Authentic PR Message Surprise

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I’ve learned a lot about public relations from reading Spin Sucks, both the blog and the book. One of the lessons that has come through loud and clear is how important it is to deliver an authentic PR message. Which is why a recent phone call from Gini Dietrich was so surprising.

First thing’s first. I don’t work for a PR agency. I’m not even in PR, although in a way I am. I’m a video producer. I get called when PR agents need video storytelling for their clients. Gini is the CEO of Arment Dietrich and the founder of Spin Sucks. I met her about 4-years ago and T60 has been doing work for her, her company, and its clients for the last two years.

Gini and I have talked over coffee, we’ve gotten lunch together, but Gini makes her living in a digital world. She’s an expert in all things digital PR and marketing. She converted her whole business model into one with employees working through cyber space in cities all over North America and most of our communication is via email and tweets.

My Big Surprise

So… you can imagine my surprise when my phone rang and the name “Gini Dietrich” popped-up. I knew something important must be going on.

“Hey, are you free late this afternoon?” asked Gini.

“Actually, yeah. You caught me on a light day, what’s up?” I replied.

“Would you be able to bring your video gear and meet me someplace. I have a big event going on and I need bodies. I don’t have time to explain, but I think you’ll enjoy it.”

Intrigued… I agreed and she gave me a time and an address.

I arrived later that day at the address specified, a high-rise office building on North Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. I took the elevator up and when the doors opened, I was blown away.

I was in a luxurious reception area with the name “Arment Dietrich” adoring the wall. I checked-in with the receptionist. The place was buzzing. Tons of people walking around the huge space, in and out of offices, cubicles, and conference rooms. Awesome video displays were everywhere displaying what looked like analytics.

After a few minutes, I was shown back to Gini’s corner office with a view overlooking the Chicago river and the historic Wrigley Building. Amazing. Gini greeted me and asked me to sit down… and I needed to.

“So… what do you think!?” she asked.

“Umm, where am I? Who are you and what have you done with Gini Dietrich?”

“I know… crazy, right!? You want to know the most amazing part? It isn’t real.”

Gini went on to tell me about a huge client she was trying to land. The only problem is that they tend to work with equally large PR agencies. She was worried they’d be freaked-out about potentially working with a completely digital agency with no corporate headquarters or central meeting space where busy team members go to work everyday.

Enter the fictional Arment Dietrich office. She was going to host a meeting in this place with the clients to give them a sense of comfort that her agency was big enough for them. She wanted me to play the roll of the head of Arment Dietrich’s video team.

It seemed so out of character for her, but whether it was the dizzying motion of the busy “employees” or the aroma of fresh coffee being made by the barista at the coffee station… I agreed.

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The Clients Arrive

When it came time for the meeting, I really didn’t have much to do. Gini introduced me to the clients and I simply said hello and welcomed them to Chicago. That was it.

I watched the meeting as it took place in the glassed-in conference room and it seemed to go well. As it was going-on, I noticed all of the fake team members started filing out. By the time the meeting ended and Gini exited with the clients, I was the only one in massive office space.

The client was saying, “Gini, you have an amazing operation. Everything you shared about what you’re doing for your clients, all the data to back it up, it’s just what we need.”

“So you’re confident we can do the job?” said Gini.

“Yes. Your team is amazing,” said the client.

“And no more spinning? I know it’s been a big part of how you’ve done things in the past,” said Gini.

“Well, we might need some more convincing on that front, but we’re willing to listen.”

“Okay then… here’s your first lesson,” said Gini.

She went on to tell them about the whole ruse. The clients were furious.

“Good,” said Gini. “I’m glad you’re upset. You should be and you know why? Because spin sucks.

She went on to tell them that spinning might work in the short term, but eventually they’ll be exposed. And the feeling they were having right then about what just happened is the feeling their clients and prospects will feel about them when that day comes.

And that’s when I woke-up. I looked at the clock. It was 5:30 a.m.

Authentic PR Takeaway

What does this have to do with video production? Everything. A unauthentic PR or marketing video isn’t any better than the whole scenario I dreamed about. It’s fake. It’s phony. It’s spin.

Be authentic. Be truthful. Show your customers and prospects behind the curtain. Audiences respond to honesty. It helps build a connection between them and your company.

Your videos don’t need to highlight a perfect company… just a real one with real people behind it.

–Tony Gnau

Tony Gnau - T60 ProductionsTony Gnau is the Founder and Chief Storytelling Officer at T60 Productions. He’s a three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist, has led T60 Productions to winning 18 Telly Awards for its corporate videos, and is the author of the Amazon #1 Bestseller “Lights, Camera, Impact: storytelling, branding, and production tips for engaging corporate videos.”