Blogs  / April 15, 2014

Spin May Suck, But Gini Dietrich Rocks

by Rebekah Iliff

Have you ever had a moment in time where you’re thinking “wow, I’m on top of the world, I really know my $h!t” only to have your ego (rightly) deflated after a serendipitous brush with someone who, in actuality, is much more on top of it than you?

If that had ever happened to me, it would have likely happened when I came Twitter-face to Twitter-face with one Gini Dietrich.

Gini is the Angelina Jolie of the PR world IMHO.

She makes us all look like slackers. Just when you think she can’t possibly do ONE MORE THING a conversation like this happens:

Me: Hey Gini, whatcha doing?

Gini: Hi! So great to hear from you! I’m getting ready to speak on a panel in about 5 minutes on the future of PR.

Me: Oh geeez, should I call you back?

Gini: No, no, it’s totally fine. Right after that I have to jump on a plane and go to my book signing in New York.

Me: Oh wow, ok, well thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

Gini: No problem! It’s absolutely my pleasure. Can you hold for one second please…my husband is on the other line and he’s calling because my son is having this thing, and I need to conduct an emergency tracheotomy via satellite before I jump on stage. BRB.

Me: (Inner dialogue: I’m a loser) Sure, oh my God, no problem.

All (slight joking) aside, I caught up with Gini fresh on the heels of her Spin Sucks book launch…a book I highly recommend to anyone looking to get up to speed on this crazy PR evolution we’re experiencing.

Soak up Gini’s wise words, she’s a class PR act….

Rebekah Iliff: Let’s start with an simple one: What makes you so passionate about PR?

Gini Dietrich: I suppose it’s just from being in the industry as long as I have. I mean, what? I’ve only been out of college for five years. 🙂 Truly it’s because I don’t think we do a great job of doing our own PR. There are so many misconceptions about what we do (and don’t do) that it makes me a little nuts. I come from the line of thinking that if you don’t like something, you should do something about it.

Gini Pro PhotoRI: PR has a lot of misconceptions that surround and permeate it. What’s your take on why these misconceptions exist? E.g. You’re in PR? Oh, you must party a lot. 

GD: Yes, or the “Oh you’re in PR. You lie for a living.” That’s right, buddy! I’m lying to you right now. It’s what I do all day, every day. These misconceptions exist because the industry, as a whole, does a terrible job of helping people understand what we do. We “measure” effectiveness through media impressions and advertising equivalencies; through increased fans and followers. If we were better at planning, creating baseline assessments, and measuring our efforts to true dollars and cents, it wouldn’t be so hard for business leaders to understand what we do. But we keep saying, “It’s all about brand awareness and reputation and those things can’t be measured.” To some extent that is true, but in today’s digital world, we can even measure that.

RI: Education is a huge part of helping brands and businesses understand what good PR looks like. When you’re educating (which you do a ton), what are 3 PR myths you commonly have to debunk?

GD: Only three?! I’d say 1) Media relations efforts happen overnight and will take you from an unknown to stardom in two weeks; 2) PR only means media relations and doesn’t constitute anything else; and 3) The front page of the New York Times is dying to run your company story.

RI: Your amazing blog is called Spin Sucks. Why do you think PR has a reputation for spinning the truth? 

GD: It’s a few things:

  • We have politics and Hollywood to thank for it, mostly. Those people DO spin the truth and, because it’s so highly visible, that’s what people assume we do.
  • If an issue is managed really well, you never hear about it because it never becomes a crisis. But if it is poorly handled, everyone knows about it and it makes it look like the PR people don’t know what they’re doing (typically).
  • Lizzie Grubman made a reality TV show about her partying and DUIs and gave us all a black eye.
  • It isn’t tangible so people have a really hard time understanding what it is. It’s like SEO – if you don’t understand it, you assume it’s magic. Same kind of idea.

RI: What do you think about PR measurement and how the industry is currently operating in a data-driven age? Where do you see room for improvement?

GD: EVERYWHERE is room for improvement. The way we “measure” our effectiveness makes me crazy. In some cases, clients won’t pay for the in-depth digging we have to do to create the metrics that really matter and, in others, our peers don’t really know what to do or how to do it. Until we begin educating our executives and clients that it’s more than media impressions and increased fans or followers – that we can actually contribute to the growth and health of an organization – we’ll always have this stigma.

RI: At Arment Dietrich, you have a comprehensive PR tool box to help your clients win. What are some of your key metrics for success that you measure?

GD: It depends on the client. For one, we do media relations only (not very typical for us, but it’s a startup we really wanted to work with) so we track unique visitors that come to the site from every story we place…and what they do once they’re there. Do they download content? Do they subscribe to the blog? Do they sign up for a beta test? Do they take a pre-scheduled demo? All of that goes into our report so we can demonstrate where they are getting their leads.

For another, we do all of the marketing communications for them and track everything from leads generated at the top of the funnel to leads converted at the bottom. Last year we had an ROI of 12:1 because our efforts got them a few million bucks in new clients.

RI: Time to bust out your crystal ball! There’s a lot going down in PR right now from the proliferation of technology to the democratization of information. Given all these changes, where do you think the industry will be in 5 years?

GD: I asked the Magic 8 ball if the industry is up for more change and it said, “Decidedly so.” I really love being in PR right now. SO MUCH is changing and it’s super exciting. The lines are blurred and now we are front and center with customers, prospects, ambassadors, loyalists, and critics. We get to determine the direction of the organization and finally have the chance to prove our worth. We have a huge opportunity to sit at the executive table. In the next five years, some will harness that and others will not. Those who do not won’t be here.

RI: And last but certainly not least: What’s the best piece of PR advice you’ve received to date?

GD: Oh man! It’s probably less PR advice and more life advice, but it came from my mentor early in my career. He always pushed me to keep learning and to grow. If it was reading client clips while I copied them for clip books early in my career or learning website development a year ago. We can’t evolve if we don’t keep learning.

I told you she was full of wise words! Follow Gini here. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of her book. #recommendedPRreading