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Pretty Stinking Cool

little voiceSome of you may recommend the therapist’s couch after I share this, but sometimes I hear a little voice. Let me start by saying I believe that life – daily life – should be driven by faith, effort, and optimism. I also WANT to believe that people are fundamentally good and that they are worthy of trust. But if you lie to me? You’re done. I’m working on forgiveness, I really am. But in the meantime, the BS meter is active. And when the BS meter goes off, the little voice can be heard.

I’ve learned that if you’re a natural cynic, the internet is a frightening place.  I know people who have posted twenty-year old photographs as their profile picture on Facebook. Personal profiles are full of hyperbole, and resume-padding is rampant. Among authors, there are a million people claiming to have written “bestsellers.” Is that according to the New York Times, or a vote of your household members – at gunpoint? I’ve seen ads where you can buy one thousand Twitter followers for $14. So the next time you’re impressed with someone’s ten thousand Twitter followers? They may have swapped a dinner for two at Ruth’s Chris for a phony flock of followers. Yikes.

The other challenge is imagining someone’s personality based on their blog posts, tweets and Instagram pictures. Some people try so hard to be sarcastic and surly, that if they’re really that curmudgeonly in real life, I hope there’s a line of people at their door waiting to slap them silly. And then there are the opposites, the ones that you really want to like.  They can’t really be that nice, funny, clever, or cool in real life, can they? Invariably, just as I start laughing, retweeting, and enjoying the banter back and forth, I’ll look at their icon and the little voice says, “You better not be lying to me.”

Gini DietrichI had a great opportunity to validate a fave or uncover a fraud when Twitter kindred spirit and Facebook friend Gini Dietrich came to town. I wrote a blog post earlier in the year entitled “My New Best Friends,” where I wrote about Gini, Dan Blank, and Marcus Sheridan (if you write or have any interest whatsoever in marketing and / or social media – find them and follow them!).

When I discovered Gini, I learned she was a PR professional (President of Arment Dietrich) and a social media maven. I liked her. She was funny. Interesting. She had a dog named Jack Bauer (who wanders into videos, writes an occasional blog, and has his own Facebook page). Her business blog, SpinSucks, became a must read for social media insights, and its quirky, but lovable, perspective on business and life.

And now she was coming to South Florida for two days. I had arranged for her to speak to two of my Vistage groups, on consecutive days, with a dinner sandwiched in between (no pun intended).  I’m normally cautiously optimistic when a speaker steps in front of my Vistage CEOs. A bad speaker can make for a miserable morning. But the stakes were different this time: I was emotionally invested. I wanted to like her. I wanted her to be good. But the little voice was saying, “Just don’t be a fraud.” As she began speaking, I held my breath.

Gini’s presentation was entitled “Social Media Boot Camp: Making Sense of it All.”  She covered the basics of Social Media and described the uses of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, corporate blogs, and introduced a variety of useful tools and apps. She challenged everyone to take some first steps, or “next steps”, and told them not listen to marketers who say you can’t measure ROI in social media. The audience of CEOs ranged from those who eagerly embraced social media to those who were openly hostile to its very existence – and everything in between.  She was engaging. Insightful. She challenged their way of thinking. At the same time, she shared her mistakes. She admitted she’s learning every day – just like the rest of us. She was great.

As she left, the little voice was more remote, but I heard it nonetheless. It said, “She’s given that presentation a million times.  She probably gave the same presentation to a Boy Scout Troop in Dubuque yesterday. I bet she mailed it in.”  If I could have punched that little voice, or drowned it out, I would have.  No such luck.

The voice got louder later that day. Gini was meeting me for dinner, and I asked my daughter, Carla, to join us.  Carla is the SEO Manager and former Social Media Coordinator at Blue Interactive Agency.  I hoped that the dinner wouldn’t degenerate into socialmediaspeak, because I knew I’d be lost. But I also knew that Gini was one of Carla’s professional heroes. Suddenly the paternal gene kicked in and the voice was growling, “You better not disillusion my daughter.” Oh, that would be so much worse than lying to me.

The dinner covered a variety of topics related to business and family, and then we moved on to disappointments, do-overs, and dreams.  The filters were turned off. Midway through the meal I realized that we were having the kind of conversation you’d have with a good friend. And as Gini asked my daughter questions, with the hopes of learning something new from a twenty-two year old business neophyte, I finally leaned back and relaxed. This was the person I met on Twitter. The one who makes me laugh on Facebook. The one who makes me look at the world just a little differently when I read her blog. The one who can be Carla’s hero. And mine.

The next day Gini started her presentation in the same manner, but as questions surfaced, her talk went in a different direction than the day before. New sites were discussed and new anecdotes shared. She didn’t have it on auto pilot. She was bobbing and weaving – and enjoying every minute of it. I was also conscious of something that she does that won people over: she was informative, without talking over our heads, and was passionate, without being pushy. Her talk was laced with comments like “this is so stinking cool” and “this is going to either really amaze you or really freak you out.” In any case, she made people smile. And she invited them to learn.

At the end of the first day’s presentation, I made a public comment to the Vistage group about Gini. I said that if I were headed into a fight, I’d want her with me. I don’t know where that came from and it probably left my Vistage members scratching their heads. It wasn’t until several days later that I understood why that comment was so appropriate.  If you’re headed into a fight (or headed into the arena for you Hunger Games fans), you want a partner:

Who is tough. Gini left a lucrative, successful career with a national company, to start her own PR firm. She then had a corporate near-death experience in the throes of the recession, only to emerge stronger and more focused. In her presentations, she’ll handle any question the audience can throw at her, but also is not afraid to admit when she’s giving her opinion, or merely throwing darts.

 

Who is resourceful. Gini has changed her business structure when it was already successful, and changed her blog format after it had won industry accolades. She listened to peers in the industry, CEOS in unrelated industries (she belongs to Vistage), and a graduate student / part-time employee. She even sat at dinner and asked advice from a 22 year old with one year of experience in interactive marketing. In the brave new world of social media, watching Gini learn and apply tools on the fly to benefit her clients is like watching MacGyver build a bomb with paper clips and a ball of twine.

 

You can trust. Through nine hours of meetings and dinner, after dozens of questions, on and off the record, I think I saw the real Gini Dietrich. She is remarkably similar to the one I met online a year ago. I’m guessing that there are at least twenty people I now follow on Twitter because Gini recommended them, said they were cool, or laughed with them – sometimes at her own expense. I know I’m not alone – she’s building an army of loyal followers.

As I watched Gini in action in her second day of presentations, the voice returned. It whispered, “Pretty stinking cool.”

 

Marketing in the RoundGini recently published a book with co-author Geoff Livingston, entitled Marketing in the Round. The book takes a holistic approach to successful marketing in the digital age.  The premise is that corporate strategies and communication (both externally and internally) need to be synced, and can no longer afford to be developed -and executed – in silos.

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yup. She is pretty stinking cool. Worthy of our adoration, that’s for sure. Thanks for taking the time to tell her.

    August 29, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Heidi, she’s so deserving. Beyond the professional expertise, she brings life, energy – and humor – to others. The more people who can come in contact with the Ginis of the world, the better.

      August 29, 2012
    • Love you, Heidi!

      August 30, 2012
  2. I was thinking yesterday that I hadn’t seen a new post pop up for you, Karl, and here it is!

    Yeah, it’s hard sometimes to reconcile meeting a social media contact in person for the first time. It’s a little like a blind date: you may know something about them, and even seen a picture of them, but until you’re face to face, it’s meaningless.

    So far I’ve only been ‘disappointed’ once when I met someone after ‘knowing’ them online for over a year. I expected them to be as dynamic as their online presence and they weren’t. I do, however, think perhaps my expectations were a little too high.

    As always, Karl, you paint a picture of someone that we now want to know better. And as always, well done!

    Now, about that dig about old Facebook profile pictures…were you talking about me? ;)

    Viki

    August 29, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Thanks, Viki. The blind date analogy is perfect. Sorry about your one social media disappointment. Please don’t worry, the Facebook reference was not you. It’s a story we’ll save for Stecchino’s…

      August 29, 2012
    • I have to say, there is almost nothing worse than meeting someone in person (who you already know online) and having them not match. I’ve had that happen a couple of times and it’s a bit disheartening.

      August 30, 2012
  3. I told you this in email yesterday morning, but I’ll say it here again for prosperity. You made me cry with this. You are one of a kind, Karl Sprague, and I’m proud to not only know you, but count you as a friend. Thank you.

    August 30, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Gini, the feeling is mutual. I am thrilled to have you as a friend. In addition to your professional insights and expertise, you just make life more fun and more interesting – for a whole bunch of us. I can’t thank you enough.

      September 1, 2012
  4. Ifdy #

    That’s Gini! My hero too! :))

    August 30, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Ifdy, there are a bunch of us Gini fans out there. Btw, is this the Ifdy, of care-taking Hannukah bush fame? If so, keep up the good work that you do (and I love the sense of humor). In any case, thanks for stopping by!

      September 1, 2012
  5. Anneliz Hannan (@annelizhannan) #

    Karl:

    This is such a wonderful tribute. I only know Gini through her writings and witty posts but she is tops on my list of not only social media musts but a remarkable woman to hopefully one day meet, along with JB.

    August 30, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Anneliz, you’re right, she is remarkable. And you know the energy, humor, and amazing vibe that come across in videos, tweets and blog posts? It’s for real. I hope you get to meet her. Soon. But now I have to ask: Who’s JB? :)

      September 1, 2012
  6. Hi Karl,

    I’ve been waiting for a new post from you and you delivered, again in style! So nice to meet the “real ” Gini. As always, through your descriptions and all too human reflections, I feel like I’ve met Gini in person. Thanks for the introduction!

    You’ve brought up such a valid point about meeting online friends in person. So far, it’s been a positive experience for me and for the most part, I have felt from the meetings (think Stecchino’s!) that my expectations have been met and even exceeded. I think it helps to be discerning about who you follow online but it is refreshing to know that there are real and wonderful people behind all the tweets , facebook messages and blog posts.

    I can vouch for it, Karl- you are real and you never disappoint. Thanks for another entertaining and enlightening post!

    Kathy

    August 30, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Thanks, Kathy, and the feeling is mutual. You, Gini, Dan and others reinforce that social media can help you create real connection with amazing people. When you meet them, and they prove to be all that – and more – it is icing on the cake. It has been an unexpected way to create lifelong friendships, but one that got revealed to me as you and I slogged through the slush on our way to Stecchino’s!

      September 1, 2012
  7. Pretty stinking cool. BOTH of you! :-)

    August 31, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      George, that is some praise coming from you – the man who introduced me to Twitter, and who’s a cross between James Bond and Garrison Keillor (and there’s probably a bit of Orson Welles or Walt Disney thrown in there somewhere). I appreciate it.

      September 1, 2012
  8. There are two things I really love– a great story and a great person.

    This was both.

    Karl, incredibly well done.

    As for Gini, she’s one of the best of the best. Seriously. Amazing lady. Good person. Massive heart.

    This is why I love the blogosphere.

    Marcus

    August 31, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Thanks, Marcus. You’re one of the people that Gini introduced me to on SpinSucks, and you’ve provided not only rich insights into content marketing, but you’ve introduced me to special people like Ted Lyon and cool kids like Pink. You can apparently write very well, since you were able to distill the message of my blog about Gini into six words: “Amazing lady. Good person. Massive heart.” You nailed it.

      September 1, 2012
  9. Karl, your subject is relevant to each one of the millions of online users . As always, it’s superbly written, with a strong central thread anchoring your personal sidebars. And, not only is it a wonderful introduction to Gini—hello, Gini! —but an insight into your own personality. By the way, I trust Kathy Pooler (@KathyPooler ) implicitly :-)

    September 15, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Terre, thanks for the kind words. Your support at Sirius Press is meaningful – and much appreciated – by a legion of writers. Put me at the top of that list. You’re right about Kathy Pooler: she engenders trust like few others (in addition to having a heart the size of Montana and an ability to make observations that pierce you to your core). And you would like Gini. A lot.

      September 17, 2012

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