Gini Dietrich

Grow Your Communications Firm in 2015

By: Gini Dietrich | November 4, 2014 | 

Grow Your Communications FirmBy Gini Dietrich

A few years ago, my Vistage Chair was sitting in my office. It was the beginning of our monthly two-hour one-to-one meeting and he was already challenging me on business growth.

I’ll never forget his saying to me, “You go around the country and talk to business leaders about how to use the web to grow their businesses, but you’re not taking your own advice.”

To this day, I’m ashamed of my answer, but I said, “We are a client services business. We sit behind our computer screens all day. The web won’t work for us.”

In that instant, I became every leader or owner who told me their business was different. Who said social media was a fad. Who said their websites didn’t really matter for growth.

I became the person I rolled my eyes at behind closed doors.

Though we were only 15 or 20 minutes into the meeting, my Chair packed up his stuff, said, “I’m ashamed of you,” and left.

I remember sitting there thinking, “He doesn’t know anything about my business” and was happy to get 90 minutes of time back.

Shame on me.

Many Misses Before Finding Any Wins

Clearly his challenge sat in my brain and I set about trying to figure out a way for a services firm to generate revenue online.

We tried charging for professional development. It didn’t work.

We tried charging for content—webinars and eBooks and the like. It didn’t work.

Heck, when Marketing in the Round came out, people didn’t even want to buy that. I got hundreds of requests for free books…none of which I could fulfill because a little known fact is the author has to buy their own books, too.

Not even the inbound marketing strategies we employed for clients worked. People don’t shop for communications firms.

I was stumped.

But I knew I had to find a way to use the web to help my little organization grow. I knew my Vistage Chair was right.

Grow Your Communications Firm

We did some research.

We discovered the following:

  • Organizations change communications firms about every four years.
  • Most hire firms—not because of their creativity or results—but because of their chemistry with the people they’d work with every day.
  • More than half of the time, a new communications firm is brought in because management changes and they want their own guys…the people they already know they like.
  • They may not shop for communications firms, but they do keep a short list of those that seem interesting, for when the time comes.
  • It is impossible to predict or schedule new business wins.
  • RFP pitches are not the best way to win new business.
  • You must stay top-of-mind.

Armed with this information, we set about to figure out a way to become one of those communications firms everyone thought of when it was time to make a change.

With Spin Sucks serving as our key tactic, we implemented the following:

  • I took over the blog in mid-2009 (at the time there was no editorial calendar, everyone on the team wrote whatever they wanted, no one was editing content…it was kind of in shambles) to see if we could do anything strategic with it.
  • We decided we needed to take a stance and let our editorial show that (you know what that looks like when I get on my soapbox).
  • We brought in guest bloggers who offered expertise that we don’t have internally.
  • We got very consistent in our publishing schedule: The morning post published by 6:00 CT and the afternoon by noon CT.
  • We delivered two posts a day via email (in one email) by 7:30 a.m. CT.
  • We started social networks for Spin Sucks to extend beyond my own friends and family.
  • We strategically brought in other voices from our internal team.

The results, as they say, speak for themselves:

  • Two book deals that came to me versus my having to hire an agent and go woo publishers: Marketing in the Round in 2012 and Spin Sucks this year.
  • Lots of speaking engagements I did for free in 2010 and 2011 to getting paid to speak from 2012 forward.
  • Eighty percent of all our inbound inquiries come from people who read this blog (the rest come from my speaking).

Then, of course, there are the non-measurables:

  • Industry awareness that has awarded us one of the top three PR blogs in the world for several years in a row.
  • Consistently listed among the top PR executives on the social networks.
  • Quoted in thousands of communications articles, blog posts, and stories every year.

The point is this: It doesn’t matter what your organization sells—software, time, products—you absolutely can use the web to grow.

Now is the time to plan for 2015. What are you going to do differently to have these kinds of results?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I adore how transparent you always are.  

    Proof that even the best can get tied down to unproductive thinking.  Now I really want to go back and see the pre-2009 posts, though.  🙂

  • Did you win? 

    I don’t know how I’m getting to comment, either the ban has been lifted or our network is being nice to me this am; it has been kind of hit or miss. 

    You had to chase some rabbits, but through persistence and not being timid about trying something different, you have achieved a certain level of success and notoriety that is well deserved. A lot of people think a social platform is easy and the money will just flow in, but you are a good example of how much hard work it takes to even scratch the surface.

    Well, if we had to lose Joe Maddon, I’m glad the see he ended up with the Cubs; I think he is looking for a place in your neighborhood.

  • Hi Gini! What can I say, I love the post.
    What drew and made me stuck with Spin Sucks since I “accidentally” found it, about two years ago, was the open attitude you have about, well (almost) everything related with the blog, PR and AD. Next in line is, of course, the content you guys produce on a daily basis.
    There are few businesses out there, let alone in PR, that are not even close to what you and your team do on Spin Sucks. I actually haven´t found another blog to like and read on a daily basis, like I do with Spin Sucks. But that´s just me. 🙂
    Thumbs up and keep up the great work!
    Kisses from the not so sunny anymore Spain!

  • Again, with the honesty. LOL!  Man, I would have *loved* to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting with your Vistage chair. It’s like we’ve been speaking about recently, conflict is good. I love that he got up, packed his things, and left. What a message that must have sent you. Bravo for sharing this, Gini.

  • HeatherTweedy OMG. They’re so bad, Heather. Hang on… I republish the very first post every year.

    Here you go:

    It’s so bad.

  • belllindsay conflict IS good, but hard. Tons of admiration for that part of this post.

  • I’m glad you get 80% of your inbound inquiries from the blog, because this member of the 20% is just here for the amazing community. And I could SWEAR I heard something about snacks. Or wine. 😉 (But seriously …. creating a community has ripple effects that s how in the business opportunities ….. happy to be a part of it all.)

  • tnfletch

    Thank you for sharing your story. I found this blog about 2 years ago as I was searching online for ways to keep connected and ahead of the curve on marketing and communications trends. My non profit organization did not have the resources to regularly send me to conferences or workshops. Your website has quickly become one of my favorites and I greatly value having the opportunity to learn from you and the rest of the community.

  • biggreenpen I read this comment during our staff meeting so I read it aloud to the team. We all laughed. You’re hilarious!

  • bdorman264 Everyone is all excited about Joe Maddon. I guess he’s going to change the curse and we’ll win a World Series in my lifetime now. Just like Theo Epstein was going to do.

  • corinamanea I love that you read the blog every day! It makes all the hard work worth it.

  • belllindsay He totally left. I sat there at my table with my mouth hanging open. And then I thought, “Fine. I’ll show you.” and went back to work. But it kept lingering in my brain. BECAUSE HE WAS RIGHT!

  • ginidietrich belllindsay I recently had a wise person tell me that a meeting is only worthwhile if it makes you uncomfortable. That really made a lot of sense to me and this is a clear example of that

  • LauraPetrolino I KNOW WHO THAT WAS!

  • susancellura

    So what is the best way to introduce yourself and get new business?  🙂

  • susancellura You mean in general? For what you’re doing?

  • susancellura

    ginidietrich well, I was being a bit silly, but yes, now that you ask. 🙂

  • Love this post and these results Gini! And I truly recognize all ingredients of this process. We grew from 2 to 13 professionals in 3 years time. How? By using the web. But also, and more importantly in my opinion, by helping the PR industry move forward with several initiatives. And yes, ‘An evening with.. Gini Dietrich’ was absolutely one of them! 😉

  • ginidietrich HeatherTweedy Nice…..

  • jodykoehler I was just telling someone how much I enjoyed that trip. It was one of my all-time favorites!

  • ShwayComs

    MeghanMBiro ginidietrich over 802.11we are reviewing this standard protocol ◢♂◣◥♀◤◢♂◣◥♀◤

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