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 OffFinn for the Win

Over the the past 18 months we’ve been recognized by the industry by winning a number of awards, nationally and regionally as well. In 2012, we won Best New Agency, followed by the Best Agency to Work For in 2013. And while the industry’s awards season is winding down, this past week has showered us with additional awards, reflecting great work and recognition as a Firm of the Year at the PR News Platinum PR Awards.

In accepting these most recent awards, it was paramount to highlight that each award won is a result of the fantastic team that we’ve built at Finn Partners—300 incredibly accomplished staff members.

On top of our agency-level Firm of the Year win, we also won first place in the Blog category for our work with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, as well 5 other honorable mentions for:

  • Event Marketing, “Bedventure” for Hotels.com
  • Global PR: A Different Future, Victims of our Own Narratives: Israeli-Palestinian School Book Study Addresses Long-Standing Controversy of the Middle East for Finn Partners’ Global Issues group
  • Media Event: “Defrost Your Swimsuit,” handled by M. Silver for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Public Affairs: Up to Us Campaign, a college student competition on debt and deficit issues, developed by Widmeyer Communications for the Peterson Foundation
  • Press Release: “Look Ma, No Hands’: the Future of Autonomous Cars for Finn Partners’ IEEE client

I’m so proud of these latest accomplishments and the outstanding work we continue to do for our clients. These past 18 months we have achieved so much, and I thank each and every one of my Partners for making this possible now, and for many more awards to be garnered in the years ahead.

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Comments OffPrivacy: Yet Another ACA Casualty

Maybe all the technical glitches in the ACA registration process were put there on purpose.WellnessWed After all, if it takes you hours to get through a process that was supposed to take about 25 minutes, you’re a lot less likely to read the fine print. If you live in Maryland, for example, that means glossing over, among other things, the following:

“Should you decide to apply for health coverage through Maryland Health Connection, the information you supply in your application will be used to determine whether you are eligible for health and dental coverage offered through Maryland Health Connection and for insurance affordability programs. It also may be used to assist you in making a payment for the insurance plan you select, and for related automated reminders or other activities permitted by law.  We will preserve the privacy of personal records and protect confidential or privileged information in full accordance with federal and State law. We will not sell your information to others.  Any information that you provide to us in your application will be used only to carry out the functions of Maryland Health Connection. The only exception to this policy is that we may share information provided in your application with the appropriate authorities for law enforcement and audit activities.” 

Privacy concerns have been raised by critics, and summarily dismissed by supporters since the ACA was passed more than three years ago. But it turns out the concerns are very real.  If you choose to comply with the law and need to rely on the exchange for that compliance your personal information will be shared with “appropriate authorities and auditors.”

Hmmmm, just who are these appropriate authorities anyway?  Will “they” be allowed access to your personal  health data? Your payment  information? Your prescriptions?  Your mental health status and history? Some of it? All of it? Any of it? Will you be notified?  Do you have a choice? Can you say no?

I don’t think so.

I find it difficult to resolve the dissonance that I experience when I think about this – complying with the law means I give up my privacy to anyone in authority deemed appropriate, for reasons that are not delineated. If I don’t comply with the law I pay a fine but retain my privacy. I can’t have both – participation and privacy, and this feels punitive.

For more on this topic, click here.

 
 

Comments OffStorify as a Social Curation Tool

Social curation is an emerging trend in the social space. Tools like Storify allow users to crowd-source through public social postings — either during events, or on a daily basis — and allow you to publish those posts, formatted to flow like a story.

This takes storytelling to a whole new level with user generated content versus brand-owned content.

Common uses of Storify include:

  • Collecting and recaping tweets during Twitter Chats
  • Documenting live events as they happen, like the recent fires on the New Jersey Shore boardwalk, or the tragic events at the Washington Navy Yard
  • Collecting responses to announcements
  • Collecting news stories from various outlets
  • Showcasing speaker quotes from conferences

Just like the platforms it pulls from, Storify is not without engagement features. In fact, stories can also be liked, commented on and embedded, encouraging sharing and open dialogue.

Storify co-founder Burt Herman, said, “People have used it to capture mentions about their products. People also use it to push things out there—to say, ‘Hey, tell us what you think about this, use this hashtag, we’ll use your best responses, and put them online.”

Watch Storify in action with the following examples:

-       Fire Blazes Through Seaside Park, N.J. Boardwalk via The Weather Channel

-       Twitter Files for IPO via CNBC

-       Trending Topics + News via Dieste

-       #INBOUND13 by Valentina Falcinelli

Storify allows users to search public updates across platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Flickr. Once you’ve decided which tweets to pull and showcase, you can add context by adding in your own commentary to guide the story. Even The White House uses Storify as a behind-the-scenes tool, and as a way to social disseminate information.

We tend to rest easy knowing that almost everything published in cyberspace lives there for eternity, but in case that’s not comforting enough, you can export stories as PDFs for archival.

I’m excited to see how Storify grows, and how it impacts the way people collect and share social experiences.

Have a great Storify case study, or know of a brand who uses it especially well? Share it with us in a comment, or via Twitter (@FinnPartners)!

 
 

Comments OffAround the World in Seven Days

I know a lot of people who have an aversion to business travel, but this week I’m taking a trip that even the most seasoned frequent flier would envy. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime voyage around the world, unfolding over seven days.

My first destination is Eastern Europe, where you will find me walking through the hallways of the historic Livadia Palace in Yalta, Ukraine – the location where, back in 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin convened to establish a plan for rebuilding post-war Europe.

Then, I will be off on a journey to the Middle East, joining a group of artists and advocates devoted to finding a pathway to co-existence between Israel and Palestine. The timing of this trip coincides with the renewed hope emerging from the current peace talks. I know this trip will inspire me and many others to take action for peace.

At the end of the week, my itinerary will take me to Japan, the home of my ancestors, to experience the performance of a Shinnyo Buddhist lantern floating. Lantern floatings are an ancient tradition in many cultures, where participants float lanterns on water to honor those who have dedicated their lives to creating peace. There have been few times in my career when my cultural heritage crossed over into my professional life, so I’m really looking forward to this leg of my journey.

There is a lot of work and many miles ahead, but you won’t find me packing my passport or suitcase for this week-long trip. All I will need is my computer to put me instantly alongside our clients in some of the most interesting parts of the world. This sort of whirlwind excursion is typical for those of us at Finn Partners – and especially for our Global Issues practice. Our client work takes us on these extraordinary journeys all the time.

Like the lantern floating, the first “Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace,” which is taking place right here in New York City’s Central Park on Sunday, Sept. 22. Just imagine Trump Rink transformed into a large reflecting pool filled with thousands of lit paper lanterns set afloat throughout the day and into dusk. It’s an image that immediately transports you to another, more peaceful place. The Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace will bring Buddhist teachings to the uniquely international, interfaith and multicultural setting of New York City, and inspire us to hope for a more harmonious and peaceful world. It’s something all of us think about during this month of anniversaries and new seasons.

So while I would love to bank the frequent flier miles, I am grateful for the chance to revel in these journeys with my clients while sitting right at my desk.

 
 

Comments OffFast Food, Prosperity and Healthcare: An Opportunity

This infographic is provocative, and yet you’re probably wondering what in the world the recent controversies over fast food worker pay have to do with a health and wellness blog series. The answer is simple: We know that as workers move up on the socioeconomic ladder and become more financially secure, they also become healthier.

Image Courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)

So, am I headed somewhere in the direction of “give it up McDonalds, and pay your
people more?” Not exactly. Instead, I propose something a little bit more ambitious. A plan that could help demonstrate the power of the market to truly help people come together and do better for themselves and their families.

To start the conversation, this infographic is unfortunately accurate, and the truth lies in our recovery from the Great Recession. Historically, these jobs were intended to be entry-level stepping-stones, corresponding to the profile of the worker on the left. However, our recovery has been dominated by part-time job opportunities (often two or three), with many people forced to accept them in lieu of work more suitable to their experience and expertise. This is the tragedy.

The intended fast food worker does receive benefit from his/her fast food job at its current pay rate in the form of spending money, responsibility and work experience. But reality has changed and the actual worker needs more to support his/her financial needs and goals. This is not surprising given that the current worker most likely has responsibility for supporting himself and his family. And no, he can’t do that on minimum wage.

Still, there will be unintended consequences from doubling the minimum wage. Consumers will bear the brunt of the increased labor cost, and if things cost proportionally more, how much does that benefit the worker in real terms? Additionally, except for the few who aspire to management positions, these jobs lead nowhere, so the linked issues of upward mobility, increased prosperity and better health for working people get lost.

We can do better.

Let’s reach out to the fast food industry and ask them to form a job training foundation for employees.  There is vast evidence to suggest that there are jobs for people with specific skills – nurses are in demand, for example, as are home health workers and physical and occupational therapists. Technology jobs are available for those with training, as well as jobs for special education teachers and early childhood education specialists. Work is out there, but our unemployed workforce is right now being squashed – caught between the elimination of the jobs they used to hold, and their overwhelming inability to train for new positions because they have to work three part-time jobs to support their families.

It would be a powerful thing for McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and Arby’s, for example, to unite.  That unification would fund the “Successful Lives – Healthy Lives” job training program, where every part-time worker would have access to job counseling and training, providing the opportunity to move up the ladder, fuel their family’s prosperity and increase their health and wellness outcomes. Modest quarterly bonuses might be offered for each module of study an employee completes. Also, because they are working part-time, these workers are more likely to have time to actively participate in training.

Universal participation among the fast food industry would take a bite out of annual profits, that is true, but over time the results would be stunning:

  • The intended worker profile (the worker on the left) would once again likely greet you at the drive-in window – lowering youth unemployment
  • Displaced and disenfranchised workers would have greater access to upwardly mobile jobs, largely returning fast food employment to the stepping stone job it was intended to be
  • Financial success will translate into a healthier work force, and,
  • The .99 cent value menu will still be .99 cents
 
 

Comments OffThe Stomach and the Brain: New Considerations for Addressing Mental Wellness Issues

An article recently came out in The Verge. It discusses a potential link between digestive health — specifically probiotics – and mental health. The article opens with a dramatic example. The young woman profiled recovered completely from both severe ADHD and OCD after a physician, consulted by her parents, linked digestive dysfunction with a downturn in her mental health, and placed her on a probiotic regimen. While there should probably be a “warning – results not typical” label on the opening paragraphs, the concept is intriguing.

It certainly made me run for the extra large bottle of gummy probiotics hidden in the back of my medicine closet. Slightly dusty, the family-sized container was purchased about a year ago after a bout with some digestive discomfort. Coming home from the pharmacy I made a solemn personal vow to use the probiotics to ensure such an episode did not reoccur. The vow quickly faded when I decided I did not like the flavor of said gummies and the discomfort disappeared anyway.

Yet The Verge article offers a lot to think about. It discusses the frequent links between mental illness and digestive health. For example, depression is often linked with loss of appetite, and anxiety often causes nausea and diarrhea. This knowledge, the article states, made physicians and scientists think of a one-way line of communication, brain to digestive system. Instead, the young woman’s story (anecdotally) and research currently being evaluated around this topic suggest two-way communication. This means the digestive system also “communicates with,” and therefore can, affect the brain.

The article goes into a lot more detail than what I’ve outlined here (click the link above to read the full text). The gist is, however, that there may be another way to mitigate the effects of the mental and emotional challenges so many of us face in the course of our high-stress, high paced lives. Every “system” requires maintenance. So too, probiotics, the healthy bacteria, that live in our guts, require maintenance and monitoring to maintain the digestive system’s contribution to whole body wellness. From there, it’s not a huge leap to infer that if this does not occur other systems might be negatively impacted, including the central nervous system.

The impact of these connections require extensive additional research. Still, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to show up at your next wellness exam armed and ready for a conversation with your physician.

  • Ask about their opinion of probiotic use, and why
  • Talk about any changes in your perceived mental health since your last visit
  • If you are struggling with depression or other mental challenges, keep a symptom log, noting digestive troubles in relation to a worsening of symptoms
  • Talk about your digestive concerns and ask about solutions that can support digestive health in addition to a probiotic regimen

There is so much more to learn about this area of research but it certainly adds to our understanding of how our whole selves (mind, body and spirit) are inextricably linked.

This makes it increasingly more dangerous to reach out to medical doctors situationally, asking them to treat isolated symptoms; and critically important to learn the most effective means to maintain and preserve the whole package using all the tools we have at our disposal.

 
 

1Long Live Print Media

Last week Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.comannounced his purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million in cash. Many see this move bringing us one step closer to the foretold “death of print media.” That’s not surprising given Bezos once said in an interview, “There is one thing I’m certain about: there won’t be printed newspapers in twenty years.”

I’ve reluctantly come to accept that Jeff Bezos may be right about this. I still unfold the New York Times every weekend to do some reading, but more and more of my news updates come from Internet sources, like Twitter and LinkedIn. Like many people today I’m consuming more information digitally, and sharing it instantly with my friends and followers at the push of a button.

That being said, I still have a hard time accepting the notion of a future without print. Despite all the reading I’ve been doing lately with my Kindle, I cannot see a future without physical books. For one thing, it’s hard to read on a digital device because of the eye strain caused by the back light. But in my opinion the experience of reading printed text is superior regardless.

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s something endearing about a physical book – the musty smell of its worn pages, the highlighted passages and notes scribbled in the margins, the way it sits on a bookshelf like a trophy. My favorite books are more than just files saved on a device or in the cloud. They’re souvenirs from a trip I once took when I experienced another world through the eyes of a narrator. I keep them safe and bound on bookshelves and coffee tables for everyone to see.

Sure, I’ll continue to read A Game of Thrones on my tablet while I take the subway to work, or retweet an article about an Internet mogul buying a media company. But when I get home and feel nostalgic, I know I’ll find a hardcover copy of Pride and Prejudice to reminisce with.

 
 

Comments Off6 Seconds or Less

Since its launch in January, Vine has been gaining popularity amongst brands and everyday users. The Twitter-owned app, which recently launched its Android version, presented even more of a micro-content challenge than its parent company: creating quality video content with no more than 6 seconds of footage.

Like any other social media manager, my curiosity was piqued from a business perspective. I wondered how brands would showcase their products creatively, and of course, how we could implement Vine into our social practice.

And, as it happened, brands (Oreo Cookie, Urban Outfitters, Lowe’s, GE, PlayDoh and America’s Test Kitchen are all good examples) flocked to Vine, using it as a creative direct marketing tool.

One major misconception about Vine — and something that is being more widely dispelled as Vine artists like Meagan Cignoli rise to cyberfame –  is that making a great Vine video is easy.

Believe it or not, a good Vine video takes a great deal of planning and creative conception.

As my team learned last week when creating a Vine for one of our clients, the press-to-record, stop-motion nature of Vine will throw perfectionism into overdrive. With Vine, all footage must be recorded in real-time, and while they recently launched a “ghost” feature that allows Vine users to see their last captured frame, the lack of editing capabilities means that if even one detail is out of place, you’ll have to re-do the entire thing.

Luckily, the Vine they (the amazingly clever duo of Austin Weedfall and Lauren Gray) produced turned out really well, and we even captured some behind the scenes photos (courtesy of our in-house editor, Eric Russoniello) to give a little glimpse into the Vine creative process.

 

 

 
 

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.