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Gini Dietrich

Five Things You Can Do to Be Successful in PR

By: Gini Dietrich | February 7, 2013 | 
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I was trolling through our Google analytics the other day and found several people had come here by Googling,”How to be successful in PR.”

Spin Sucks is the first listing in search rankings for that phrase. Which is great! But it isn’t.

You see, the post is more than two years old and it’s written by a guest author. Not that that’s bad. It isn’t. We love our guest bloggers, which is why Lindsay Bell honored the top 10 from last July through December just yesterday.

But the post is more about how to be successful with media relations than public relations, overall. And, if the vision of this blog is to change the perception of the industry from one of spin doctors, we might need to own more than the first listing in search results for that phrase.

So here you go…five ways you, too, can be successful in PR. (By-the-way, trolling through your analytics to see how people are finding you is an excellent way to curb writer’s block. You know, not that I have it or anything.)

Be Curious

I love to tell the story that when I started my career, my job was to make copies of the clip books. In color. It wasn’t THAT long ago, but back then, the color copiers took something like four minutes per page (it was horribly painful). And I had to change the toner at least twice every time I worked on this project (so I could have also been a copy repairman). What did I do with all that time while the black and then the magenta and then the blue and then the yellow ran across the pages? I read the articles.

I didn’t even realize doing that would help my career, but about six months in, I was sitting in on a meeting and the client asked a question that none of the more senior professionals could answer. I shyly raised my hand (I was VERY shy back then) and answered it. All because I read those stupid articles. You know, the ones the PR team had placed. Every last word of them.

Read a Ton

One of my very favorite questions to ask during interviews is, “What are you reading right now?” You’d be shocked at how many people say, “I don’t have time to read because I am so dedicated to my job.” I think they must think that’s the right answer, but it couldn’t be more wrong. The more you read – and the more you read a lot of different things – the better writer you become. And the better writer you become, well, see number three.

Write More

It’s no surprise content is taking over the world. A few years ago, my dad said, “I’m surprised you decided to start and grow a business. I always thought you’d write.” What he doesn’t realize is how much writing I do every day. Some of it is because it’s what I love, but some of it is because of where our industry is going.

If you’re aren’t consistently writing (as in, daily), you won’t know how to write compelling, informational, and valuable content for your customers. In fact, you’ll have no idea what they want because you’re not getting consistent feedback through your content.

Continue Your Education

Arment Dietrich is at the point, right now, we can either stay comfortable at the size we are or I can get out of my own way so we can grow exponentially. Because I’d like to do the latter, I hired a leadership coach to help me. Just like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods have coaches, it’s important for leaders to have them, as well.

Last week, we were talking about my goals and I said I wanted to get my work hours down to 12 a day. He said, “What will you do with the extra 30 hours in your week?” At the time, I didn’t have an answer (other than cook and ride my bike and write more, which I already do).

Then I realized I really want to take some courses outside of my core expertise. I’m looking at Coursera to learn more about programming, developing, and algorithms. You don’t have to take official courses like that, but if you read more (see number two), you’ll organically continue your education.

Network and Get Involved

At some point in your career, particularly if you’re on the agency side, a boss will tell you part of your career growth includes business development. As PR professionals, we are not trained sales people. Networking is what will save you. Suddenly the people you consider friends because you serve on boards with them (get involved with PRSA or IABC, stat!) will become your biggest allies in finding new business.

I’ll stop there because this is getting long (though I could easily add: Do lots of research, commit to understanding how a business makes money, track your results to an organization’s goals, make friends in other departments so you can figure out how their job affects what you do, ask to job trade with a colleague, use social media for yourself so you understand the nuances of it from a business perspective, write a book, and focus…hmmmm…maybe there is a second blog post in here).

What would you add to this list?

(Ignore this…I’m testing Google+.)

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

83 comments
kevinanselmo
kevinanselmo

I enjoyed this post and very much think it applies to communicators as well as other professions for that matter. While you couldn’t say this directly because it would be self-serving, I would suggest that all communicators read the Spin Sucks blog regularly! It is amazing to me the wealth of knowledge that exists out there about our profession. For example, I have found blogs like Spin Sucks and podcasts like For Immediate Release and Inside PR to be incredible resources for keeping abreast about the latest in PR / communications. While it would seem like a no-brainer to tap into these and other resources regularly, I am surprised that so many communicators don’t take advantage of the learning available at our fingertips.

KateFinley
KateFinley

Ah ... This post is near and dear to my heart. I can say that your tips are right on the money because I am a testament of these tips in action. If you're committed to learning and reading and being curious, you can grow yourself exponentially at a surprisingly rapid pace.

 

I went from working with bloggers as a media relations pro to being a blogger with a faithful and growing following in a matter of months! Now, just 5 months later, I made a brand for myself and launched my own business. The more you read and try things, the faster you can bloom into a more well-rounded PR professional. And, you will meet some fabulous, intriguing friends along the way. 

 

Don't have time? Try getting up earlier!

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magriebler
magriebler

To this outstanding list (including the insightful comments) I would add: Learn to quantify your work so that you can always demonstrate your potential impact on the bottom line (or the organization's mission, if you're on the nonprofit side as I am). That means taking the time to set achievable goals and measurable outcomes for everything you do. There have been many great Spin Sucks posts on this topic, so I won't reinvent the wheel. But too often PR is overlooked because senior management thinks it doesn't make a dent in the strategic plan. Show them HOW and WHY it does.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

Learn, learn, learn. Never stop learning, but have a plan attached to what you are learning so that what you spend your time on is worth spending time on.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

Excellent list for any career! As the resident sales person, I have to say all of these tips apply to my role as well. Not only does my voracious appetite for the written word make me long winded and pompous, it also teaches me best practice, both within my field and in a much broader context. I am anti-silo in almost every environment (except farming), so while this is a PR blog, I always find many take-aways that inform my day to day routine, from how to work with internal customers, external customers, or even wow-ing my new boss (who just happens to be a "PR Guy").

 

Really, I wanted to comment just to say this- in my mind, little wee Gini is in pig tails, shyly raising her hand in a business meeting...so adorable! Big change from the Roboboss we all know and love. 

Shonali
Shonali

I feel that as PR professionals, we are *natural* sales people. Those of us who network well - and there are many who don't - find business naturally, which is, of course, a huge asset to the biz dev side of things. Where we have trouble, I think, is systematizing that process, and I'm trying to get better at doing that.

And I have to ask - if you are trying to get your working hours DOWN to 12 a day, what on earth are they currently?!

sher_32
sher_32

Great post  Gini.I feel like our roles as PR professionals continue to change and we must expand our knowledge and skill sets as well as embrace and understand technology.

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

I've been toying with idea of taking a coding course. I'm a big advocate of always continuing your education. Growth is big part of life, and if I'm not learning I feel as if I'm not growing. 

 

PS. Has anyone answered your reading question with, "I'm reading Marketing in Round at the moment." ? 

jdrobertson
jdrobertson

I am fond of saying, "A problem well defined is a problem well on the way toward a solution." So! You hired a Leadership Coach (whatever that is). Can you tell me the difference between a CEO and a leader? Did you - between you - define "leadership?" Would you say, "A leader is not paid for what he does - rather for what he can get others to do?" Do you believe a leader is more interested in his people or the bottom line? "Both" is not an option!

Arment Dietrich, Inc.
Arment Dietrich, Inc.

There is no stupid question - it's better to ask than do something wrong ^pk

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

I'm going to do some trolling in Google Analytics today...not that I have writer's block or anything ;)

rideboulderco
rideboulderco

Great idea re: Coursera. I took a course on gamification and found it challenging and enriching; it felt great to think about new ideas and get out a pencil and paper to work problems out.  We are so lucky to have all this great learning so easily accessible. It's just finding the time between working, cycling, writing, Downton Abbey, etc :-)

lizreusswig
lizreusswig

Great post & even better is the title could read Five Things You Can Do To Be Successful In ANYTHING!  So simple, yet so easy to forget these basics when we get caught up in the day-to-day!

allenmireles
allenmireles

How interesting. We are on a similar wave length. I hired a coach just this week and am so excited about what I expect to learn in the next several months. AND, I am also looking at a course to improve my Wordpress skills. Ha! I love the idea of continual learning and intellectual growth. We become so much more effective in our work as we continue to learn grow. :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @magriebler I'm faced with a conundrum right now. We do all of that (as you can imagine) and I am now presented with an opportunity (surely I'll see it as an opportunity after I cool down) to measure things differently even thought we had a 6:1 ROI on our 2012 efforts. My point is, you have to continue to grow and become more sophisticated each year with how you measure those efforts to real results.

giesencreative
giesencreative

@magriebler Great point. I know I get caught in the trap of pushing through a workday to get things done, without focusing enough on what I've accomplished. It's not just about proving your value to your boss or organization (though that's the priority). You also feel more accomplished and confident when you KNOW what you're contributing.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

@magriebler once again, solid advice for any field. Thanks!

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

@Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes I had never thought of a formalized learning plan for myself as an adult. Great tip, thanks!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @RebeccaTodd I just left a client meeting where the sales team is not aligning with marketing. I'm having trouble finding the right solutions. I may need to buy you that bottle of wine soon.

 

Also...there were not pig tails, but a chin length bob and I was so shy and nervous, I bit my fingernails down to little nubs.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Shonali The problem, I think, is so many people think of sales as the gross used car salesman who is creepy and wears lots of gold chains. We have to change the thinking and, you're right...it's about relationships and asking questions and finding the problems we can then solve.

 

 @jasonkonopinski is right. You don't want to know. Let's just say I did not reach my goal in January. Not even close.

DwayneAlicie
DwayneAlicie

 @stevenmcoyle Have you seen the free coding lessons at Code Academy? I haven't gone too far, but they're quite cool!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @jdrobertson I'm not sure there is a difference between a CEO and a leader because you can be both. That said, a CEO cannot be a leader and a leader doesn't necessarily mean he/she is a CEO. For me, the leadership coach is helping with things like delegation and coaching and mentoring my own team so they learn and grow, which helps the business grow. I'm a control freak so he's helping me learn how to give up control in ways that are comfortable for me. In answer to your last question, if the leader is only interested in the bottom line, the bottom line will shrink. When you invest in people, you'll achieve your goals.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

@ginidietrich well I have business in Chicago, or I'll check your tour schedule. Lets do it!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

 @jasonkonopinski  @Shonali she told me from 11am-3pm she is at the spa blogging from her blackberry....every weekday. Then she watches Oprah and Ellen.  Add in trips to the park with Mr. D and JB she is really busy!

 

As for natural sales people yes sometimes in PR during crisis management you might have to lie to your audience (we have no proof the oil spill is bigger than a minor leak, global warming is not due to humans, tobacco is safe) and the only other people who are that good are sales people. i know I was one and had to hang out with those turnips hearing the BS non-stop.

And don't get me wrong PR has an excuse sometimes no matter what ethical stand you take your employer or client threatens to fire you if you don't fib or spin. And most people won't take a stand like that especially if they are making good money (aka sales people)

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

 @dwaynealicie I was starting on the online version, but got really business and took a break. When I started back up again, I had forgot everything I learned. I think I need to sit in an actually class. I'm looking at the Starter League. 

lizreusswig
lizreusswig

 @ginidietrich Oh, I don't agree...I think writing well is key for so many jobs.  Even if it's simply being able to write a well-crafted business letter, oops, I mean text or email or post or tweet...haha!  Honestly, I think your tips apply to not only the workplace, but are good advice for life in general!

giesencreative
giesencreative

@ginidietrich Ha, mostly. I got my applocation essay in for a degree completion program - that had been sucking up quite a bit of my mental processing power. Twitter's the only place that's been seeing much of any of me! I guess that ties into continuing education, doesn't it?

giesencreative
giesencreative

Of course, there are arguments that starting off on a non-lying foot puts you in a better position as you weather the crisis. @HowieG @jasonkonopinski @Shonali

DwayneAlicie
DwayneAlicie

 @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich  @stevenmcoyle I can get behind that, Jason -- and Steven's experience is telling, too. I didn't progress too far in to the exercises, myself ... but it seems like a good tool to turn one on (or off) to more intense study.

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

 @ginidietrich  @stevenmcoyle  @dwaynealicie With CodeAcademy, I found that the exercises treated everything in a vacuum. Writing simple functions, playing with variables, etc, was fun for a bit, but I didn't come away actually knowing what to DO with those functions. 

 

I'm looking for a course that would be practical applications of the concepts and building blocks of code. 

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