Colleagues often say that I have a calm demeanor in stressful client situations. I appreciate those words a great deal. There’s no doubt that public relations work can be demanding, and sometimes we need a little reminder to take care of ourselves. By focusing on our own health and well being we will not only bring more opportunities to our lives but also to our clients’ continued success. I hope you find the following blog post from my meditation teacher, Jona Genova, helpful in discovering that balance—in life and in work.
We at Finn Partners are Inspired by many things: A photo, a song, a news story, our clients - and each other. This blog is an opportunity to tell our story and to share our challenges, successes and motivations with you.
We all know that the influx of new patients is likely to put a strain on provider resources especially in the early years of the ACA enactment. We also know that many major pharmacy chains hope to help bridge that gap by expanding their on-site minute clinic operations.
The idea is great – sick people already go to the pharmacy to pick up medicine after they go to the doctor – why not offer an on-site provider who can eliminate the need for the doctor’s office. I think it makes a lot of sense, and even though we have doctors for ourselves and our kids, expanded minute clinic hours has meant that both my husband and myself (and our children) have seen the inside of a minute clinic cubicle more than once.
So last week when my daughter got a rash under her arm – her second health issue of the week – and our pediatrician was not available, I decided to run her over to the clinic to have it looked at. When we got to the clinic there was no one waiting in line and we were welcomed by a very nice nurse practitioner. She charmed my daughter with questions about the gaps in her mouth and compliments about her pierced ears. This effort paid off, and my daughter quickly overcame feelings of shyness about taking off her shirt so the rash could be examined.
I was startled when I saw it because in the hour it took to make the decision and get to the clinic it had spread from under her arm all the way down her side. The very nice practitioner touched the offending rash, shined a light on it, and looked at it under a magnifying glass. She touched it again, picked up the light, shined it. Turned it off.
Then she looked at me and pronounced “it is some sort of allergic reaction. Have you changed your laundry soap recently?” “Well, no….”
Prescription-strength prednisone cream in hand, I took my daughter home. By the next morning the rash had spread again so we decided to take her to see our pediatrician, who had early office hours that morning. My husband texts me 15 minutes after they arrive at the office. “Maggie has poison ivy,” the text reads.
Poison Ivy? Really? That is good news as it is no big deal. It might be itchy and uncomfortable for a couple of days but it is easily treated and certainly not dangerous. I mentally kick myself, wondering why we didn’t recognize it ourselves, and at least drop her in a corn starch bath to relieve the symptoms.
Then it hits me – why didn’t the nurse practitioner recognize it? I wonder loudly in my head how a general medical services provider was unable to recognize a poison ivy rash. This is a little scary.
It makes me wonder about our level of preparedness to offer quality care for the millions who will officially enter the marketplace come January 1, 2014. It makes me wonder about quality of care for us all. Many are willing. The system is trying to innovate. The nurse was kind, patient and had a great bedside manner, but poison ivy?
Remember when there was a five-seven year wait to buy a car in the Soviet Union (don’t ask me what the Soviet Union is.)? Then they went through a period where the wait list shrunk to two-three years, and this was touted as a good thing. But the doors kept falling off those “increased production” cars and people were disappointed. Still, nobody was “allowed” to speak out about the fact that the average person spent more than a year’s wages and several years on a waiting list for a car, only to have the doors fall off. Turns out that hammers are not the best tool for installing screws.
Maybe my nesting instinct has kicked in, or I’m awed by of the number of boxes I’ve seen stacked in colleagues’ offices (you will remain anonymous), but I’ve seen my mobile shopping patterns reflect the downfall of local deal sites we’ve read so much about.
The local deal sites have lost their way at the executive level, and I can feel their struggle through my phone. I used to check sites like Groupon and LivingSocial every day, as they were a great lead on new restaurants, or deals on local mani-pedis or yoga classes, but now their offers are more random than SkyMall. $99 for IT Network Cisco Training Package, anyone? It’s a steal at 97 percent off its $3,295 list price.
The Verge wrote a fascinating overview of Groupon’s rocket ship rise and mid-air failure in March – “Greed is Groupon: can anyone save the company from itself?” The story outlines in cringe-worthy detail how seemingly every element of the company’s architecture is flawed, from its hyper-aggressive international growth fueled by the sweat of overworked employees, to its buy-versus-build attempt to keep up with this growth on the backend. Not to mention their issues with sandbagging the very companies they proposed to help. (See the “Infamous Chicago Cupcake Incident” of Nov. 2011 for a refresher.)
Nonetheless, we’re a shopping-focused culture, and there’s still significant opportunity in the business of mobile bargain. The downfall of the local-focused deal sites is making way for more interest-specific opportunities. Friends have turned me onto a few, including HauteLook (backed by Nordstrom), curated sample sales on RueLala and Gilt, One Kings Lane for the home, and daily deals for moms and kids at Zulily. By taking a more exclusive approach – primarily via an easy-to-crack members-only log in – they deliver limited deals without the grimy, guilty feeling that you might be taking advantage of a naive local business.
While my feet and I miss the mani-pedis, it’s nice to browse and daydream via the new generation of mobile deal sites. Off company time of course.
If you haven’t discovered Jason Silva yet, immediately look him up. I’m serious. Go to Google and watch one of his videos. A great starting point is his video on Radical Openness which was presented at last years’ TEDGlobal event. The concept of the free flow of information, its importance and by extension its problems, is one of the major conundrums of our time. The idea of intellectual piracy and its effects inundates us in almost every part of our lives. Music, movies, and e-books are all obvious examples of pirate-able material but, as legal acts like SOPA, PIPA and CISPA show, this can extend to our emails, our Facebook profiles and even our own images. How do we as a society define what is, in fact, intellectual property? Can a person or corporation own an idea? Or only a series of ideas in a specific order (all that a book or movie really is)? And at what point does defending one’s ideas actually hinder the flow of creativity?
History has shown time and again that the best ideas and discoveries come through collaboration. Silva states that this ability of ideas to combine and mesh in cyberspace is actually the next step in human evolution. Can we, as corporations and as a culture, find the line that protects our financial interests while still fostering the kind of creativity that made these technological discoveries possible in the first place?
I do not envy our government officials in their journey to pass viable piracy and protection laws. But I do think that the uproar over CISPA and the popularity of videos like Silva’s underline a pivotal, actionable point: the free flowing generation of ideas can exponentially improve the creative work of any company.
In public relations we have brainstorms to bring together people and build ideas, but this is very often only done for specific client needs. How often are we meeting simply to mesh ideas on interesting things we know and combine them into groundbreaking new angles to approach the media and consumers? Jason Silva’s idea landed him a National Geographic gig making a series of short videos called “Brain Games.” I’d wager he didn’t come up and implement that idea all on his own.
I am an Associate Partner at Finn Partners and focus on consumer lifestyle clients, in addition to being the newly minted “Brand Leader” — which means I’m responsible for our agency marketing. I am also a new mom of two daughters — 15 months apart – and an avid mommy blogger on the side. And now I’m going to write a post about how you shouldn’t multi-task.
She references a piece in the Harvard Business Review called “How and (Why) to Stop Multi-Tasking” where the author lists the downside to multi-tasking. She goes on to say that some of the findings listed include such things as: drops in IQ percentage points when distracted and productivity decreasing up to 40%. In response to these findings, the author did an experiment where he only focused on one thing at a time and found he was happier, less stressed and more productive.
So, I wondered, could I do this? Could I stop multi-tasking and start uni-tasking? Even for just one day? Forget about at home, how about just at work?
Well that would mean I couldn’t write an email, on a conference call, while instant messaging someone, as I check my social media feeds and Google something else.
Truly, I don’t know if I could do it.
This means I have to do it.
So today, I’m taking the “The Uni-Tasking Challenge,” and I’m going to vow to do only one thing at a time, for one day only.
I’m OFFICIALLY inviting you, my fellow communications professionals, to do it with me! (And if you can’t do it all day, pick an hour … baby steps, right?).
Perhaps we will get more items checked off our never-ending “To Do” lists, contribute enthusiastically in meetings and produce the most creative ideas we’ve ever had!
If not, well then we’ll have only lost one day of our over-communicated lives. And we can resume living life like an RSS feed – skimming only the most important stuff – tomorrow.
I am supposed to be writing this blog post on a technology related subject. But in the spirit of candor, I am drawing a complete blank. It would probably be more appropriate for me to write on this subject in a few weeks, after Apple’s annual WWDC conference.
So I am going to call an audible, and write on a completely unrelated subject, but one which has really grabbed my attention these past few days on a number of different levels: Angelina Jolie’s recent revelation that she had a proactive double mastectomy. If you happen to live under a rock and aren’t familiar with this news, you can read her New York Times editorial here.
The reason I’ve been so taken with this announcement is because it hits very, very close to home; my Wife recently had the exact same operation in pretty much the same timeline as Ms. Jolie.
Jolie tested positive for the BRCA1 gene whereas my Wife tested positive for BRCA2. Her decision to do a mastectomy was proactive and based on genetic testing and the fact that her mother died of cancer at a relatively young age. My Wife’s circumstances were slightly different; in late November of 2012 we discovered that she presented a very early stage cancer variant known as DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ).
Under ordinary circumstances, DCIS would be treated through a relatively minor surgical procedure and then, possibly, radiation treatment. Because my mother-in-law also had DCIS, our astute physician suggested genetic testing. In an ironic turn of events, we soon discovered it wasn’t my mother-in-law who was the carrier, but rather my father-in-law. Men who carry BRCA2 are at an increased risk for prostate cancer.
My wife also had her ovaries removed, to reduce her dramatically increased odds of ovarian cancer. Based on the wording of Jolie’s editorial, it would appear that she hasn’t yet done this part of the surgery, but I suspect she will over the course of the ensuing months/years.
But I digress.
One thing that I think Ms. Jolie underplayed in her editorial, was the severity of the surgery. I can’t lie; it wasn’t easy. I’m lucky that I have one very tough Wife – maybe the toughest person I’ve ever known – but even she was rocked by the ensuing surgeries, which included reconstruction. It hasn’t been easy on me, our in-laws or my kids, but like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, together we got through it.
And we never, for one second doubted our decision. Once my Wife received confirmation of her BRCA2 gene, her odds of getting a recurrence of breast cancer rose to upwards of 70 percent and ovarian to about 50%. You don’t need me to tell you that those odds are pretty poor. In light of that, I find it astonishing that some people are criticizing Jolie for making this very personal decision. I have to think that the naysayers simply do not fully understand the facts. If they did, they’d understand that it’s actually a pretty cut and dried decision.
So why am I going “public” (though I have shared bits and pieces with my West Coast staff) with all of this? I figure that if Angelina Jolie could go public and in the process help save lives, maybe I could do a small part too.
One of the key lessons in all of this, in my opinion, is that genetic testing saves lives. It arguably saved my Wife’s. This is one of the very rare instances where the dreaded “you have cancer” message set off a wave of events that over the long run – and in some very twisted, almost illogical manner – may very well have been the best news she’s ever heard.
So my message to you all: if you have a history of breast cancer in your family, most especially a history that runs generations deep, please consider giving strong consideration to genetic testing (and even if you don’t have a history, women should not forget to do regular mammography). Like us, you might discover that in a worst case scenario there is definitely a short term pain (in every respect of the word) that is mitigated by a long term gain.
News broke this week that Angeline Jolie chose a preventive double mastectomy after genetic testing revealed she carried the BRCA1 gene. Medical evaluation showed that the presence of this gene placed her at-risk for breast and ovarian cancer at 87 and 50 percent, respectively.
Those are scary numbers for anyone to digest. When you are a mother, as Jolie is, of six, those numbers are the stuff nightmares are made of. So she bravely decided to act. In her New York Times Op-Ed, published yesterday, Jolie shares the reasons for her decision (her own Mother passed away from breast cancer at 56) and the medical process (in broad brush strokes) of the procedures and the process she underwent.
There are bound to be those who read her story and think “good for her, but I have neither the resources, the time or the child care coverage to do what she did.” From that perspective it may look like one more example of someone who “has” demonstrating what is possible with money.
I don’t see it that way. I view her choice as a bold choice. A choice that demonstrates women can empower themselves. They can challenge destiny and live up to their own aspirations.
A preventive double mastectomy is an extreme example, for sure, but we have the opportunity to take this extreme example and apply it to the health challenges we all face. Challenges that sound simple, really, but can feel complex and overwhelming as we live our lives. I mean:
- Take care: Check-ups and self exams are critical to early detection of any number of illnesses and diseases
- Be aware: We frequently “write off” changes in our bodies, our energy levels, our weight to stress, and most of the time that is true. Still, changes that persist over time should be checked out by a physician.
- Be kind: Applaud yourself for baby steps, so when the time comes to face something really big, you have the strength and the confidence to face it head-on
That’s really the lesson embedded in Jolie’s message. Confront your reality and face your life head on.
Within 18 months of our official launch, Finn Partners has been named the best PR agency to work for in North America by the Holmes Report. At our agency launch in 2011, I announced to our staff that this was one of our goals, and said up front that this would be an evolutionary process. It was something I aspired to, and I knew that the path was not an easy one. I never expected to achieve this goal so quickly, and the reality is that our work is far from done. It is much easier to lose this distinction than it is to win it. Our management team knows that we have to continue to earn and maintain the trust of our entire team and we have to continue to show them that we consider them true partners.
This award is about more than agency programs and policies; it is a reflection of every team member’s dedication and commitment to our clients, our craft, our agency and to one another. It is truly special to me that our distinction is based on direct input and comments from our team and is based on a survey of 5,000 employees from 60 agencies.
The “best place to work” distinction is important to me for two reasons. One, I care about every one of our employees, and want them to feel respected, inspired, that they are growing professionally and that at Finn Partners they are on a great career path. I love my work, and I want to do what I can to ensure that the others who work here love what they do too.
I also believe that if we create the best culture and work environment, we will attract and retain the best talent in our industry and we will do the very best work for our clients. This is the road to success for us all.
We all know what the workplace statistics say. Harvard Business Review reports that engaged employees are, on average, 50% more likely to exceed expectations than the least-engaged workers. And companies with highly engaged people outperform firms with the most disengaged folks—by 54% in employee retention, by 89% in customer satisfaction, and by fourfold in revenue growth.
Finally, success is not something we achieve by ourselves. It requires collaboration, a word that has defined Finn Partners from day one. That is why this honor really belongs to every single person that works at Finn Partners. That is why I would like to take this opportunity to say to every member of our staff: Thank you. Together, all of you made this happen. You make Finn Partners the Best Place to Work, and as our founding partner, I will never stop looking for ways to make our agency and employee experience the best it can be.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with Stav Erez, the CEO and co-founder of a really unique organization called Siftech. Siftech, (from the Hebrew word “Siftach,” which means beginning or start, but with an “e” to emphasize its technology focus) is a tech incubator headquartered on the campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The incubator has graduated its first cohort of companies and is now in the middle of its second class. Unlike other incubators, Siftech does not take any equity from the companies accepted into its program, but does provide top-notch mentors and coaches from around Israel and the world, helping it attract a fantastic group of entrepreneurs/early stage companies to its program.
Stav also told me something else that completely surprised me. She said that many of the technology companies that applied to the incubator were focused on doing “social-business” – i.e. developing technology aimed at making the world a better place. Now, if Siftech was a nationally-focused incubator that encouraged tech startups to apply from across Israel, there wouldn’t be anything so unique about the fact that it received a much higher percentage of “socially-focused” applications. However, Siftech is based in Jerusalem and is committed to developing Jerusalem-based technology companies, with the hope that after launching and securing angel-funding, the companies in the program will choose to remain in Jerusalem and not leave for the country’s hi-tech “corridor” between Tel Aviv and Herzliya.
That being said, we need to ask what it is about Jerusalem that attracts a higher percentage of socially-motivated entrepreneurs to work on creating companies that will make a real difference in the world?
It’s a complex question with no simple answer. Maybe it’s Jerusalem Syndrome, but probably not. I think it’s because, deep-down, the city’s residents, of which I am one, like to think of Jerusalem as the romanticized “City on the Hill”, which, in its perfect form, is supposed to serve as a beacon to other cities and nations around the world. Technology has allowed us to put a 21st century spin on the story and gives us the ability to use innovation to improve our collective lives. The tech “do-gooders” applying to Siftech are a powerful example of this vision.
What do you think? And more importantly, what are your respective cities doing to encourage their own social-entrepreneurship initiatives? If the answer is nothing or not enough, I am sure Stav and her colleagues at Siftech would be happy to chat…
I write a lot about personal responsibility and health, some things apply to us all – such as regular physicals and annual dental exams. Other things are more applicable to us as individuals – I know, for example, diabetes runs in my family, so discussing signs of diabetes with my physicians is of critical importance in my wellness paradigm.
Recently, however, I had a different experience that has shaken me to the core. First my eyes started bothering me after I would spend a long time reading or working at the computer. Then I found myself squinting. Then I gave in and picked up a pair of magnifiers at the local dollar store.
Finally, when they stopped working I broke down and made an appointment with an eye doctor.
So I show up, check in and get quickly ushered into a treatment room. About five minutes later the doctor walks in and asks me the typical “so why are you here” question. I respond, cheeks turning red, with an explanation about my seemingly overnight descent into visual murkiness.
He sits back in his chair, hears me out and nods at the appropriate moments. Then he pronounces the verdict – “Oh, don’t worry I see this all the time among people your age. It’s a normal sign of aging and….”
The rest of the appointment is pretty much a blur as the phrase “normal sign of aging” reverberated in my mind. Adding insult to injury it came from the mouth of a man who looked 12, and could not have been more than a year out of residency. So, okay, he might have actually been 30.
In my numbed state, I was reminded of all the communication programs I had written through the years designed to raise awareness about any number of conditions whose incidence rates increase as people age. I considered how easily the phrase “part of the normal aging process” rolled off my tongue and my pen since I began my career in healthcare communication. And then I promised myself, no, I vowed – actually I took a blood oath – that I would never utter that dreaded, but entirely useful, phrase again.