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.


Healthcare vs. Health Insurance

There is so much controversy about the ACA these days (and for many days leading up to now) that the impact on average people is getting lost. Everyone wants to argue their “position,” but very few of the people arguing are actually impacted by the law.

I don’t know a single person on either side of the issue who would argue that they don’t want people to have access to healthcare. But carrying an insurance card in your wallet doesn’t guarantee access.

Although it is in its early days, we are starting to see a pattern emerge that should concern us all. In order to keep costs down, many insurance plans do two things:

  1. Severely limit the number of physicians in a given network
  2. Deny in-network access to top hospitals (especially in specialty fields such as cancer). For example, Memorial Sloan Kettering currently accepts three ACA providers from NY and one from NJ. In other words, not a lot of providers.

When all of these issues were being debated, one of the criticisms leveled at the plan was that HC would be rationed. Proponents of the plan said that wasn’t so, and when the final language of the bill came out, they supported their position by saying that there was no reference to rationing in it (although, honestly, did anybody read the whole thing?).  Yet very small provider networks represent defacto rationing. If you call your doctor and he/she can’t see you for three weeks because all of the appointments are booked, your access to care is restricted. For most of the previously insured, this will come as a shock period. For both insured and uninsured alike, reduced access to general practitioners will likely translate into ER visits. Of course there is not enough data to evaluate this yet, but it’s a risk. It is also worth noting that ER usage (and the increased costs associated with it) is something that the ACA is supposed to decrease.

What we are seeing, which is something that nobody brought up for debate, is that less expensive plans offer fewer in-network providers. It stands to reason that very few people will be able to afford platinum or gold plans. This means that many of us will become part of the networks formed under silver and bronze plans. It is in these plans that network breadth, and therefore, access, is most compromised.

Similarly, before choosing a plan, evaluate the hospitals that accept it.  We are seeing a lot of information about how top medical centers are opting out or being excluded from many networks. While routine care may be best performed at a local facility, if you or a loved one becomes seriously ill, access to top centers can mean the difference between life and death.

Access, there’s that word again.


PR New Year’s Resolution? Shake Loose Your Writing

As we hit the gym, pitch the donuts and tackle that dusty David Foster Wallace novel on the nightstand, many of us also consider New Year’s resolutions for our careers. Like many other resolutions, these often stem from goal markers we equate with success—a raise, mastering social media analytics, etc. However, I challenge every communications and PR professional to embrace a deeper change at the core of our work, one that focuses on the method rather than the endgame.

Make 2014 the year you shake up your writing.

Although we are savvy public relations professionals, we often find ourselves stuck behind barriers that leave our writing flat, predictable and dry every time we pen a tweet, blog post or reporter pitch. It’s understandable. Effective writing is difficult. We also have a lot of boxes to check when we write—optimizing our releases with buzz words; using pre-approved language; hitting every data point—and it all needs to be on deadline!

We also face the unique challenge of writing for often-conflicting audiences. Even when we have a deep grasp of the readers we’re trying to reach, we must remain loyal to our client, compete with the masses on social, and/or attract the attention of a reporter or editor. These obstacles remind me of the mindsets that frequently inhibit students’ writing when they can’t see past the classroom walls and believe they are writing solely for the teacher (the “grader”) or the assignment. The air deflates from the balloon.

Fortunately, a few simple tips can go a long way to help every PR professional sweep aside these hindrances and rediscover the fresh, powerful writing abilities we’ve had all along:

  • Make it personal: To deliver what your client has hired you to do, be firm in your mission not to write solely for them. Furthermore, today’s analytics tools can tell you more about your target audience than ever before, but it goes to waste if your writing sounds the same for everyone. When you sit down to write, identify the primary target audience and imagine you are speaking to a real person in that group—a parent, a teacher, a tech junkie. Think about that individual’s opinions, needs and interests, and cater your style and content to inform and move that person.
  • Say what you mean: When you feel bogged down by too many details in a press release, for instance—the nuances of legislation, the event background, perspectives of key thought leaders—jot down one sentence that states, simply, what you are trying to say. This exercise can help you clarify your focus, and in some cases, provide the straightforward language you were searching for.
  • Take a risk: Humor, story-telling and ethical appeals are among the most effective techniques writers and rhetoricians have been using for centuries. It is risky and it may fall flat, but try it out, especially in early drafts—you may find the exercise loosening up your style and getting your rhythm going.
  • Find your inner poet: Most people think poets aim to be abstract, but poetry is actually about clarity, drawing unexpected comparisons and experimenting with language—qualities in common with great marketing copy. Vibrant prose and appropriate repetition make your language memorable, while a well-executed metaphor can help your audience draw deep logical and emotional connections to your point.

As we develop innovative strategies for pitching, placing and distributing messages, we must remember to give the same creative attention to the content of the message, itself. Help yourself by keeping this resolution through December, and beyond. (No spandex required!)

What are some of your best writing tips? Tweet your comments to #widto, and you can follow me @AKatzel.


Our View on the FDA’s New Social Media Regulations: Coloring Inside the Lines Can Be Creative, Too

For a social media professional – a breed of marketer stereotyped as young, crazy, uber-creative hipsters – I’m an odd bird. Even at a very young age, I was most comfortable coloring inside the lines. I found comfort in rules and would get upset at those who broke them – although that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the challenge of bending those rules a little bit to have some fun.

So how does this relate back to social media at Finn Partners? My team has found our little niche in the social media world – regulated industries. With recent clients spanning healthcare, insurance and finance, I was excited to see the Food and Drug Administration release a first draft of social media guidelines for pharmaceutical companies last week.

Although still vague and coming in pieces, I find it encouraging to see this gradual shift for the industry – one dominated by more type-A lawyers, regulators and red-tape procedure loving folks than almost any other industry. With these guidelines, I hope pharmaceutical companies will begin to embrace social media as a way to provide relevant, valuable content to healthcare professionals, consumers and caregivers – all while better understanding what these audiences want to learn and know about the diseases and conditions their products aim to cure, comfort and control.

Ready to jump in?

  • First, understand the guidelines. (If you haven’t read them yet, they can be found here.)
  • Next, invest in a great listening exercise. Get the right tools and do your homework to find your key audiences online – where are they talking? What are they saying?  What information can you provide better than anyone else?
  • If the above step sounds intimidating to do internally, find an agency partner who understands how to be both careful and creative. Coloring inside the lines can still be beautiful and impactful!
  • Get your ducks in a row – create processes and plans that will prepare you for the unexpected. This is where you create flow charts and utilize best practices in the banking and insurance industries and prove out how to handle PHI, off-label recommendations and community guidelines.
  • Educate as you plan. Don’t forget to invite legal and key executives to the table. If you keep all decision-makers looped in along the way, they’ll be more comfortable letting you make the leap.
  • Finally, dip that toe in the social media pool and then jump on in. The water’s fine.

Happy Festivus: A Social Media Airing of the Grievances

Hanukkah may have fallen early this year, but there’s still one other winter holiday with which I identify: Festivus.

Seinfeld fans know Festivus as an annual holiday celebrated by the Costanza family that falls each year on December 23. The holiday, created by Frank Costanza (played by the lovely Jerry Stiller), is celebrated over a meal where family members and friends alike air their grievances. And while I don’t condone the Feats of Strength element of this fictional holiday or appreciate the Festivus Pole, the Airing of the Grievances custom has — believe it or not — a social media parallel.

In the five-ish years that I’ve worked in social media, and the years beyond that in which I’ve used social platforms as a consumer, I’ve seen platforms come, platforms grow, and have even seen some platforms go. I fondly remember platforms like Yelp and Facebook in their infancy, and am comforted by their improvements and integrations ever since.

That said, like any 20-something, I have things that I want. And so, when I said that I wanted to air my social media grievances, I meant that I wanted to share with you, our readers, my list of social media features that I wish were implemented.

  • Improved On-Platform Measurement Solutions - Facebook has made great strides in its on-platform measurement solution called Insights, but even so, there’s room to grow across platforms. Twitter allows all users to access metrics via its ad dashboard, but the metrics are fairly high-level, and not super granular or ground-breaking. In 2014 and beyond, I’d love to see Twitter refine its on-platform measurement, and for platforms like Vine, Instagram and Pinterest to follow in a similar fashion. Each of the so-dubbed “emerging” platforms have strong enough business buy-in that there should be some sort of solid metrics program in place, beyond that which is available via paid efforts. In fact, such a tool would be a great way to initiate efforts with brands on the paid side of the fence.
  • Multiple Login Capability - One of my biggest pet peeves when manning social communities for a client, is when I have to constantly log in and out of handles/profiles to access their content. Third party tools are great, but it would be much more efficient if Twitter made it easier — like it is on their iPhone app — to switch between handles. Facebook does this well with page management, and it’s something that I’d love to more immediately see Instagram do, with Pinterest and Vine adapting at some point. 
  • Tweet Editing - Facebook recently brought back one of my favorite features, one that it eliminated years ago. It allows users to edit timeline posts and comments after they’ve been sent. While they do mark the post as “edited” near the timestamp, it’s a lot less embarrassing than having a glaring typo hanging in an update. I’d love for Twitter to do something similar. While it’s bad to have errors in social content, no matter the platform, I find that with Twitter being more public, it’s perhaps even worse than when this happens on Facebook. It’s rumored that Twitter is considering rolling out this functionality in 2014, and I sure hope they do, as it’ll save community managers from having to delete and repost content that may have garnered high engagement on an original posting, regardless of the error in question.
  • Instagram, Vine, and Pinterest Scheduling - Facebook and Twitter have made it super easy to schedule content ahead of time, directly on-platform. I’m eager for Instagram, Vine and Pinterest to follow suit. So much of their content relies on real-time activity, but when you’re on-site handling client visual content, sometimes it’s better to wait before posting, or to have someone else review – not super seamless with their posting protocol as it currently stands.
  • Vine Editing - I love the Vine has finally evolved and allow for videos to be saved as drafts, but I’d also love if they allowed for minimal editing. I’m not asking for uploading functionality like we have with Instagram video, but instead, just the ability to make small adjustments to videos like muting the sound, rearranging frames, and adding filter-like embellishments.
  • Tweet-level Privacy - When working in community management, it’s not unlikely that a client or former client will follow you on Twitter, or friend you on Facebook. On Facebook, the privacy settings are fairly idiot-proof, and if you’re truly concerned with your client seeing your personal content, you can prevent them from doing so without having to reject their friend request. On Twitter, however, the privacy settings are such that if you “protect” your tweets, that’s all encompassing, and not on a tweet-by-tweet basis. I think it would be a great, easy to implement (but what do I know?) feature, and allow users a bit more freedom, while allowing companies to test tweets without having to do a Photoshop mock-up.

What changes would you like to see across social media platforms in 2014? Share them here or via Twitter. And once again, Happy Festivus!


PR Lessons From Ron Burgundy and “Anchorman 2”

Full disclosure: the co-authors of this blog post are devoted fans of actor Will Ferrell and this holiday season, when many people are opening Christmas gifts and spending time with family and loved ones, you will find us at a screening of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

There’s another reason why we are excited about the release of the highly-anticipated Anchorman sequel: we are fascinated by the movie’s overwhelmingly successful PR campaign.

When you take a close look at the media and promotions, what becomes clear is that Ron Burgundy is everywhere: endorsing Dodge Durangos (which led to a jump in October sales of the pick-up truck by 59% compared to the previous year); co-anchoring a local newscast in Bismarck; unveiling the “Ron Burgundy School of Communications” at Emerson College; reporting for Canada’s The Sports Network on the Olympic curling competition; and, our favorite, interviewing Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for ESPN The Magazine.

And, let’s not overlook the remarkable branding partnerships, too: Ben & Jerry’s limited edition flavor of Scotchy Scotch Scotch; Jockey briefs; the official “Anchorman” cologne that “60% of the time, works every time”; and Riviera Imports’ Great Odin’s Raven scotch.

About the popularity of the Ron Burgundy-inspired whiskey, the CEO of Riviera Imports told The Dallas Morning News, “I’ve been doing this a very long time and I’ve never seen a reaction like this.”

We’re amazed by the reaction, too. Because, as far as we can tell, there is no sign of “Anchorman” fatigue. And when you’re promoting a major campaign for a client, you want everyone to stop and listen.

Our take-away is that “Anchorman 2” makes for a great case study of what can happen when you hit every PR and marketing best practice and execute them flawlessly. So, what are some of those best practices? Here’s what we came up with:

  • Adapt Your Message for a Wide Range of Audiences – It certainly could not have been an easy decision for the management team at the Newseum to partner with a major studio picture. The distinguished Washington, D.C. for-profit had to decide if they wanted to devote their fall season to a 2004 cult hit that mocked the journalism business, as much as it promoted it. The partnership between Anchorman 2 and the Newseum delivered a perfectly unhinged combination of hilarity and news history. Anchorman: The Exhibit didn’t just reach the 18-49 year-old males that made the first film such a hit; it draws an international audience, women, teenagers on school trips and families from the D.C.-area, and beyond. The exhibit garnered positive press for both the Newseum and the film, with media praising its innovative and bold strategy. The campaign’s dénouement was Will Ferrell’s day of interviews from behind the news desk, something the typically-skeptical D.C. press couldn’t resist.
  • Stay on Message – In this case, kudos to Will Ferrell for putting on the mustache and polyester suits for the duration of the campaign. He recently told the Boston Globe that he has stayed in character as Ron Burgundy “not because the studio required it, but because he likes it.” He’s so committed, you can’t help but become a fan. Spokespersons who demonstrate a higher level of dedication and skill in message training can elevate a campaign.
  • Play to Your Strengths – As some studios have recently discovered (i.e., “The Hangover”), doing the exact thing again and again can erode a franchise’s fan base. The Anchorman PR and marketing team has successfully walked the fine line between distinguishing the new campaign from the original, while still playing to the things that worked the first time around. They’ve largely done this on social media, and by building off of Ron Burgundy’s appeal. It’s hard to believe that YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit and Instagram didn’t even exist when the first “Anchorman” debuted in 2004. With dozens of original video clips, animated GIFs and other content, the promotion has made Ron Burgundy’s odd non-sequiturs, lack of self-awareness, and stiff but hilarious delivery of the news, work perfectly in today’s viral media landscape.

So, there’s a lot we can learn from the serious strategic thinking and creative mix of campaign elements driving the Anchorman 2 promotion. As a recent AdWeek article suggested, the film’s marketing push is not just “a sign of things to come in movie promotions,” but will likely have a much broader impact. It gets us excited thinking about what’s ahead for our own clients in 2014, and how we can put the most creative PR best practices into play.

Happy holidays, and stay classy, Finn Partners.


Something New for Your Ears

In 21st century PR, it’s hard to keep up with the news. What with the new social media announcements, industry flip-flops, online evolution, and the two-thousand new services announced every day. The capabilities of your average PR firm are also broadening dramatically. There’s social media strategy, online development, the company blog, community management, blogger relations, search engine optimization. Need I go on?

We’ve been cooking up something new at Finn Partners for the past month. A podcast. Not just a podcast, but the Finncast. It’s our attempt to dissect all of this information in our rapidly evolving industry. Our weekly podcast series is launching today, with a new episode planned every Monday. In each weekly episode we hit on some of the top news items of the week and then discuss one topic in the PR, social or digital space.

Your week-to-week co-hosts will be Alexandra Kirsch and I. And in each episode we will invite on another Finn Partners team member with expertise in the weekly topic to discuss it with us. The topic of discussion in this first week is “Who Should Manage Social Media Advertising?” In it, we are joined by Barry Reicherter, a partner of digital strategy. It’s a great discussion, where we weigh the credentials of marketing agencies, PR agencies and your community manager.

I’m passionate about podcasts and listen to about 15-20 each week, so I’m incredibly appreciative of this opportunity. I hope that passion translates to the enthusiasm we bring to each episode, and the topics we explore. Because ultimately we do this for you, not for us. We want to give you the best PR & digital podcast out there. We want to give you interesting news, knowledgeable insights and great personalities. And we want your feedback to. Tell us what you want us to discuss. Or even if you have questions for us, we’ll answer them on future shows.

You can find our podcast on iTunes, just search for Finncast, and subscribe to have each episode delivered right to you. You can also subscribe to our Podcast feed on Feedburner. Or if you just want to listen to the MP3 for our first episode you can do that as well.

I hope your ears enjoy what we’ve made here. I know we’re excited.


One Finn Partners

One Finn Partners:  Our Shared Culture and Brand.” This was the theme of a recent retreat I attended at the beautiful Hunter Mountains in the Catskills. Representing MEDIA CONNECT, I joined several other members of the Finn Partners family from all over, with representatives coming from as far as Israel and London. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know people from other offices and learn about the type of work they do, and most importantly, come together to find ways for us to all work together and make Finn Partners stronger as a whole.


Gathered in what was known as the Red Barn (pictured above), we joined together in several sessions to discuss various issues we thought could help contribute to “One Finn Partners.” In one such session, we discussed “food for thought” – each sharing a piece we had recently read that may apply to how we operate. Personally, I discovered that only 19% of US/Canadian workers actually take a lunch break and this actually causes us to be MORE stressed and therefore less productive at work.

In other sessions, we explored practical things we could do more immediately to help create this “one-team spirit of partnership.” One thing that was brought up several times was the importance of expressing gratitude, for both our colleagues and our clients. From acknowledging good clients for being great to work with, to recognizing our own colleagues for their accomplishments, we all agreed that a little thanks goes a long way.  From office “kudos boards” to email shout outs, recognition for hard work really can keep us all stay motivated when we feel overwhelmed (and are therefore not taking the aforementioned lunch break and becoming more stressed out)!

So many great ideas were shared about how our entire group can continue to grow while staying true to the vision of being a great partnership. We all agreed that Finn Partners is a different place. It’s a different culture. And though we realized that there are several other agencies out there with an international presence, ours is one that is unique. In an industry that is often cutthroat and competitive, we stand out as a place that “works hard and plays nice.”



Apologizing Executives: What’s This Got to Do with Baseball?

I heard this story last week on NPR, “Apologizing Executives: The Rise of the Emoter-In-Chief,” and it got me thinking about possible strategic advice to CEOs facing a crisis that might require an apology to his or her constituency. But it also tied into a story I heard driving home last night on ESPN Sports Radio of an interview with famous retired Philly pitcher, Curt Schilling, on why a guy like A-Rod gets hammered for his actions involving past drug use when “Big Papi,” Boston’s David Ortiz, winner of most valuable player in the World Series, and who was also accused of taking drugs in years’ past, has gone unscathed and will probably go into the Baseball Hall of Fame – which A-Rod will never be able to do, even though his numbers are much more impressive than Big Papi’s.

The reason that Curt gave was very simple: “Guys who are liked” and have great personalities, and who are wont to argue and grandstand for the sake of justification and satisfying one’s ego, can overcome some of the most dreadful predicaments or personal situations. According to Schilling, it’s that simple. It’s like giving a new stand-up comedian a break and laughing at a joke that might not be too funny, but “Hey, he seems like a good guy, give him credit for trying.”

On the other hand, those who are not beloved, who display arrogance and a “never wrong” attitude, will eventually go down in flames and rarely regain the respect of the public. I started thinking about people in recent and not so recent history like Dick Nixon (“I am not a Crook”); Dick Cheney (too many examples to choose from); Eliot Spitzer who barely apologized even to his wife for his dalliances with call girls; JP Morgan-Chase’s Jamie Dimon on the civil investigations into mortgage-backed securities; BP’s former CEO, Tony Hayward, for his botched self-pitying apology on the oil spill by saying “I want my life back!” etc.  So while some will say “Nice guys finish last,” that may only be transitory, because chances are that nice guys can come back strong and reinforce the respect of their peers and the public much easier than those arrogant bullies who finish first for the short term. Something to think about. Just sayin’.


Finn 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
  • 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.



Privacy: 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.