Talking PR, Franchising & Social Media with Arment Dietrich CEO, Gini Dietrich

PR Adapt or DieAs we do quite often, Gini Dietrich, CEO at Arment Dietrich PR, and I, communicate on Twitter, on Facebook, by email and by phone, about a multitude of things, both business and personal. Sure, we banter and kid a great deal along the way. But when the discussion turns to franchising, communications and social media, the kidding quickly subsides, and the conversation turns serious. Okay, not completely serious, because we’re both smart-asses. But serious to the point that we’re anxious to share our ideas with each other, and determine ways to share them with our franchise clients and the franchise community.

Recently, I turned one of our discussions into an informal interview, and asked Gini to share some of her thoughts, so I could share the same with the franchisEssentials readers. Always being shy and not wanting to be in the limelight (yeah, right!), Gini fired off her responses without hesitation, further demonstrating her passion, and conviction in her thoughts. I just loved her response when asked about the future of public relations, as we know it today. Well, decide for yourself as you read some of the Q & A below.

Paul: “How important is a communications strategy to franchise organizations today?”

Gini: “It’s not at all important. Ha! Just kidding. To use one of my favorite quotes by NPS senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, “If you don’t exist in the media, for all practical purposes, you don’t exist.” But in today’s age of digital technology, it’s not just the traditional media strategy that a franchise needs to have. I love the case study of the companies that made it through the Great Depression. Know what they all had in common? They didn’t cut their communication. In fact, they increased it. And the companies that did that then are still around today while their competitors, who cut their communication budgets, went out of business. Like Daniel Schorr says, if you’re not communicating, how will your customers know you exist now and into the future?”

Paul: “Is it important for local franchisees to have a communications strategy in place or is it sufficient to only have it at the franchisor level?”

Gini: “I’m a HUGE proponent of local franchisees having a strategy in place that is complementary to what the franchisor is doing. Consider most reporters won’t cover your business unless there is a local angle. Most local baseball teams are sponsored by local businesses. The Mayor won’t show up to your ribbon cutting if you’re not giving back to the community. Add into the mix social media and you know that people buy from people and want to have a relationship with the people they do business with…not the company or the brand. The person who buys your product or service in his/her community, wants to have a relationship with the person running that entity, not the corporate monster.”

Paul: “Is public relations, as we have known it over the years, changing to adapt to a more “connected” society?”

Gini: “There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not public relations, as an industry, is dying. Most PR people (as evidenced by a recent IABC poll) deny it’s happening and are content with doing their jobs as they’ve always known them. I contend social media is changing the way we communicate and PR, as we know it, is dying. Regardless of PR professionals thinking social media affects the way they do their jobs, someone has to own it – be it marketing, PR, or advertising. I’d rather jump on it now and own it. After all, social media is about developing and fostering relationships with customers, stakeholders, employees, influencers, and individuals. Traditional PR is about developing and fostering relationships with media and influencers. Makes sense to me that it fit in with PR.”

Paul: “What role do you see social media playing within the franchise community?”

Gini: “I love, love, love what Tasti D-Lite is doing with social media. I use this example all the time. They have a store in the Empire State Building. Whenever someone tweets that they are in or near the Empire State Building, @tastidlite sends them an offer to come into the store. In some cases, they offer a free frozen dessert. In others, a discount. This has helped them build in-store profitability, loyal customers, and their intensely passionate following. This is SO EASY to do at the franchisee level. This is just one example of how social media helps build a franchisee following. Get out there and try it. It works!”

Media Can Make or Break a Franchise

The following is an informative article submitted by Guest Author, Gini Dietrich, Chief Executive Officer at Arment Dietrich PR. The article focuses on building relationships with the media and provides tips for communicating and interviewing with reporters. Gini fully understands franchisors’ public relations and communications needs and will be speaking at the upcoming Franchise Finance and Development Conference in Las Vegas. Recently, while participating in the International Franchise Association Convention in San Diego, Gini was interviewed on The Franchise Show, where she discussed communication tactics using social media to develop new business and networks for company growth. Arment Dietrich PR is among the country’s fastest growing boutique public relations agencies. Their motivation is a relentless drive to find new and better ways to help clients boost their businesses and bottom-line results.

Media Can Make or Break a Franchise

I have people say to me all the time, “any ink is good ink, right?”

Wrong! Please see AIG, Merrill Lynch, any of the automakers…pretty much any Wall Street company in the past year. Any ink is NOT good ink. You must think strategically through which media outlets make most sense for your franchise, build relationships with those reporters, and provide them with content, interviews, and access to executives they couldn’t otherwise get on their own.

media-interview21Media can make or break your franchise and it’s VERY important you treat every reporter you come in contact with as if they are your most important VIP, regardless of how you feel about their past or current reporting.

Paul asked me to think about some tips for helping you with your communication needs. These are some of the tips we give to our clients when we train them on how to work with, talk to, and respond to reporters.

• If a reporter calls, wanting to interview you for a story, ask them what they’d like to discuss and what their deadline is; then promise to get back to them in less than 24 hours or in enough time to meet their deadline.
• Call your PR firm for a quick key message refresher. If you don’t have a PR firm, think about what you want the story to say about your franchise after it’s told and write down two or three things you don’t want to forget to tell the reporter.
• If the reporter submitted questions (we always ask for questions in advance), write down your answers. I do this and I have years and years of experience, working with reporters every day. Don’t ever go into an interview blind.

A few interview tips that can help in any situation:

• Be honest—A lie to the media can be very damaging. If you don’t know, say so.
• Be believable—Credibility is vital to getting your message across.
• Be personal. Use the interviewer’s name once or twice in the course of the interview and look at him/her.
• Anecdotes play well, but only if you have a story that makes a good point for your side.
• Be concise—Remember that a 10-minute interview may wind up being 20 seconds on the air or three lines in a newspaper. It is essential to crystallize your thoughts in a few hard-hitting sentences.
• Eliminate extraneous words and phrases. Do not be verbose. If a reporter is silent, do not keep talking. They likely are trying to write down what you just said. Let them do that before they ask the next question.
• Do not answer hypothetical questions.

And, above all, NEVER, EVER SAY NO COMMENT! If I hear from Paul that you were quoted as saying “no comment” or that you were “unavailable to comment,” I will come to your office and yell at you myself.

What media interview tips do you have that can help readers here?