Finn Partners – Inspired

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.

 

The New Face of Twitter Search

Despite my millennial status, I’m a bit old-school when it comes to social tools — especially ones meant to simplify and streamline the process for Twitter. Even when I produce Twitter Chats for our clients, I’m always more likely to be navigating the stream of tweets through Twitter itself via Chrome than I am to use some third-party tool.

Earlier this month, I thought my eyes had deceived me when I noticed a change in the design of Twitter’s Search interface. Much sleeker, and much more intuitive, the new design is really great. I’ve been tweeting since 2009 and social media is my meal ticket, so while I am very familiar with Twitter, I also really appreciate this change in design direction.

If I had to boil down my love for the new interface into two simple reasons they would be:

  1. Relevance > Reach: When measuring influence – whether of a person or a particular topic – people all too often are impressed and swayed by quantity over quality. So, for a Twitter search, they may then be interested in a search that would prioritize tweets by celebrities, or users with large audience numbers, above all others. That, my friends, goes against what’s at the core of social. We throw around the phrase “community management” as a job title, but it’s also an important reminder that at the core of each social channel, and really each social conversation, there is at least one community. Together, communities build reach. Independently, I’m more interested in the most relevant content – in this case, tweets and handles – that match my search, because these types of results will offer me more actionable opportunities for response. When I was live-tweeting the final series of Mad Men, I found myself going back and forth between the search interface and my Notifications page for the latest and greatest tweets and replies, not necessarily tweets from the most influential handles. I wanted to build a conversation. And so, with Twitter’s new search feature, that’s what users get – results prioritized by relevance, not reach, to build real-time conversations and reactions.
  2. Ease for Observation: Not everyone with a Twitter handle is there to share. In fact, I’ve met many impressive social strategists with incredibly minimal outputs on Twitter. That doesn’t mean that they’re not active; they’re simply silent observers. And, lucky for them, Twitter’s new search interface has made it easier than ever for them to navigate conversations silently and sleuth-like. With filters including “top” (which goes back to the point above about relevance) and “live” (super helpful for live-tweeting, Twitter Chats, and breaking news), as well as “photo” and “video,” Twitter has effectively condensed its search and discovery functionality to make tweets (and their authors) easier to sort through, engage with, and explore.
 
 

The End of An Era

This has been a tough week for television audiences. Mad Men wrapped up its seventh and final season on Sunday, and David Letterman bid farewell to Late Show fans last night, after 33 years as its hilariously charming host.

On Sunday night, Twitter was buzzing about the Mad Men finale. Many of the tweets were rightfully marked with the hashtag #EndofanEra. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been as dedicated to live-tweeting a series as I was about Mad Men. As a woman in the public relations industry – a not-so-distant cousin of the advertising world – I felt so seriously invested in the characters of Joan, Peggy and Betty. Each of them had some sort of victory in the final episodes of the series, and while the show’s writers and critics debate the feminist roots of said victories, I still call them big wins for women then, and now. I’m not the first 21st century female creative to comment on Mad Men’s impact on today’s advertising and PR industries, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. Mad Men took viewers on a journey back through an era, and waxed on the nostalgia of liquid lunches, Madison Avenue networking, and computer-free creativity. It was hard not to draw similarities between Mad Men characters and real-world colleagues – I’m certain that there’s a Don, Roger, and (I hope) a Bert in every young ad or PR exec’s life.

I was glued to the screen for the entire finale…and its encore directly after — because who doesn’t watch an episode of Mad Men twice in a row to catch as many nuances as possible? I’d like to think that since the actual Mad Men era, advertising and PR has graduated to new levels. We’re still faced with the challenges and road bumps that keep things interesting – and sometimes frustrating – but it’s those same challenges that force us to take our ideas to the ultimate creative depths. Mad Men, as a show, helped to renew the creative energy throughout our industries.

If you were wondering when I would switch gears to talk about Letterman, the time is now. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been staying up late to catch The Late Show. When my parents bought me my first TV – I think I was in the first grade, so how ever old I was back then – I discovered comedy that was beyond my years. And, like clockwork, I tuned in. Over the years I morphed into a serious Letterman vs. Leno fan. I couldn’t even understand the debate. Dave was just so much funnier than Jay; his comedy has always been unpretentious compared to Jay Leno’s over-confident delivery.

In my first real New York job at MEDIA CONNECT, I had the pleasure of helping out with client Henry Winkler around the promotion of his book I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River. As a reward for helping out at his book signing, I was able to accompany one of my colleagues to a taping of The Late Show with Winkler. I didn’t get to meet Dave. But there was a silver lining that I’ll never forget. I had the opportunity to interview Henry Winkler for our blog in his Letterman dressing room, and then I met two major Late Show comedic forces: The Stangel Brothers.

Maybe our water cooler conversations – at Finn Partners we actually tend to congregate in the large kitchen – will be a little dull without Mad Men and Letterman. Or maybe we’ll start talking about Colbert, or Corden. Either way, it is most certainly the end of an era, and I feel fortunate that Mad Men and Letterman graced air waves for as long as they both did.

 
 

Gil Bashe, one of the healthcare industry’s top PR professionals, joins Finn Partners

I am pleased to share that on June 15th, Gil Bashe will join our firm as Managing Partner, Finn Partners Health.

Gil HeadshotSince founding Finn Partners, we’ve been working to build a strong and diversified healthcare practice throughout our offices. As we’ve grown and with the recent acquisitions of gabbegroup and DVL Seigenthaler, we have been increasing the number of clients in this sector, including hospitals, health insurance companies, health focused non-profits, health education programs for government agencies and clients in the health-tech space.

Gil’s role will be to build on the base we have established and over time, grow our consolidated Health Practice into one of the best in the industry.

Gil brings a superb track record in the health public relations arena. His expertise encompasses pharma brand-building, product reimbursement and corporate, executive and issues reputation management. He has been at the helm of “Most Admired Health PR Agencies” three times. Prior to joining Finn Partners, Gil was EVP and Health Practice Director at Makovsky & Company for 12 years. Last year Makovsky was named Healthcare Agency of the Year by the Holmes Report.

Gil’s experience in private equity acquiring health-sector agencies will also be very valuable to us, and he will work closely with me to find health focused agencies for Finn Partners to acquire in the years ahead.

During the months we came to know Gil, we were delighted by his dedication to mentoring, eagerness for competitive challenge and commitment to organic and new client growth. People who have worked with Gil spoke highly of his natural leadership skills, his belief that delighting clients is the way to fostering long-term relationships and his commitment to a learning environment that builds careers. We also found a strong like-mindedness with Gil; he believes in our goals and vision for growth as well as our enduring collaborative culture.

Health is more than a career for Gil; it’s his passion. He believes health is one of the essentials that bonds us all – our own wellbeing, those we care for and its societal impact. Gil is a 20+ year volunteer and is currently Chair-Elect, Founders’ Affiliate, American Heart Association.

Gil is eager to begin working with us and begin building our health business throughout the agency and we are honored to welcome him to Finn Partners.

 

 
 

The Rise of the Livestream

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Livestreaming isn’t new, and so when I first heard of Meerkat around spring – which I affectionately dub  SXSW season at this point- I was in no rush to download the app. It wasn’t until I heard rumblings about Twitter getting peeved with Meerkat’s use of its platform that I decided to check it out. And, with my luck, this all happened right around the time when Twitter upped its defense, cut off access to its API, and launched a competitive platform called Periscope.

Meerkat and Periscope are popular because they are inherently mobile-first, they tailor livestream video for a social audience, and they boast functional social components that fit in more naturally than is the case with any of their competitors – even my beloved Google+ Hangout On Air.

When Twitter enters into a companion-app rivalry, it doesn’t always win. Vine is still very much thriving, but adoption of the channel pales in comparison to Instagram. I fought for Vine, but in the end, I sold out to Instagram. It was a more intuitive, user-friendly experience that worked so well for content discovery as a standalone channel. And, when Facebook purchased Instagram, I’d like to think it added more fuel to the fire for Twitter to hit a home run — or in this case, to close a deal with the team at Periscope.

We already know that the social audience is hungry for experiential visual content — just look at the success of Snapchat. Like Snapchat, Periscope isn’t permanent, and users have a “playback” option which keeps their content for 24 hours. Periscope works so seamlessly with Twitter, and allows brands, public figures (Andy Cohen used it the other day!) and organizations an opportunity to build more dynamic engagements with their followers. Better yet, it turns news outlets – and information-hungry users – who use Twitter to offer minute-by-minute updates into real-time, no-frills round-the-clock broadcasting machines.

Measuring success on the platform may be tricky at this point, but considering the integration with Twitter, initial success on the platform could be measured by way of Twitter Analytics – looking at engagement and reach of the tweet with the Periscope link, as well as physical clicks on the link.

I’m really excited to watch Periscope grow. One of the reasons I stepped into the social space was because I saw myself as a schmoozer. I love connecting with people, and after learning more about Periscope, it’s clear to me that this tool could be a real game-changer for social community-building initiatives.

If you have five minutes, take a peek at the Periscope blog to learn more about their plans for the app and its growth. I’ll still be keeping an eye on Meerkat, but I’m currently Team Periscope, and can’t wait to take it for a spin with my clients.

 

 
 

Best of Breed Data Approach: Bottlenose Nerve Center

The Finn Partners Insights Team deals in data, and it’s my favorite part of the job. But that data doesn’t mean anything if we can’t turn it into useful intelligence that can improve the effectiveness of social and digital media activities.

This means we can’t just go spelunking around the internet looking for nuggets of information that might be interesting. Analysis tools make it possible for us to capture, filter, analyze, and digest the huge amounts of data available about what’s happening online and on social channels.

Luckily, there is no shortage of dazzling tools and products designed to do exactly what we need them to. Well, not quite. There are a lot of tools, but they all have different capabilities, different strengths and weaknesses, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Rather than use just one tool, our team relies on a variety of different products to best meet client needs.

Taking this best of breed approach requires a bit of leg work on our end. Just like test driving a car, we test run tools and products by conducting mini-research projects to determine if a tool is a good fit, and for what type of research or monitoring activity. This is fun for us (Yay! More research!) and great for our clients. Not only do we know what’s available, but we’ve tested the capabilities and figured out how to get the most from a tool. This week I put Bottlenose Nerve Center to the test on a sample topic.

Smart homes – what they are and how to make one – have been in the news a lot lately, so this week I took a look at how the smart homes topic is being discussed in social media. I honed in on three channels (Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr), focused the analysis on the month of April, and asked the following questions:

  • How big was the conversation?
  • Where did it take place?
  • What content trended?
  • Who was most visible?

Rather than bore you with a narrative of my findings, because we all know data is more fun in charts and graphs, check out the “April Smart Home Headlines” infographic for a little insight into last month’s conversation and the kind of information Bottlenose Nerve Center can supply.

 

 
 

The Joys of Project Management

When you’re planning your day between deadlines, deliverables and meetings (oh my!), the struggle feels as real as ever. At Finn Partners, I feel a little spoiled. We have an awesome team of dedicated project managers (PMs) who keep clients happy, budgets in check, and the production team…well…productive.

There’s so much industry chatter about the importance of a mentor in the workplace — which I wholeheartedly agree with — but I’d almost go as far as to argue that working with a real-life PM is as important as having a mentor. How are you supposed to focus on professional development when you’re drowning deep into the depths of account service and management?

My secret? Neby Ejigu. If you’re wondering what’s so special about Neby, you probably haven’t crossed paths with him yet. He’s the Director of Production at Finn Partners. Not sure what that means? In a nutshell, it means that he is the neck that turns the head. Neby oversees a team of digital PMs to ensure that all projects — including internal collaborations with account teams — run smoothly.

I’m always fascinated by what Neby does, and how attached I’ve grown to his team. (Really. I won’t even submit an RFP response without bouncing my ideas off at least one of our PMs.) To demystify project management, and to reveal just one of the reasons I’m able to do my job smoothly, I asked Neby some questions about his role, his team, and the importance of project management. Like only a true PM would, Neby was able to whittle away at my questions in between several important meetings, and an Amtrak journey.

Question: The term project manager gets used so loosely. What is a project manager, really?
Answer: We’re chameleons – we morph into whatever we really need to. A project manager can be expected to develop projects and plans, while also managing and monitoring overall project execution. When there’s a change in scope, that’s when a project manager takes control, and helps to redefine, and realign the project. I sometimes like to think of PMs as project guards; we have authority over project scope, time, cost, resources and team members.

Question: What are the three key benefits of having a dedicated project manager?
Answer: The benefits are pretty simple and straightforward. Embed a project manager if you want to:

  • Manage client expectations perfectly
  • Produce a well thoughtful, high-quality campaign
  • Deliver a project on time, within budget, all while utilizing the right resources

Question: What traits make a good project manager?
Answer: Social skills and patience are key, because the core of project management isn’t just about management deliverables, it’s about managing people — balancing client needs with the needs of the internal team. A good project manager needs to be willing to dig in, and get their hands dirty — diving into project foundation pieces like storyboarding, strategy, wire-framing, content entry, design, coding, etc. Finally, creativity is essential, and should have no limits. A solid PM should be able to creatively solve problems, because there’s no such thing – and never will be – as a perfect project. In this industry, flawless executions are most often a result of having the right mix of talent with a great PM putting out fires and solving any issues.

Question: What’s your advice for teams that don’t have enough budget for a project manager?
Answer: Honestly, consider the opportunity cost. Not having a PM will cost more in the long run. When faced with smaller budgets, some teams assume that an account manager can play the PM role as well. This couldn’t be more wrong, because both roles are so very different. Don’t be afraid to consult our team – I swear we don’t bite! Remember when I said we’re problem solvers? We will find alternative ways to accommodate budgets and to identify the right resources to fit that respective budget. Don’t forget that PMs serve two needs. They’re a support system internally, but they are also client-facing, and in most cases we eliminate overlap with the account manager.

Question: Is a project manager beneficial for clients, too, or are they only beneficial for internal workflow?
Answer: Having a sound PM in place is super beneficial to clients. They help to simplify technical jargon, while educating them on elements of a digital strategy. Having a PM available to offer those insights, while providing an accurate update on the project at any given time, without having to bother the team also helps manage the bottom line.

Question: When’s the best time to loop in a project manager?
Answer: From the beginning. If we’re there from square one – or really, square zero – it sidesteps any potential issues. The PM should be looped in at pitch time whenever possible to allow them to establish a scope of work, assign the right resources, and strategically think about solutions relevant to client needs. The sooner a PM is involved, the smoother and smarter your projects become.

Question: Is having a dedicated project manager expensive?
Answer: Project management costs are accounted for in all budgets that we give out to teams. It is typically the lowest cost from the breakdown and is not expensive.

 
 

NY Tech Day: The Ever-expanding Tech Industry of Silicon Alley

NY Tech Day attracts some of the most creative and innovative companies that Silicon Alley has to offer, boasting more than 400 exhibitors and 10,000+ attendees. This is the second year that Finn Partners has walked the show floor, where we learned firsthand just how powerful the technology industry is here.

Compared to last year, we noticed a dramatic increase in mobile apps as the primary offering for startups. Considering the fact that consumers use their cell phones and tablets for everything under the sun – this wasn’t surprising, yet it was refreshing to speak with developers offering solutions to everyday struggles.

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Speaking of struggles, I’m all about apps that promote productivity. At the event, I met with Aaron Cohn, CEO of FlyCleaners, a full-service laundry company that interacts and coordinates completely through its mobile platform. Through the app, users can determine when and where their laundry is picked up and dropped off, saving time and frustration. For me, this also means avoiding the struggle of breaking change for the washer/dryer – coins are so archaic.

Another interesting company that we spoke with, LiquidTalent.com, will enable working professionals to connect in real-time, based on location, with organizations and businesses that will effectively match project needs with the right respective talent. This mobile platform, which launches this summer, will enable companies to discover talent based on skills, experience, education, hourly rate and their reviews and ratings from previous jobs. This is equally beneficial for the worker, as the platform will offer them another venue to promote their skills and get hired.

In a world where computer programming and website development skills are in demand, Dev Bootcamp offers short-term classes to teach beginners all they need to know about coding. The company is paving the way for those who are no longer in school to be able to stay relevant in a world where programming will be a be a prerequisite before we know it. Within the 19-week program we can all become full-fledged developers!

Taking our potential to another level is IVY Connect, a member’s only community that has dedicated itself to creating a better world by introducing people who wish to create lifelong collaborative relationships with other inspirational people. IVY hosts various events for members throughout the month to spark new ventures, artistic projects, political initiatives, philanthropic causes and scientific pursuits. IVY is easily accessible to those who wish to shape our world for the better by their app.

Silicon Alley is thriving and we’re already looking forward to Tech Day 2016. With the recent launch of the Apple Watch, we expect to see developers launch even more apps for wearable technology. Another prediction for Tech Day 2016: programming! We predict that next year’s show will have a big push on apps that make it easier to code on mobile devices.

 

 
 

Finn Partners Named “Midsize Agency of the Year”

The annual US Sabre Awards - run by Paul Holmes - is one of the largest PR industry events. During last night’s event, Paul mentioned that this year marks their 26th year, and I’ve been at just about every one of those events.

Throughout my career, I’ve made presentations to Paul trying to convince him that the agency I was running deserved to be named Agency of the Year in its size category.

Until last night, that had never worked out.

There are many excellent agencies in each size category, and last night, in the company of 800 of the top PR professionals, including a group of us from Finn Partners, Finn Partners was named Midsize Agency of the Year. Richard and I joined Paul on stage to accept the award, and I confessed to Paul that I was in a state of shock.

When we met with Paul to update him on new developments at Finn Partners, we thought hard about what we could tell him that would make a difference. In the end, we talked about our core values, our growth, our people and the clients we serve.

This is a huge accomplishment for all of us. It is one thing for us to feel proud of our work, of our team and of our accomplishments, and it is quite another for one of the most widely followed reporters writing about our industry to say that we are on a very special path.

So, in the three years since our launch, Finn Partners has been named by the Holmes Report “Best New Agency”, “Best Agency to Work For in North America” and now “Midsize Agency of the Year.”

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The Rise of the Emoji

My love for emoji is far from secret. They were the only thing that made me relate to Zosia Mamet’s character on HBO’s Girls, and they’ve helped me to replace the classic text messaging fillers of a forced “haha” or “LOL.” Friends and family have grown accustomed to receiving random eggplant emoji when I’m cooking, or an angsty emoticon when they send a text too early or too late.

During my routine morning scan of my Feedly feeds, I noticed more than three articles mentioning the rise of the emoji in varying capacity, and there was one in particular that I wholeheartedly agreed with.

Owen Williams of The Next Web penned a piece that argues against the idea that emoji have compromised the future of the English language. Instead, he says — and I agree — that emoji have had a positive effect on the way we communicate across digital channels.

Regardless of reception, emoji are here to stay. Apple implemented an emoji keyboard with iOS5, and Instagram made a welcome update by allowing users to include emoji in hashtags on the platform.

If anything — and the clue is in the word — emoji have forced digital, social and mobile communicators to visually express and share their emotions.

Williams makes some great points — and goes on to concede that emoji have of course spurred some miscommunication — but he said it best when he said, “If the internet were a country, emoji would be the official language.”

Emoji have made simple text messages — whose real-life equivalent would be the “stop-and-chat” a la Larry David — so much more pleasant. Communicate stress with a couple of ambiguous emoji, or like me, just confuse your husband.

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Either way, with social platform integration and ongoing Unicode updates, I’m excited to see where the world of emoji will take us.

 

 
 

Inside My Insta-Love

I’m obsessed with Instagram. And while I promise not to treat this blog post like some sort of editorial confessional, it’s important to me – really, it is! – that you understand why I’m hooked. It’s also worthwhile to note that I’m pretty neurotic, as far as creatives go. All of my iPhone apps are organized into folders, and then by frequency of use. Imagine the challenge this poses when a new platform is launched, or when a platform rolls out a companion app (like Instagram did with both Hyperlapse and Layout).

Smartphone photography

My favoritism for Instagram doesn’t mean that I don’t love other photo-focused experiential platforms like Snapchat and Vine. I’ve kept a close eye on them to watch for smart and subtle brand engagement opportunities. But still, I find myself totally and completely enamored with Instagram for five key reasons:

1. Low-Barrier Engagement: Instagram may be owned by Facebook, but its engagement functionality for brands and consumers alike is much less overwhelming. A simple double-tap gesture is all that it takes for a consumer to passively engage with someone they follow. While comments and private messages are also an option, they’re secondary. This is very important to keep in mind for larger Instagram campaigns from an executional and measurement perspective. Considering the means of engagement on Instagram, KPIs may be more challenging to establish.

2. Clean & Nonintrusive Advertising: I’m a big believer in balancing a social strategy to account for both organic and paid support. That said, the front-end product of the back-end targeting isn’t always pretty. As a consumer, I’m grateful for the speed in which Instagram has rolled out its ad platform. As a social strategist, I’m wildly impatient for them to roll out advertising capabilities more broadly, but completely respect their reasons for a slow and steady approach.

The end product of an Instagram ad works not only because of what seems to be some solid targeting (I’ve gone on to follow many of the brands whose advertisements have landed in my feed), but because of strong content. And that’s exactly why it makes sense to kick it off as an exclusive set of brands; it reemphasizes the importance of producing strong, original and unique content to capture and engage your social audience.

3. Challenging Creativity: Not totally dissimilar to the concept of challenging brands to create great content, is this idea that Instagram challenges overall creativity for the user, by making us reevaluate what makes a good photo, and what’s worth sharing. From the filters to various level adjustments, Instagram puts the user in the driver’s seat, and for brands, that means a lot of creative license. Instagram forces brands to think more creatively about campaigns and activations, and it’s a great platform for leveraging brand partnerships and influencer relationships.

While the ability to upload photos and videos to Instagram is useful in plotting out an editorial calendar, brands have an added pressure to be trendy and timely, while also being polished and strategic. Facebook and Twitter have become more static in strategy because of scheduling functionality, whereas Instagram – as well as Snapchat and Vine – is keeping users on their toes, forcing more “of the moment” content.

4. Logical Features: Unlike some channels, Instagram has rolled out two really solid companion apps that offer its users more creative freedom. Hyperlapse is a super cool time-lapse video tool, and Layout is an equally cool photo collage tool. Both apps allow you to publish to Instagram with the click of a button, without being pushed to include a branded third party hashtag like many others. In addition to its companion apps, almost all Instagram app updates are echo user feedback, including its most recent addition of new filters and emoji-laden hashtags.

5. Awareness & Discovery: I feel about my social channels like I feel about my job. I’ll only continue to love them if I can continue learning and discovering. One of the totally underrated features on Instagram is its discovery feature, built nicely into its search tab. The platform allows you to search intentionally for a handle or a hashtag, while also curating an always-updated selection of Instagram images based on who you already follow. For me, that means a lot of shameless food photography mixed with random brands and marketing thought leaders, but it also means endless new recipes, social exclusive coupons and interesting work-related tips. The discovery functionality is great for brands and marketers, because it opens doors for building smart relationships with potential influencers, and getting a sense of who your audience engages with, offering insight into content that you could be creating.