BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

The evolution of MarComm ...

This was another book that I made a special request to the publisher for a copy, and was kindly sent one from the good folks over at QUE. As regular readers of this space (who'd read my earlier review of her Marketing in the Round) may recall, I know Gini Dietrich (who's the CEO of the Arment Dietrich “integrated marketing communications” firm) from the local Social Media scene … as well as from a particular corner of Facebook occupied by notable marketing maniacs. So, of course, I needed to get her new book, Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age, in for review!

Now, if “Spin Sucks” sounds familiar, it's also the name of her site offering “Professional Development for PR and Marketing Pros”, which is the home of her noted “Gin and Topics” blog. This book shares something with the aim of her site, as it reads to me as primarily targeted at established PR/Marketing types (like myself, who grew up in a PR family back in the “Mad Men” days, and has been kicking around MarCom ever since I could shave), rather than being a manifesto of “something new” (like her previous book was), presenting an overview of the PR discipline over time, and showing how it's evolving.

In fact, in the Introduction, after tracing the predecessors of PR to the Babylonians, the Counter-Reformation (when the term “propaganda” was coined by the Vatican), and through Freud to his cigarette-marketing nephew, she notes:
If you run an organization, are on an executive team, or have (or need to have) communications professionals or a firm reporting to you,this book will show you how to prepare your business for a marathon instead of a sprint, how to build a communications program that … will deliver more valuable long-lasting results, as well as a spotless reputation. You'll also learn how the lines between marketing, advertising, digital, and PR are blurring ...
The book (which is rather concise at under 150 pages) is broken into four thematic sections: “Tell Your Story Without Sex or Extortion”, “Scammers, Liars, and Beggars”, “Your Brand; Your Customers”, and the titular “Spin Sucks”. One of the most appealing aspects of Gini's books is that she's writing “from the trenches”, and her advice typically comes with concrete examples of when things were done right and done wrong. The start of the “story telling” part features the words of Larry Brooks: “An 'idea' is not inherently a concept.” which then unfolds into the idea of dramatic presentation, with five essential parts: passion, a protagonist, an antagonist, a revelation, and a transformation (which, admittedly, does sound like a fairly big reach for presenting “your organization's story”, but that's what you're going to want to end up telling).

The next section deals with things you do not want to do … especially in relation to your content's interaction with Google. She walks the reader though many iterations of the Google algorithm, what folks did to “game” the system, and of how even major corporations got on the wrong side of Google bans. Obviously, this is a “moving target”, but she presents a list of 15 questions to ask yourself that should end up getting you on the right side of the algorithms, which she notes pretty much boils down to: “If you don't want to bookmark it and share it, no one else will, either.”

Dietrich moves into defining what is currently “shareable and valuable” content, setting up a framework of four types of media: Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned … with a somewhat confusing Venn diagram (some intersections have no tags, some have multiple), with 8 categories and a few dozen items, and “Authority” being at the center of the four circles. To give a sense of how the different types of media inter-relate, she discusses a DirectTV promotion, which involved a music video-like production featuring the NFL's Manning family, that never aired, but went to YouTube and their own site. She notes: “They used paid (because it cost them money to produce it), owned media (it is embedded both on their website and their YouTube channel), and shared media for this campaign, and earned media is the result.” … with there being a half a million news results in Google for the spot – meaning that nearly that number of media outlets picked up the spot and included in their content. That's some serious “earnings”.

She then works to define each of these four categories, and talks of things to do and to avoid in each, and moves into examples of building community, generating leads, and driving sales. One thing she goes into depth on is using a webinar to generate leads, with a 14-point action plan on how to set that up … with the suggestion to “not wait until you can afford enterprise-level software, but use what is available to you now in an effective way.” Dietrich then comes up with 25 resources and methods to help come up with good content … some of these are amazing, and some of these are simply thinking about other things (you're probably already doing) in a new way … and then closes out the first section with a review of the hoary news release, and “best practices” for doing on-line versions of this.

The numbered “action lists” that Gini has throughout the book are very useful, and are certainly one of the highlights here. Again, you can tell that these are coming from hard-fought experience and not some off-the-top-of-the-head “ivory tower” pontificating. The second section is full of good advice on how to deal with hostile reactions to your sites and other materials, how the unscrupulous attempt to control the media, and what happens with all those “black hat” practitioners out there. There are many fascinating stories of companies who ran afoul of these hazards, and how they fought back, plus a great deal of good step-by-step advice for handling different situations along these lines.

The third section has just one chapter: Your Customers Control the Brand … which is probably one of the hardest lessons to get through to the traditional MBA marketer. One sub-heading here says “Your Brand Is How Customers Feel About You”, which puts control out of the hands of the ad guys, and into the end user – and their Social network:
In today's 24/7/365 digital world, brand development happens constantly. It's an ongoing two-way conversation between an organization and its customers. You introduce new products or services and begin the conversation. Your customers respond and react – sometimes very vocally and sometimes more quietly. You respond and refine based on what they're saying.
Of course, this brings in the question of how to listen to and involve your customers, and various approaches are dissected to come up with the best approaches for one's specific business.

Finally, there's the Spin Sucks section, where more history is detailed, and a few things (such as on-page SEO) are specifically looked at. There's a chapter on crisis communications, and the steps necessary to ride out the rough spots … along with examples of when things went very wrong for various companies, and how they dealt with that. The book closes with a look ahead, touching on everything from self-driving cars to predictions that: “The lines between communications, marketing, advertising, sales, customer experience, product development, and human resources will become so blurred it will be hard to decipher where each belongs.”

I really enjoyed Spin Sucks, and got quite a lot out of it (I found, while writing this, that most of my little bookmarks were on things for my own “future reference” rather than stuff for the review!). As it just came out in March, it will no doubt be available in the brick-and-mortar places with good business sections, but the on-line Big Boys are offering it in both paperback and e-book formats at a discount. Obviously, this isn't something for everybody, but if you have an interest in marketing, PR, and how business in general is having to adapt to the tech realities of today and tomorrow, this will likely be something you'll find of value.

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Tags: book review
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