PR’s Top Pros Talk…Tips for 2021 – Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich, Founder of Spin Sucks and Arment Dietrich
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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: GINI DIETRICH
DOUG: Gini, it’s so great to talk to you. For the audience that’s not familiar, you’re really a double threat as the owner of a successful agency and the founder and publisher of Spin Sucks, which is really become a huge guide on how to do communications best for the industry. Thanks so much for joining us.
GINI: Well, thanks for having me. I miss seeing you in person.
DOUG: I know. Well, we’ve got this Zoom as the next best thing. And we have to remind ourselves to keep doing it even among families and friends. I know everyone did that at first, but they got a little lazy about it, but it’s still fun to rekindle. Soc, one of the key things, 2020, extremely challenging year. For some people, it worked out well, others much more challenging, both personally and professionally, but heading into 2021, what’s the single piece of advice you’d give communication pros to be successful? What’s the one thing they should really keep top of mind?
GINI: Resiliency. I mean, we keep thinking about from that perspective what we’ve done this year, and when you think about it from a communications perspective, every single one of us has had to become a crisis expert overnight. And I also think there has not been an opportunity to take a deep breath because there’s been so much. There has been social, there’s been political, there’s been health, there’s been economic, there’s been so much thrown at us this year that we haven’t had a chance to just take a deep breath and go, OK, can we think about what’s next? We just have to go as fast as we can. So, resiliency is number one next year.
DOUG: That is key, and coming out of such a turbulent 2020, obviously there’s a hope that there can be a move towards the new normal and, you know, lots of change with change in government leadership as well. What are some of the areas that you see big opportunities because of the change that’s been happening and will continue to happen?
GINI: One of the things we’re seeing is that executives have started to understand the real role of a communicator instead of instead of it just being, oh, hey, can you get us in The New York Times or can you do the satellite media reports or radio media tour or whatever…
DOUG: But we like that part of it as well.
GINI: Sure, but it’s not just that, right? That’s not just what we do. I think we’ve always been pigeonholed to only those things, and now we’re starting to see that executives realize, oh, holy crap, especially after this year, we can’t say the same things that we’ve always said. We actually need to take a stand. We have to show that our organization is built on purpose and value, and we have to be able to communicate that and we can’t communicate that. Just because I know how to talk doesn’t mean I know how to communicate. And I think they’re starting to recognize the role of the communicator from that perspective.
DOUG: And what’s also critical is how what you need to communicate will affect your policy and decision choices within an organization. It’s always been about the importance to the PR person to come closer to the C-suite. As a result of COVID and the social justice initiative we’re there now. So, how do we then use that most effectively to change what organizations do for the better to make it a Win-Win for everyone?
GINI: I think it’s a couple of things.
*Gini’s seven-year-old daughter walks in*
DOUG: We were talking about the importance of OK, you know how PR used to be viewed and now it’s so much more important to be influencing the choices that are made at the organization and then being able to communicate them far more effectively because they’re good choice that makes sense to the the key publics that you’re working with. How do you go about doing that?
GINI: I think it’s a couple of things. One, you have to maintain… How shall I say… You have to stay top of mind with the C-suite, just like you would with prospects and customers. You have to figure out a way for you yourself to stay top of mind with the with the executive team. Some of us have the opportunity to do that because of the work that we’re doing, or because of who’s hired us, or who we report to, and some of us don’t. So really maintaining that visibility, I think, is one of the most important things that you can do.
DOUG: So how do you go about doing that? You talk about maintaining it, but how do you go about doing that?
GINI: I think it’s a few things. Just from the perspective of… There’s so much happening, and there’s so much research now that has come out this year that said, consumers, and I’ll just say humans, because it doesn’t matter if you’re B2B, or B2C, but buyers, they want to know that the companies that they’re buying from support the same values that they do. And there’s all sorts of sorts of research that supports that. So, staying on top of that kind of stuff and making sure that your executives see that, see that research and understand how it would affect the business, and then how you can help communicate that. In some cases, there may not be purpose, right? There may not be value, and you may have to create that. And in other cases, it does exist and you’re just communicating it in an effective way.
DOUG: It’s also a challenge to navigate, when the country’s been so polarized, If you look at 74 million people think one thing, 81 million people think another, which is just a differential. If you are having those values, how do you challenge, will have the country be against you, or not? How do you navigate that?
GINI: It’s really hard, and I’m nodding because I think that’s where we’ve been, is we’ve always been told, and certainly you and I have both had the experience throughout our careers where we’ve been told, don’t talk about politics, don’t talk about religion. There are certain things you don’t talk about from a business perspective because you will polarize some half of your audience, maybe. We’re past that. We have to, and consumers expect it. So, you have to be able to find a way to A, be OK with the fact that you may make some people mad, and you may lose some customers, but it’s going to help you win in the long term.
DOUG: Yeah, that makes sense. And I think there’s a lot more commonality than people actually think when it comes down to what people want to do. Let’s talk a little about Spin Sucks because how did you decide on that name for, and obviously you were going for an authenticity play and the importance of authenticity?
GINI: Well, I wish there was some grandiose strategic story to tell, but the truth of the matter is, I used to get really mad, really mad, when I’d be on a plane, or I meet somebody at a networking event, or be out with my husband who’s in politics, and we’d be at a cocktail reception, and somebody would say, what do you do for a living? And I would say PR. And this doesn’t happen so much anymore, but you usually got one of a handful of answers, and one of them was, oh, you lie for a living, or oh, you’re one of those spin doctors, and you’re like, no, I don’t lie for a living. I’m actually really honest and ethical. And we were sitting around the conference room thinking about what’s this blogging thing, and should we check it out, and one of the interns said, well, you know, you really hate it when people call you a spin doctor. What if we call it spin sucks?
DOUG: That’s cool. Let’s leave the audience with some final takeaways of what they need to be thinking about as 2021 get started.
GINI: This is such a hard question this year, and every year we think about predictions, and we think about looking in our crystal balls and our proverbial crystal balls, our magic eight ball, and figuring out what next year looks like. And because this year has been so challenging, and we really don’t know, right? I mean, there’s vaccines on the horizon. We don’t know how fast we’ll be able to roll out. We don’t know how fast the country will come back to normal, the world will come back to normal. What that normal looks like. And it’s really hard to think about not just a month from now, but an entire year. So, I’ll come back to the resiliency, just really figure out a way to just keep your head up, keep swimming, and eventually we’ll all come out of this better in the long run, I hope.
DOUG: I think that’s important. And two that I have on my list are the importance of transparency and authenticity which go together. I mean, you can’t be telling different things to different audiences, and you’ve just got to be straight. And people actually understand if things aren’t perfect, they’re not stupid. And then you can work together to solve them, but if you don’t, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble and a lot more trouble in these challenging times, the new abnormal, as many have called it. And it’s so great to speak to you as always, and congratulations on your continued success.
GINI: Thank you, and to you as well, it’s good to see you.