How can communicators retain their seat at the decision-making table in 2022? Gini Dietrich, Founder and CEO of Spin Sucks and Arment Dietrich, stresses the importance of communicating company values and keeping employees engaged in the wake of the Great Resignation. Gini also shares her passion for PR measurement and using attribution models to quantify communication effectiveness.
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About the Host:
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: GINI DIETRICH
DOUG: Gini, you actually have two roles, one as the publisher and founder of Spin Sucks, which is a journalist media enterprise and, of course, similar running your agency. Just for context, can you take them one at a time and give us a quick description of what they’re about? Tell us about Spin Sucks.
GINI: Sure, Spin Sucks started as a blog, and really the genesis of it was to figure out if blogging was a thing in 2006 and 2007 that we could offer to clients. And it has since then evolved into more of a media property and professional development for communicators.
DOUG: Cool, and your agency?
GINI: The agency has also evolved, we started out as a very traditional PR firm, and one of the challenges that I have always been passionate about is measurement, and we discovered that just doing media relations alone was really challenging to measure, and so as social media and blogging and all these other pieces came into play, we started to look at how we could use a more integrated model to be able to show results for our clients. We started out in like restaurant PR, and now we pretty much focus on B2B tech companies.
DOUG: Congratulations on your success. I know for me personally, I sort of figure I’ve got enough work to do running and being in charge of one company. So, how do you find the balance when you’ve got these two different entities, and I guess on some levels they can sort of support and enhance each other?
GINI: Yeah, they do. It wasn’t two companies until probably 4 years ago. And the reason we split it off is because we had different payment models and different income, and our CFO was like, it’s time to kind of put these in buckets, have them have their own bank accounts and all that kind of stuff. It used to be that we would support all of it, and now there’s teams that focus just on the agency and a team that focuses just on Spin Sucks.
DOUG: Yeah, that’s pretty cool.
GINI: It’s not two companies like I’m going to one from 8 to noon and the other from 1 to 5 or anything like that. It’s still fairly integrated, but it definitely has two teams.
DOUG: Well, working from home you could have one desk in maybe the extra bedroom, one in the living room, so that could work really well. So, you’re in two modes a totally different backgrounds. One of the things that you talk about and really been trying to help, with Spin Sucks especially, is the idea that communicators need to have a seat at the decision-making table at brands. Is progress being made? Is there something more the communicators should be doing in 2022 to make sure not only they have the seat, but that they’re doing the most with it?
GINI: Yeah, progress is definitely being made. We’ve seen a big shift, especially in the last 20 months, to really looking at things around how to communicate our values. And that’s really uncomfortable for most business leaders because their entire careers they’ve been told not to do that, and now we’re having to do that. So, they don’t know how to communicate that in a way that doesn’t alienate half of their customer base and half their employee base too, to be honest. And because of that, we’ve also seen a shift toward, we’re looking at the Great Resignation, and we’re focusing on how to keep people engaged and happy and employed, and part of that has to come through communications. So, we’ve seen a really big shift from what I would call the external comms to internal comms. But the interesting thing about the internal comms is because most of the workforce is distributed, or it’s a hybrid model, it almost becomes external comms. And so, a lot of what we do applies to the internal, and that has allowed us to have a seat at the table, because business leaders just don’t know, they don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to say, they know they’re supposed to do it, but they don’t know how to do it. So, it’s giving us a pretty big opportunity.
DOUG: We’ve actually seen that trend quite a bit with satellite media tours, which we’re normally always thought as an external comms piece. Employees are watching, and they know if the CEO is increasingly, CEOs and others within brand, leaders, are out there talking then that almost has more credibility, what they’re saying in public, if that aligns with what they’re saying internally as well, and it’s a good chance to give props to your team when you’re doing that. Now, before 2021 started, we had you as one of the PR’s top pros, talk about some of the things that you thought would happen going forward, your sort of predictions. You talked about the importance of resiliency, crisis experts, executives understanding the real role, and maintaining stay of top of mind in the C-suite. First, how’d PR do along those lines this year, and then we’ll get to your look ahead and your crystal ball?
GINI: I think the industry overall has done a pretty good job on that. It’s been less chaotic this year. Certainly, it is not normal, and it’s not stable, but it’s certainly less chaotic. And so, I think from a crisis perspective, that’s been a little, in 2020, it felt like dealing with fires all the time, and it’s been less like that this year. But we are staying top of mind, we’re still seeing that, we have a seat at the table that we have different opportunities. Overall, this just isn’t a trend for the last year, but is that we tend to get stuck in the way that we do things, and we don’t evolve and just really taking the time to learn a new skill, investing in your own professional development, those are the things that are going to help you have that seat at the table.
DOUG: Yeah, and what is your crystal ball showing for 2022? I know one of the things you talk about, is an increased focus on ESG.
GINI: Yeah, I would say ESG is a big one, DE&I another big one, lots of acronyms.
DOUG: Can you share the distinction between those, because sometimes people look at them differently.
GINI: ESG is more like, I would put it into sort of your community, your community involvement, your mission, your vision, your values. And the DE&I is really making sure that you’re inclusive and you have equality and that you have diversity on your teams. One of the things we look out for one client is when I went in there it was all white men on their leadership team, and I was like, guys, this doesn’t work. So, we’re three years in now, and it’s been a really big focus to bring in different voices – women, men, men of color, women of color, different nationalities to be able to have a leadership team that embodies America, really. And so, we’re looking at those kinds of things. So, it’s really about going forward with your values, helping people understand that you have a mission, standing up for what you believe in, doing it in a way that includes everybody and has that the diversity that will allow you to be able to include everybody.
DOUG: That’s a really great description of the distinction and such an important and growing place in the whole PR communications hierarchy. What are some of your other takes or even advice for PR folks navigating 2022?
GINI: One of my big passions is measurement, and we’ve been working with a client, we’re about nine months in now on a really big attribution model that allows us to really show the work that we do is driving revenue. And just before this, I came out of a meeting where the client said, “I gotta say marketing communications is doing about 65% of our revenue this year,” and I was like, yes! And that may have been the case last year, we just didn’t have the attribution model to show it. And so, sales always gets the credit for that, and 65% of their revenue is coming from their marketing team’s efforts. Any way that you can measure results, even if it’s as simple as Google Analytics and providing that kind of data, you don’t have to have a big, hefty attribution model yet, but it should be something that you aspire toward.
DOUG: Yeah, and sometimes that can be challenging. I know for us, I can say, hey folks, if you watch this video, and that makes you think you should contact us to do a satellite media tour in 2022, let us know. So, we’ll know how to attribute that. But it’s often hard to find out. What approaches you’re using to try and sort of get an accurate read on what’s really happening.
GINI: We’re looking at organic and direct traffic. So, we really know where they came from and then we’re tracking them through the process. This client has six data scientists and two statisticians, and then just a really smart Chief Marketing Officer who understands how to pull it all together. They’ve come to me specifically and said, ok, we’ve got this sort of figured out from a marketing, growth perspective, let’s add your stuff in, and our stuff is really attributed to organic traffic and direct traffic. And so, we’re looking at how once a person hits the website, what happens and how do they become a customer?
DOUG: That’s excellent. So, you can really attribute value to the work that you’re doing, do you think PR would ever move to sort of a percentage commission basis where we can track things so perfectly that it’s like great, we’ll take, X percent of the business we generated?
GINI: Maybe, we do some of that, so maybe.
DOUG: Cool, that’s really at the cutting edge, because for a while it was, ok, what are you delivering, and you could be paid off that then it’s more of a consistent pricing model.
GINI: Yeah, and I’m a big fan of equity, doing that in exchange for some shares, especially because of the work that we do with tech startups. I’m a fan of that as well, because that pays off in the end usually. I just have to say that we did a satellite media tour with you in October, and it was phenomenal. So, anybody who’s watching this one of the highlights of the year for that client, so thank you.
DOUG: And for disclosure purposes, we did get paid for that.
GINI: Yes, you did.
DOUG: Thanks so much. It’s great working with you and just knowing you and seeing like the cool things. I learn something every time I speak with you, which is great.
GINI: It’s good to see you, thank you.