Network. Network. Network. Why I Keep Doing It

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

Even at this stage of my career — 30-plus years in public relations and other communications disciplines — I still find it necessary to expand my network.

(Note to self: Where has the time gone? Can I get some of it back? Can someone develop an app for that?)

Yes, that's me in the center of it all, in my role as moderator.

Yes, that’s me in the center of it all, in my role as moderator at recent panel discussion. Photo credit: NAHJ Chicago Chapter.

Given the opportunity and time, I attend events and activities hosted by PRSA Chicago and other organizations. My mantra: Every time you can interact, speak, present, lead or learn, you grow as a professional.

Here’s a case in point. In late April, I moderated a panel discussion hosted by the Chicago chapters of the Hispanic Public Relations Association and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.  The theme: “PR Pros and Journalists Working Together for the Good of the Story.”

The dialogue was spirited, from the panelists and those who attended. Photo credit: NAHJ Chicago Chapter.

The dialogue was spirited, from the panelists and those who attended. Photo credit: NAHJ Chicago Chapter.

The event was hosted at Edelman’s Chicago offices and featured outstanding panelists from local broadcast news, the corporate sector and the agency side of public relations.

You can read my thoughts in this post published on a great industry resource, Hispanic Marketing and PR, a site I’ve contributed to before.  And, visit this page to get a more extensive visual perspective of the afternoon.

So, what did I gain from this exercise:

1.  Better insight on working with the media.

2.  Greater understanding of people who comprise the Hispanic demographic.

3.  Another opportunity to hone my presentation skills.

4.  Promotion of myself and the university research unit where I now manage public affairs.

5.  And, the ability to network with fellow public relations professionals and members of the media and make new friends.

Digital communications has changed the world forever.  And, as I noted in this post from last year, I’ve nurtured some great virtual friendships.

Still, to me, interpersonal communications offer so much more. After all, it’s impossible to shake hands virtually. But I’ll bet someone’s working on an app for that.

 

 

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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.

Thoughts From the Corner Office: The 2012 PRSA Chicago Agency Big Shot Lunch Remembered

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

Football. Trees changing color. Pumpkins.  Brisk temperatures.  Shorter days.

These shout out the arrival of fall.  (Or autumn, if you prefer a more “robust” word.)  So does the annual fall luncheon hosted by PRSA Chicago that features a panel of local agency leaders.  Yesterday, these six leading public relations professionals offered thoughts and projections on the state of the public relations profession.

  • Rick Murray, President, Edelman
  • Patti Temple Rocks, Managing Director, GolinHarris
  • Bill Zucker, Midwest Director, Ketchum
  • Susan Howe, President, Weber Shandwick
  • Maxine Winer, Senior Partner and General Manager, Fleishman-Hillard
  • Erica Swerdlow, Midwest Market Leader / Managing Director at Burson Marsteller
  • Claire Koeneman, Executive Vice President, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

The task of keeping these folks engaged fell to moderator Jack Monson, Vice President of  a company appropriately called Engage121.  My friend and colleague Mr. Monson moderated last year’s panel discussion.  Read my post from the 2011 luncheon when you have a moment.

Without further ado, here’s what the Agency Big Shots had to say.  (Disclosure: I’m aggregating these thoughts into bullet points below because I simply did not take good enough notes to provide attribution. My apologies. All six panelists shared valuable insight.)

  • State of the Industry: Change — due mostly to technology — will take place even faster than before and require new skill sets.  Agencies now look for those culinary and visual skills, for example, along with knowledge of strategy and communications.   The lines between advertising and public relations continue to blur.
  • Social Media is Here to Stay: One panelist said the agency social media team presents a new development to the entire shop each week, over beers of course. Social media is paramount to mitigate a crisis; this includes new platforms like Instagram.  Public relations counselors should demand that clients have written social media policies in place for employees — and make employees sign agreements.
  • If You’re Seeking a Job: Candidates will rise to the top if they demonstrate curiosity,  resourcefulness and the willingness to “get out of your comfort zone and take on more responsibilities.” Younger account managers need to learn how to “embrace a spreadsheet.” Fortunately, solid writing and presentation skills still count.  Former journalists continue to be considered for agency positions.
  • Where the Business Comes From: Some agencies are experiencing more “organic growth” rather than keeping the lights on via new business pitches. When new pitches are made, the entire account team — from VPs to AEs — participate.  That means younger team members are being trained more on how to sell.
  • A Big Trend to Watch: Expect a greater “convergence” of paid, owned and earned media. The “live” events hosted by the Chicago Tribune serve as an example, so do some of the segments aired on “Ellen.”   This trend represents ethical public relations — providing there’s full disclosure of who’s paying for the campaign.

Yes, there was lots more; but this is what I scribbled into my handy pocket notebook.  Now it’s your turn: Did you attend the PRSA Chicago luncheon September 18?  What did you learn from the six panelists and subsequent discussion?  Or, just share your thoughts on where public relations is headed in 2013 and beyond.