake.

2. Where’s the News?  A news release should communicate, well news. It should be driven by relevant information and directed at a targeted media audience. Too often today, the news value of a news release is non-existent or marginal at best.

3. Are You Being Paid by the Word? In today’s crowded communications arena, effective news releases need to be succinct. Period. Announcements that exceed 400 or so words are ineffective.

I trust many public relations professionals will find the above perfunctory. But hopefully, these thoughts will prove of value to some.

And, to piggyback on #3 above, effective blogs should be short.

So I’ll stop at 393 words.

 

Some “Good PR” For Those Forgotten PResidents This PResident’s Day

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Rest assured, the typos in the headline for this post are intentional, there for these reasons:

  • To get your attention. (Well, also because it’s “edgy.”)
  • Because this blog addresses public relations. (Well, most of the time.)
  • Today is President’s Day and that’s the subject of this post: To shine the spotlight on some lesser known presidents. (Well, sort of.)
Van Buren

Van Buren

On President’s Day, America honors the men — past and present — who have held the highest office in the land. It’s a national holiday, a day when kids get off from school, banks are closed and U.S. mail is not delivered.

But of course, like most holidays in the 21st century, we somehow miss honoring our presidents but rather, use President’s Day as another day to better sell stuff. And, just 54 days after Christmas Day. Actually, did you know someone created a marketing-themed

Fillmore

Fillmore

President’s Day 2015 website?

Someone please tell me what incorporating Washington or Lincoln into a marketing message has to do with influencing my decision to buy a new mattress and box springs?

Staying on track, the aforementioned two presidents get the lion’s share of exposure on President’s Day. But the citizens of this great nation have elected 44 presidents (Grover Cleveland won twice, you know) since the republic was founded.

Arthur

Arthur

The other guys need some recognition for their service and commitment to the nation. So here are a few anecdotes about some presidents who may not be top of mind.

Martin Van Buren. Did you know the 8th president was born in Kinderhook, NY, and also died in Kinderhook, NY?

Millard Fillmore. Our 13th president was not at all unlucky. He had a grandfather named Abiathar Millard and a grandmother named Hepzibah Wood. How cool is that!

Chester A. Arthur.  A widower, the 21st president reportedly liked to party, enjoyed dressing to the nines and hired Louis Comfort Tiffany to remodel the White House.

Of course, I could go on, and please don’t take the items above as showing disrespect to Van Buren, Fillmore and Arthut. But hopefully you get the idea: Not every U.S. president has history in the colonial era or held the nation together when it was falling apart.

But they all served our nation, had interesting lives and deserve more on President’s Day than to be forgotten.

 

 

Questions for Harper Lee on the “Forgotten” Novel and More

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Just about all of us who put words together for profit or enjoyment (I’m in both camps, but The PRDude blog falls in the latter category, unless of course, there are sponsors out there) probably have contemplated, if not completed, drafting the next “great American novel.”

However “great” is defined.

hlee

Ms. Lee: Me and much of the world have inquiring minds. Can you share a few moments in the near future?

Author Harper Lee accomplished that feat way back in 1960 with the publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a novel set in a small Alabama community in the 1930s.

It was her first and only novel, or so the world thought. And, it won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.

You might have read “Mockingbird” — I did in 7th grade — and know the plot, and the fact the story was later made into a pretty good film. So, I won’t tread back.

Last week, you also probably read that Ms. Lee — who reportedly has not published any long fiction since “Mockingbird” and likes her privacy — had a sequel laying around somewhere. That work, “Go Set a Watchman,” will be published this July.  Apparently, Ms. Lee didn’t remember that the novel “survived” the decades since her master work became a beloved literary sensation.

This development prompted this fellow writer (please don’t ever refer to me as a “wordsmith” as I find it silly, demeaning, and an insult to real smiths) to pose some questions:

1. Does Ms. Lee, a superb storyteller, observer of pivotal moments in the past century and someone with an obvious command and love of the language, have other non-published forgotten manuscripts besides “Watchman?” Perhaps there’s a worn manila folder stuffed into a dusty cabinet somewhere that’s holding another Harper Lee literary treasure.

2. Are the rights for “Watchman” already being  negotiated to be made into a film? Hey, a cinematic sequel — as well as a prequel — has been done successfully before, especially those involving Jedi knights, Hobbits and Bruce Willis.

3.  And, why has Ms. Lee not been compelled to share thoughts on the beauty and ugliness that shaped our modern world? After all, she divided her time between New York City and her home town of Monroeville.  Surely both places offered the potential for inspiration. Plus, writers … well, write.

Not sure if Ms. Lee and her publisher have secured public relations counsel, but I’d gladly offer my services if called upon.  Full disclosure: I’ve never developed a strategic communications plan for a novel, but I have some experience writing fiction.

In fact, I published “installments” of a short story, “Snapdragons in November,” in this space way back in 2010.  The links below will provide access.

Rest assured: If I earn a Pulitzer for “Snapdragons,” it will not be decades until you hear from me again.