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.

 

Comments OffLean In? How about Lie Down?

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about working women and how they can “lean in” to move more swiftly up the corporate ladder. I’m fascinated by the subject, but not because I aspire to be the next Sheryl Sandberg.

My interest in the topic stems from my utter lack of natural ability in being a working mom. I’ve been at it for a couple of years now and, I admit, I white-knuckle it most days and rarely feel like I know what I’m doing. I’m in complete awe of people like Sandberg, Marissa Mayer and Tina Fey – elite women who reached the top of their careers while juggling motherhood. Even Anne-Marie Slaughter, who so eloquently articulated why she believes women actually can’t have it all, stands out because of her accomplishments in everything she’s done.

They’re all trailblazers, in their own ways. I know I’m not like them and I’m okay with that. I’m learning to embrace my weaknesses as a working parent of two little kids. And, social media has helped me see that there are a lot of real working moms out there just like me.

In fact, there’s a groundswell of moms (and dads) who are not shy about their failings as parents. Twitter and Facebook clearly have made it easier to voice their frustrations, fears and “what the heck?” moments. These working parents are lesser-known but in my view their authentic, unfiltered POVs make them groundbreakers, too.

One of my favorites is @scarymommy and her blog. It’s not for the faint-hearted, or for those with perfect children. Can you imagine wrestling your child “like she was a spider monkey on crack” for an entire flight? Add projectile vomit, and that pretty much describes my last vacation. I also have suspicions my three-year-old is the one behind @HonestToddler because the tweets hit too close to home, like this one from a few months ago: “Don’t call someone a blessing and then try to fit their entire bedtime routine in a single commercial break.”

Then there’s @AmberDusick’s Crappy Pictures blog, which tells tales of dirty diapers, meltdowns and toddler subversion through cute stick-figure illustrations and cringe-worthy commentary. On really bad days I turn to Sh*t My Kids Ruined on Tumblr to see examples of parents who have it much worse than me. I mean, come on; why would you ever let your kid near a white couch? That site never fails to make my day.

But don’t get me wrong. I like the challenge of a steep learning curve. As a public relations professional I deep-dive into new industry sectors and issues every week, and it’s one of the things that I love most about my job. I’m now figuring out how to apply the same strategy that’s been relatively successful at work, to two of my toughest clients at home.

So, when I hear, “Mommy, I want to watch the Netflix on the iPad,” I feel truly grateful for having technology that helps me keep my sanity. Twenty-one minutes of Trotro the Donkey means I can knock out six tasks on my long to-do list. Or, take a nap. And, thanks to the growing online community of working parents who are voicing their real, unvarnished and poopy perspectives on parenting, I don’t feel so guilty about not being able to lean in. Because I’d rather just lie down.

 
 

Comments OffThe Pharmaceutical Price Wars

An older relative recently became ill. Because of a history with respiratory infections, she was placed on a course of specialized antibiotics – for a year. A daunting treatment plan from a quality of life standpoint, since antibiotics, especially with long-term use, can cause significant side effects such as stomach upset and headaches. Still, she resigned herself to the treatment because she wanted to make sure she followed the doctor’s orders.

The office called the medicine in for her and she headed right over to the pharmacy.

“That will be $2,700 please,” the cashier told her. WHAT? Yes, the “co-pay” was $2,700, and not surprisingly that stopped her in her tracks. She went home and called the doctor’s office and asked if this specific medicine was the only choice. They told her it was the best choice, and really, who doesn’t want to go with the “best” choice when dealing with their health.

“I can’t really afford $2,700 a month for a year” she told the doctor’s office. “Call the company,” they told her. “A lot of times big pharmaceutical companies offer co-pay assistance. “ She did call, and the pharma company (a name anyone would recognize) offered her 80% co-pay assistance for the full year. This means that her medicine will end up costing her about $550 a month. Manageable for her circumstances.

When I heard the story it left me shaking my head. “How many people can actually afford $2,700 a month for medicine,” I asked myself. “Not many,” my internal conversation continued. “So why,” I finally asked.

Look, I have written many times about my views regarding the need for drug companies to profit from the sale of their products. If we price set so that they can’t, research and innovation in the treatment of illness and disease will grind to a halt. The ability to offer life-saving therapeutics to developing nations will evaporate and we will all be worse off in the long run.

Still, a $2,700 co-pay for a woman with supplemental insurance is an outrage. It fuels the “greedy big business” reputation of an industry that truly makes life better for, well, pretty much everybody. But if we are going to get serious about managing healthcare costs in this country, this type of outright abuse of the system must be stopped. If they can afford to make it available for $550 (still a hefty price tag) after the patient recovers from a fainting spell and fills out some forms, they could make it available for that price to start with.

And they should.

 
 

Comments OffThe Virtues of Virtual Teams

As a technology continues to integrate with every aspect of our lives — from work to play, virtual teams in the U.S. and across the globe remain a staple for corporations. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly one-half of organizations (46%) use virtual teams in their workplace. Roughly one-quarter of the organizations using virtual teams are U.S.-based operations (28%), while organizations with multinational operations are more than twice as likely (66%) to use these types of teams.

In my career, I have been fortunate enough to work with talented clients and colleagues in various U.S. cities and abroad, some of whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting in person. While for Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!, virtual teams are probably the antithesis of productivity, studies show that virtual teams can be as successful as being in the office. And, I can tell you from first-hand experience that I have yet to encounter any major issues with virtual teams.

In Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology (initially published in September 2000, and an Amazon-rated best book of 2013,), the authors present the 90/10 rule, which outlines how a “virtual team’s success is based 90% on the people involved and 10% on the technology.”

To help “humanize virtual teams,” best practices can be followed to create effective collaboration and deliver results:

  • Establish day-to-day roles that are communicated to both the client and among the internal group
  • Building trust and loyalty takes time and a bit of work — deadlines need to be met, you have to keep open communication and be mindful of deliverables
  • Keep flexible hours in mind (the norm for our industry and other professions) due to time zone differences. You may have to attend early morning or evening meetings to manage tasks
  • Be accessible and responsive to emails, phone calls, IM or video conferencing. This helps foster dialogue and feed the collaborative spirit
  • Be open to learning about different cultures or practices, and get to know each other by sharing experiences and telling stories
  • If budget, schedules and locations allow, hold an annual gathering to meet everyone on the team, develop plans and exchange ideas

Even though there are challenges associated with virtual teams such as the obvious of not being able to discuss projects in person, I believe those can be overcome and the opportunities to flourish as an individual and member of a group are limitless.

 
 

Comments OffThe Growing Team at Finn Partners

 

I am very pleased that my good friend Scott Widmeyer has decided to merge his agency, Widmeyer Communications, into Finn Partners.

I have had enormous respect for Scott and his team of professionals for many years, and felt that their focus on doing thoughtful work on important issues made the firm a great fit for Finn Partners.  My hope is that the Finn Partners focus on creating one of the best places to work in the PR agency world will make this an easy transition for the entire Widmeyer team.

Our newest announcement comes on the heels of some pretty exciting developments for Finn Partners since our launch.  Here are some highlights:

  • Internal launch of Finn Partners within Ruder Finn, Inc. with approximately $18 million in fees, January 2011
  • Acquisition of LA-based The Rogers Group, April 2011
  • Official Public Launch of Finn Partners, Dec. 2011
  • Close of first year since internal launch with $23.5 million in fees, representing a 30% growth over our starting level.
  • Finn Partners selected by the Holmes Report as Best New Agency, April 2012
  • Finn Partners announces opening of an office in London, Oct. 2012
  • Finn Partners announces the acquisition of M. Silver, leading travel and economic development boutique, December 2012
  • Finn Partners announces the acquisition of Chicago’s Healy and Schulte, Jan 2013
  • Close of our first year with $32 million in fees, including M. Silver, representing a 36% increase over the prior year.
  • Finn Partners selected by The Holmes Report as Best Agency to Work for in North America
  • Finn Partners announces the acquisition of Widmeyer Communications and sets goal for 2013 fees of $45 million. This would represent a 40% increase over the prior year!

I understand from Scott that the collaborative culture we have built at Finn Partners was a key factor in his decision.  I care about every one of my colleagues and very much want the growth and continued exciting developments at Finn Partners to benefit each and every member of our team. Our first Finn Partners ad proudly displayed the names of the 180 people. Today our team has grown to about 280 working out of our 8 offices.  I hope that they all continue to be excited about their future with the company and believe that at Finn Partners they have the best  opportunity to do outstanding work for great clients, and that they are on a promising career path within our firm.

 

 
 

Comments OffMore Than Just a Birthday Party

For the past three years, Finn Partners Israel has had the privilege of managing all

international media for the Israeli Presidential Conference – Facing Tomorrow. It’s been a wonderful project each year, and has given us the opportunity to partner with a great domestic firm (they handle the Israeli media).

It’s also a great event for the FP Israel team, as it gives each member of the team a chance to shine.

And for me, well, it’s a nice opportunity to get back to my first love – reporting, since we produce all the news releases over the course of the three-day conference.

What made this year’s event special was that it was also a public celebration of President Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday. Barbra Streisand sang. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair paid tribute. Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone attended.

And Dr. Ruth Westheimer opined. . . about technology. . .again.

You see, every year, there is a big-time technology panel moderated by Israeli hi-tech investor extraordinaire Yossi Vardi. Every year, the panelists talk about where things are going in the world of technology. And every year, Dr. Ruth is in the audience ready to pounce when things get out of hand.

This year, with panelists including AOL’s Tim Armstrong, SalesForce.com’s Marc Benioff, Marvell co-founder Weili Dai, IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond, LivePerson CEO Robert LoCascio and others talked about how connected the whole world is, including one panelist who wondered “why is my car not my (Facebook) friend?” everyone knew that Dr. Ruth might pipe up.

But she stayed quiet until the discussion turned to the issue of viewing movies in theaters versus watching them on tablets and smartphones. At that point, Dr. Ruth had heard enough.

“I want people to go to the movies so they can hold hands,” she said.

And that struck a chord with me, given that my career began when cell phones were just coming on the scene, WordPerfect was the word processing program of choice and the world’s top PR firms didn’t even have voicemail, let alone email.

A lot has changed. But people are still people, and sometimes, it’s important to connect our hands, rather than our Bluetooth-enabled devices.

I thought about how much change President Peres has seen in his lifetime of 90 years, which obviously dwarfs the change I’ve seen. He seems to have – in his twilight years – decided to embrace technology (He has quite a strong Facebook presence and following), and I applaud him for that.

But we who worked on the conference also saw the other side to Peres, the side of him that led him to break out in a rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” at the conference-ending team meeting, for one of the team members who was celebrating his birthday that day. And the president gave a kiss on both cheeks to the woman who was responsible for the overall operational side of the conference.

It seems to me that President Peres has found a balance.

We work our tails off for our hi-tech clients in the areas of software, hardware, telecom, mobile, etc. And we make sure that we are always up-to-speed on the latest in technology, both in terms of the market and PR implementation tools.

But Dr. Ruth is right.

We also need to step away from the technology … to go out to the movies sometimes, just so we can hold hands.

 
 

Comments OffShooting for the Moon

I grew up in a family where education was the nucleus of our being. Thus, being part of the Finn Partners agency team responsible for Google Lunar XPRIZE is not only an exciting undertaking—it is one that feels natural.

My parents’ professions of teacher and school district superintendent extended past the boundaries of their day jobs and into their home. From family vacations to the family pets (often jokingly referred to as members of The Hendricks Family Zoo), nearly everything was a “field trip,” a “science project,” or otherwise “learning opportunity.” Now, I am working on the biggest science project of all – 23 teams working separately and collaboratively to reach the moon.

As a communications professional, I am excited to make the first lunar landing by a robot, built through private enterprise, national news and part of the national discussion; and to be working to inspire younger generations to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, the arts or math.

My parents always told me to shoot for the moon in every pursuit—now I really am.

 
 

1Is Privacy Dead? And Do We Even Care?

Last week, Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA employee, admitted that he was behind the recent leaks of classified NSA documents detailing the surveillance of millions of records of U.S. telecommunications and technology firms. He chose to reveal his identity because he believed that current government surveillance is “an existential threat to democracy.”

This recent exposé by Snowden and the ongoing coverage of the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continues to fuel the ongoing debate about privacy.

The first time Facebook prompted me to allow a third party app to have access to my personal information, I remember deciding to decline access and forego my use of the app. I just didn’t like the idea of giving an outside party access to information about myself. I think it was a birthday tracker.

Fast forward a few years later and I immediately scroll down to the bottom of a privacy disclaimer to allow Instagram access to all of my social media accounts . . . I know I am not the only one who does this now without giving this a second thought. Have we grown accustomed to giving up our privacy?

In a post-9/11 world, we are more comfortable with giving up privacy in exchange for perceived security. And as we become even more connected with our mobile apps and devices like the Nike+ FuelBand, the line continues to blur between which information we deem acceptable to share and which we do not. So is personal privacy dead? Do we really not care? Or do we feel like we don’t have a choice?

 
 

Comments OffWearable Technology: Geeky Gadgets or Game-Changers?

To me, there are three truths in life – death, taxes, and the fact that if you’re being parodied on Saturday Night Live, you’ve officially hit it big. One of the latest trends to be parodied on SNL is wearable technology. If you haven’t already seen the Weekend Update segment on Google Glass, I highly recommend watching it. And while it will definitely cause some laughs, the segment also raises interesting questions about wearable technology’s future in our everyday lives.

Wearable technology is a tech trend that is only getting hotter by the day. Google Glass has already spawned imitators, and rumors constantly swirl around Apple’s iWatch. Industry experts are also weighing in on the trend. Mary Meeker recently spoke on wearable technology at the WSJ All Things D conference, noting that while technology cycles usually last about 10 years, wearable technology is coming on stronger and quicker than other trends have in the past. If wearable technology takes off as some are predicting, it could have interesting implications on not only the technology industry but the larger business landscape. Here are a few reasons why.

Wearable technology has the power to change the way businesses are communicating with their customers. Imagine that someday, you’ll be walking past a business, and your wearable device automatically populates all recent news about that business. Or, deals available from that business might pop up on your device. Your social networks might even automatically update on your device, checking you in at the business. Much like how companies responded to the Internet boom by launching their own websites, or how they responded to the popularity of social media with their own Facebook and Twitter pages, they’ll need to navigate through advances with wearable technology and use it as another avenue to communicate with their customers.

Companies will also need to learn how to use all of the information about their customers that will be fed to them through wearable technology. For example, an electronics retailer might learn that every time you walk into their store, you go directly to the camera section. Or, a restaurant might find that you always come in on Tuesday nights at 7:30 for a carry out order. Smart companies will use this information to send you information, recommended products, and deals about the things you consistently show interest in – and they’ll send them to you via your wearable device, of course.

While this is just scratching the surface of the potential that wearable technology holds, it’s likely that – like many tech trends before – it will affect our lives in ways we never imagined possible. In the meantime, I’ll be watching SNL for the next Google Glass skit. Peacock. Peacock. Peacock.

 
 

14.5 Ways Social Media Compares to Romantic Relationships

Most of us by now have experienced a romantic relationship (or two, or three) – the butterflies, new experiences, the “firsts” and the inevitable heartbreak. Which oddly enough, the more I think about it, the more I’m reminded of social media. Let me explain:

  1. The “introduction” stage: When you first set your eyes on “that” guy/girl, you can’t wait to get acquainted, and learn more about them. Now let’s say a hot new platform is about to be released in beta. You know you’re signing up to be on the mailing list, hoping for one of the first invites or begging your friends who have access to “introduce” you to this new hottie. Oh, hey there, Pinterest!
  2. The “honeymoon” stage: Everything is going better than a Disney fairytale with your newfound arm candy. You count the hours until you can see them, can’t take your thoughts and eyes off of them, and are over the moon with happiness. Doesn’t this sound like your first few months with Facebook? Point made.
  3. The “this takes a lot of work” stage: Relationships require a ton of energy and time to continue growing successfully, as do your social media platforms. Just because you have built your mini follower base and become a “social celeb” of sorts does not guarantee you will stay there if you don’t continue putting in work. Your Twitter followers will drop you like a fly and your Facebook friends will start wondering why they even have you on their list. In other words, stop making an effort and your “relationship” will come crumbling down. Hello there, Xanga.
  4. The “it’s not you, it’s me” stage:As the decline of a relationship rears its ugly head, the “it’s not you, it’s me” line might be used. Whether you’re the one using the line or on the receiving end, it takes a lot to admit the relationship is no longer working. Social media works very much in the same manner. We outgrow people very quickly, what makes us think we’re not going to get sick of Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or #insertnameofanothersocialmediachannel? (Hey – remember MySpace? Me neither!)
    1. The “I have no idea why he/she broke up with me” stage: In contrast to the above stage, you might get your heart broken without a “good enough” reason or explanation. It’s best just to acknowledge the loss, pick up the pieces and know that you will someday find someone who makes you happy. Another company acquires your favorite social network and changes all the features you loved without asking? Admit it will no longer make you happy and move on. You will find your happiness eventually, I promise.
 
 

Comments OffIs the Window Opening?

As a communication professional, I have worked with healthcare companies for more than two decades. I began my career in a recession. Saw the biotechnology industry cycle up, flourish and offer unprecedented innovation to the world and implode again as the genomics bubble burst.

As we entered that recession, the promise of “better, faster, cheaper” candidate identification and development became a bit of an inside joke, and yet we moved forward.  The vision of an industry still in its infancy could not be dimmed by the disillusionment of its investors. And so the march continued.

This last recession has hit healthcare particularly hard. It takes a special kind of investor to buy “vision.” When times are tough it becomes especially difficult, and this recession, though it officially ended more than three years ago, has not been followed by a robust recovery.

Yet as we come out of the coldest spring on record, the warm weather (finally) seems to be accompanied by the faintest wisp of optimism (finally). The appetite for listening to stories about healthcare vision is picking up. We are seeing inquiries from international companies who are looking to expand their footprint into the US market – they see opportunity here for the first time in quite a while.

We know, too, that mobile health is getting ready to explode, and that the tools to help patients, their families and their providers manage illness and disease are increasingly and literally being placed at their fingertips.

People are talking and deals are getting done. Personally, I am amazed that I can write this with the personal perspective of three business cycles under my belt, and thrilled to be a part of whatever is coming next.