If you work in the public relations field, chances are good you know who Gini Dietrich is. If you don’t, consider this your introduction.
Of all the PR people who I follow on Twitter, Gini is the one who really seems to grasp what social media is all about: conversation. There are a lot of “personalities” on the Web who demand large followings, but she actually deserves it. Even in this day and age of transparency, I’m still amazed that the CEO of a company takes the time to respond to comments with such regularity. (And such humor.)
Even though I’ve never met her in person, I really wanted to pick her brain on a few topics, so I reached out to see if she would be willing to participated in the world-renowned Five and One series.
I’m glad she said yes.
Please don’t let her allegiance to the Chicago Bears take away from this interview, okay?
Brad: You are the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a digital marketing firm based in Chicago. When I hear the words “chief executive officer” I think of a largely inaccessible executive sitting high atop an office building somewhere overlooking a city, with three levels of security access between them and anybody who wants to meet with them. But in our profession, CEOs seem to be taking on a more accessible role with their employees? Do you agree? If so, why do you think this is?
Gini: Well you clearly have never been to my office. We are in the penthouse suite, four floors above the city of Chicago. And there are three levels of security: The code on the front door, the door to our office, and Jack Bauer.
All joking aside, it’s hard for me to assess whether or not CEOs are more accessible in our industry. I know, at the global firms for instance, accessibility to the CEO isn’t existent. But I also think people are tired of corporate America and working for the man who seemingly does nothing. I’m a big fan of running the business with open books so everyone can see what I do (or don’t) make and where the cash goes. That makes for a better culture that develops trust. There are plenty of organizations that do this and plenty that do not.
One thing that strikes me about you is your ability to stay “human” across all of your social channels. Whether it’s your blog or your tweets, you seem more like one of us, and less like a CEO of a company. (I mean, you recently posted on your blog a picture of Betty White with some, uh, deep thoughts. I couldn’t see somebody like Steve Ballmer doing that.) Do you make a concerted effort to remain “human”?
But wasn’t that picture funny?!? I keep waiting for my mom to call me and use my middle name. She’s been busy. She clearly hasn’t seen it yet.
I don’t really make a concerted effort to remain human, but I DO make a concerted effort not to use any of the social platforms to vent. You’ll notice I never seem to be in a bad mood. If I’m grumpy, I stay away from the social channels. So if you haven’t “seen” me in a few hours, read into it what you like.
Speaking of your social channels…you blog. You tweet. You record video blogs. And, oh yeah, you run a company. How do you find time to do all of this?
Clones. When I hired my assistant, Patti Knight, I told her the number one job was to create clones for me. She figured it out and we have a patent pending.
Honestly, some days I don’t do it very well. I do better at the beginning of the week than toward the end. But I’ve learned how to compartmentalize things so they can done with focus. For instance, Mondays are staff and clients meeting days. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I spend with my team working on client issues or strategy. And Thursday and Friday are for getting Spin Sucks Pro launched (finally) and core business growth, such as business development or sometimes just upgrading the blog.
What is one skill that every public relations professional needs to have in today’s professional environment?
Just one?!? I think every PR pro needs to understand search. It’s no longer just about backlinks and meta descriptions. PR pros need to understand the basics of search, how the spiders work, and how to write content that is both valuable and proves high Google juice.
Social media has obviously altered how we do our jobs. What do you think is the next trend that will shape our industry?
I hate to say this out loud, but I think PR is going to part of a total integrated marketing program vs. a stand-alone discipline. Unless the entire industry can work together to create a standardized way of measuring results that drives business results (you know, the kind the CFO cares about) then we will become solely a tactic.
Finally, the random question: I love to read, and I love to hear what others are reading. So, what is the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?
OMG! The Hunger Games series. I seriously had to tell myself to go to work and, as my reward for working the entire day, I would get to go home and read. I read all three in a week. So. Freaking. Good.
Again – big thanks go out to Gini for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.
You can find all entries in The Five and One series here.