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.
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?
Just 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 travel. 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.
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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.