Gini Dietrich

Tell Your Organization’s Story Without Sex

By: Gini Dietrich | February 10, 2015 | 

Tell Your Organization's Story Without SexBy Gini Dietrich

The Kardashians. Miley Cyrus. Honey Boo Boo. The Real Housewives. The Real World.  Rogue tweets. Lindsay Lohan. Michael Vick. Lance Armstrong. American Idol. Anonymous. Oscar Pistorius. Aaron Hernandez. Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue. The manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.

It’s no surprise sex sells. And so do shootings and train wrecks and car accidents.

It’s the reason reality television and tabloids exist.

We love the drama, the absurd, and the ridiculous.

It’s the reason we’re more interested in Beyonce lip-syncing at President Obama’s second inauguration than we are about the global state of affairs.

Because of our innate human need to read and share this kind of information, organizations try to sell with sex all the time.

A couple of months ago, a bar in Chicago had a sign out front that said, “I like my beer like my violence…domestic.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 5.46.56 AM

The server who posted this was fired, but not before bars in Austin and Plano, Texas followed suit.

On Sunday afternoon, Kate Nolan texted me a photo of the sign outside of the Timbuk2 store in Chicago.

Sex Sells from Kate Nolan

Very clever and Kate said it worked…kind of.

A woman went into the store because she liked the sign. Unfortunately, she did not buy.

Sex does sell…if you’re selling sex.

The rest of us have to figure out how to sell by telling our organization’s story in a compelling way, which isn’t easy to do.

We live in a world where content exhaustion is very real.

So how do you tell your organization’s story so people care?

Tell Your Organization’s Story

There are five essential parts to your organization’s story.

They include:

  • Passion;
  • A protagonist;
  • An antagonist;
  • A revelation; and
  • The transformation.


What is it your audience really cares about? These aren’t customer quotes or testimonials; these are customer stories. 

The passion lies in how your product is created, your office culture, the one thing your organization truly cares about that makes you unique and valuable to the world around you.

How can you tell your organization’s story to create passion among the people who will buy your products or services?

How can you create an advantage and use an opportunity—such as newsjacking—to give your organization’s story more legs?

It doesn’t matter what you sell—an oxidizer manufacturing company creates passion around understanding EPA regulations and how they affect air pollution control, a PR firm creates passion around technology advances, an accounting firm creates passion around accountants with personality.

Passion is the first step in telling your organization’s story in an engaging and valuable way.


Now it’s time to create your protagonist.

This one is easy.

The protagonist is you, your company, your product, or your service.

This is typically where stories begin and end, but in our process, this is just the beginning.

To figure out who your protagonist is—the leader of the organization, a social media rockstar within your ranks, a spokesperson, a cartoon superhero of your logo—ask a handful of people in various roles to share five adjectives they’d use to describe the company and two aspects of the organization that are unique or valuable.

Ask people inside your organization and your customers to contribute.

Look for themes or strong responses and combine them into a clearly defined description of your protagonist’s attributes.

As soon as you figure that out, you have passion and you have someone people can believe in. 


Now you need someone—or something—or people to hate…the antagonist.

The antagonist is the villain and is often the most overlooked part of an organization’s story.

What is the enemy of your success?

Think about it as an issue or challenge you solve.

What keeps your customers awake at night?

Is it a cultural issue?

Is it an industry concern; perhaps you work in print distribution and the products you make are becoming extinct because everything is going online and you no longer have something to distribute.

Maybe it’s a real problem such as the hassle of setting up payroll, email overload, or managing your organization’s 401K program (which I hate to do, with a passion).

What problem do you solve for your customers?

Is there a big, bad competitor in your industry?

Find your enemy so you have the antagonist for your organization’s story.

The Revelation

Part of what makes fiction so compelling are twists or turns you weren’t expecting.

We enjoy the surprise and delight, even if the revelation is sad, because we like to feel like we’re being let in on a secret.

Likewise, your organization’s story should share something unexpected with customers and prospects.

The Transformation

The final part to your organization’s story is the transformation, or the thing (or things) that is different about the way you do business.

Think about how your company has evolved.

Think about the problem you solve and how it connects with both emotional and practical needs.

What is your value proposition? What can customers get only from you?

It might be intellectual property or a new way of doing things or a super duper cool new widget.

People want to know how you arrived there.

The argument many business leaders make at this point is, “Why would I want to give away our secret sauce? Then our competitors would do what we do.”

Here’s the thing: Your competitors may know the exact recipe to your secret sauce, but no one does it as well as you do.

It’s your secret sauce.

It was created with your people, your thinking, your culture, your passion, and your vision.

If you’re just starting out, your transformation likely hasn’t happened yet, from a company perspective, but there is a reason you’re launching a new business.

Maybe it’s to make your social content shoppable, such as foursixty; or to teach people how to run political campaigns, such as GetElected.

Whatever it happens to be, the transformation is the closing to your organization’s story and it’s also the part that continues to evolve.

So don’t get hung up on getting it perfect. If your organization is anything like mine, it could change as quickly as next week.

Today’s Exercise

Of course, there are tons of examples in Spin Sucks on how organizations are using each of the five storytelling techniques to help you figure out your pieces.

So buy a copy and send your receipt to We’ll send you a package of goodies.

But more, buy a copy so you can do the following exercise and not get stuck and abandon it.

Today I want you to spend 30 minutes creating your organization’s story.

Of course, 30 minutes isn’t long enough to get something perfect for primetime, but it will create a draft for you to begin to test with prospects and customers.

It will create a draft for you to test internally.

It will create a draft for you to begin to perfect.

Set the timer for 30 minutes and get to work.

  • Write down what your passion is.
  • Write down who you think the protagonist in your story will be.
  • Write down who the antagonist is.
  • Write down what the revelation is.
  • Write down the organization’s transformation.

Now you have your passion, a protagonist, an antagonist, a revelation, and a transformation…and you’re ready to get out there and tell your organization’s story.

The Scavenger Hunt

If you are participating in the Spin Sucks scavenger hunt, today you will visit Corina Manea’s blog.

The secret word is in her blog post, “How to Keep Your Best Performers Happy.”

Just write down the secret word in Corina’s box on your scavenger hunt card (if you don’t have a card, download it here).

We have nine more days—through March 3—so keep playing along.

And don’t forget…if you buy a copy of Spin Sucks between now and March 8, we’ll send you a fun package full of goodies to use in your office.

Just email the receipt to Please include your mailing address so we know where to send the package.

Now get to work! Thirty minutes. Go!

image credits: Shutterstock, DNAInfo, and Kate Nolan

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!

  • Sounds like a fun exercise. This may be just what I need to start organizing my thoughts for my upcoming Toastmasters competition! Hooray!

  • biggreenpen Hooray! Let me know how it works for you!


  • so bossy

  • Todd Lyden YAY!

  • belllindsay LOL! I don’t think anyone could possibly forget.

  • ginidietrich I thought they might get the day confused with something to do with Laura.

  • Hey, I think I’ve read this somewhere before….

    We can’t help it, insurance is just kind of sexy so it’s hard not to have it as part of our brand. The horror…..

  • Wait – someone successfully sells sex using Honey Boo Boo?

  • Oh and @adroad was my inspiration back when I was Sky Pulse Media to create my Chief Alien persona. The Chief would not exist if it wasn’t for Ms. Helen!

  • bdorman264 they use sex to sell insurance. What about Flo for Progressive huh? Or that hot chick on the ESurance commercials. Yes she is a cartoon but a hot one for sure! Your industry can go GoDaddy you just need to make it reals!

  • belllindsay ginidietrich That confusion may become more apparent tomorrow.

  •  sent you a text with an image of the word sex in it, I think that is more technically considered “sexting”  than “texting”.

  • Danny Brown Mama June’s sex life has long been the source of much speculation. Can’t say I see the appeal, but there you have it.

  • Eleanor Pierce Thankfully, here in Canada, we don’t know that of which you talk. 🙂

  • Danny Brown Someone somewhere. Probably. 😉

  • What a great exercise! Putting it in these terms will help clients understand what the heck we’re talking about when we want to get their story. And hopefully it will inspire them to offer more interesting content!

  • Danny Brown Eleanor Pierce You didn’t even hear about the sex scandal that caused the show to be canceled???

  • I’m just glad we don’t need to include the 22 common traits of the Mythic Hero archetype for our protagonist. That would have gotten really messy.

  • Beth Woolley

    Happy Birthday! It’s the least I can do by way of a thank you for a great newsletter, useful content and lots of fun. Enjoy your month!

  • Matt_Cerms

    I think the customer/client is attracted by the agency’s “why” or unique story. All agencies can strategize, design, develop, and produce. But so what? There has to be something more; something unique to it all. Love this exercise!

  • Eleanor Pierce Danny Brown And so it begins! 🙂

  • KateNolan

    Sweet, ginidietrich used my picture, I will retire on royalties! No? Darn. I guess I’ll just go work on the P-PART exercise, then. (Everything needs an acronym, right?)

  • Howie Goldfarb Loved your post Howie! Really cool!

  • JayDolan there is supposed to be just 19 were three new ones discovered recently?

  • KateNolan

    Digital_DRK I think that’s the Canadian version of sexting, hosehead.

  • KateNolan  It’s “hoser”  not “hosehead”   Yankee…..

  • Digital_DRK KateNolan LMAO

  • KateNolan You are a great fountain of information for my blogging needs.

  • Matt_Cerms You make a really good point. We went through the process of redefining our story last year and EVERYONE says they’re creative and results-driven and fun to work with. I mean, everyone. It was really hard to come up with something different.

  • JayDolan Let’s not overwhelm them just yet.

  • KateNolan

    Digital_DRK KateNolan You sir, are incorrect, it’s both:

  • Jen Novotny Exactly! You should put clients through this process and see what happens. It’s kind of fun to watch their eyes light up.

  • Danny Brown If I were speaking to you today, I would say something about this, but I’m not. So there.

  • bdorman264 Oh, it’s super sexy.

  • KateNolan [grumble]  don’t expect any more scavenger help from me.

  • KateNolan

    ginidietrich That’s it? A compliment? That’s all I get? I’m going on strike!

  • KateNolan

    Digital_DRK “Help” I do not think that means what you think it means.

  • TonyBennett

    Firstly, best anything I’ve read this year. Is this your outline or a previously established one? Secondly, happy birthday, I can’t bring myself to say it on FB. Thirdly, Kate Nolan is an enlightened being, isn’t she? Fourthly, sex sells when it sells sex should be TM’d.

  • ginidietrich KateNolan The waterfall of wonderful words, the geysir of grammar, the Atlantic of authorship, the pacific of penmanship….etc…etc….

  • TonyBennett Agree on the TM! LOL!

  • How could I forget – Happy Birthday, Gini!

  • KateNolan  I think it means what I learned on television –

  • I already left you the bomb diggity bday message and the only thing sexy hot in that was the word “coffee”. 

    I almost choked when I saw that bar sign making the rounds a couple of weeks ago. I’m no prude and I love low-brow humor, but if the best you’ve got is innuendos and making fun of a sensitive topic like abuse, I can get my ________ someplace else.

  • KateNolan Digital_DRK OMG! This entire conversation is just really special!

  • KateNolan

    TonyBennett And Tony is my new favorite! 😉 
    ginidietrich Before you TM “sex sells…” make sure Taylor Swift hasn’t nabbed that one up!

  • KateNolan

    LauraPetrolino KateNolan Digital_DRK I am pretty special!

  • ginidietrich

    cksyme Thanks! 🙂

  • KateNolan Jeez. I told you I would hand deliver your swag. What more do you want?!

  • KateNolan LauraPetrolino Digital_DRK ….oh brother…

  • Matt_Cerms

    ginidietrich Yes, it is something our agency is working on as well. I think it also has to matter to you and me. It seems to be something smaller agencies focus on so they can differentiate themselves. But it shouldn’t matter how big or small you are.

  • ginidietrich What about today?

  • KateNolan

    ginidietrich Oh, that’s true… Ok, I’ll have the union office call off the strike.

  • KateNolan ginidietrich I want to hand deliver swag to Kate Nolan!! That’s on my bucket list!

  • KateNolan

    LauraPetrolino ginidietrich Ooh, yes!

  • SpinSucks

    AirPR LOL! Best tweet ever! ^lp

  • ginidietrich

    AirPR LOL!!!! Seriously, LOL

  • AirPR

    ginidietrich sometimes you just gotta go for the easy laugh. 😉 You make it easier though w/ muy brillante content.

  • ginidietrich

    AirPR Wait til you see the comment I’m about to leave on your 8 Brand Voices You Love blog post.

  • Pingback: Introducing the Spin Sucks Workbook Spin Sucks()