Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She's also a frequent keynote speaker and the author of the popular PR and marketing blog Spin Sucks.

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I invited Gini to Marketing Smarts to talk about her new book, Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Write your brand stories like you'd write fiction (08:06): "What I meant by that was not to tell a story from a fictional standpoint—not to make it up, but to use the same architecture. So, you have a protagonist, you have an antagonist. You think about things like who is your 'enemy' in the industry. And you look at that and say 'OK, is it a major competitor, or is it where people are spending their money' (maybe they can spend their money on us or in three other places, but they can't do all four). So, figure out who your enemy is, and then figure out who your hero is. And the hero could be somebody inside your organization. It could very well be the CEO, or it could be the janitor, it could be the receptionist. Figure out who your hero is and tell the story from that perspective. So, you're telling it as a story, not as a 'hey, we're company XYX and we sell software and we're great."

Honesty is the best policy in the PR business (12:58): "When you're ethical and you're not spinning the truth or creating messaging that people [inside the organization] have to remember, you don't have to remember the lies or the things that are half-truths. You don't have to remember those things, because we're always eventually caught up in the truth.... So, when you're ethical and when you tell the truth and when you're not spinning the facts, you don't have anything extra to you're never caught in a lie. I think that's the biggest thing. We talk about transparency, and we talk about engagement, we talk about being human—and, as marketers, we're all sick of those buzzwords and those buzzphrases—but it's true: If we approach things that way [that is,] 'People make mistakes''s amazing what happens because of the approach that we take—how people come to your defense and say 'mistakes happen; we're human.'"

Sex might sell, but not for every brand (17:10): "I think it's great if you can spice it up and use sexual innuendos, if you will, to help you sell or market your product. But, when you're not selling sex, it doesn't work... Burger King had a seven-inch super burger...that came out, and their ad was [of] a girl with her mouth open and the sub sandwich coming right at her...and it says something about 'we'll blow your mind.' They're not selling sex, and so it completely bombed for them. They're selling food. It's a funny ad to show in a presentation, but it's completely inappropriate, and it doesn't work for them. So, if you are selling sex, then it works. But if you're not, then you should not try it, because it's going to bomb for you."

For more information, visit Or follow Gini on Twitter: @GiniDietrich.

Gini and I covered a lot more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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