3 Lessons on How to Keep Clients Relevant at SXSW Interactive

A large-scale event like SXSW Interactive is often intimidating and overwhelming for any attendee, especially for companies and organizations that are pretty old-school amongst a sea of the hippest and coolest new companies. The constantly evolving world of tech can be a daunting one and it’s easy to go unnoticed when you’re in the presence of the Googles and Samsungs of the world.

This year was my first time attending SXSW on behalf of Finn client IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity. While IEEE is considerably conservative compared to the plethora of shiny new start-ups, we were able to hold our own, garnering placements in top-tier tech publications such as Mashable and Popular Science. So, how did a traditional organization like IEEE find a way stand out?

1. Focus on the hottest industry topics. It feels as though a day doesn’t pass when we don’t hear about another hack or breach of cyber security. We live in a connected world, where computers mediate our perceptions of reality, and the industry is more concerned than ever about what will happen when the world as we know it fuses with virtual reality with all the various streams of content, personal data, sensors, cameras and implantable or wearable devices. At SXSW Interactive, IEEE pulled together and hosted the Future of Identity Series, which featured a diverse roster of creative visionaries and technology innovators, and explored the impact of converging technology on our concept of self, privacy and security. In order to acquire the maximum presence possible at your clients’ panels, make sure to listen to what your industry currently cares about and capitalize on it.

2. Pick a social issue that your client can get behind. The absence of gender diversity in tech received mass attention at SXSW Interactive this year. Therefore, IEEE’s Women in Tech Summit was a perfect opportunity for IEEE to join the conversation. Attendees ranged from young female engineers to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer (and former Googler), Megan Smith, among many other notable guests from organizations such as NASA! The event was a huge success (and a blast!) and it is vital for influential organizations to make their footprint and attempt to tackle relevant social issues in their industries.

3. Bring in a celebrity or featured guest. This one may be a little more difficult, but if you have the opportunity, bring in a person of note on behalf of your company or organization. At this year’s SXSW, IEEE tapped Hugh Herr, IEEE member and head of MIT’s Biomechatronics research group, to deliver a keynote speech as part of IEEE’s Future of Identity Series. Needless to say, this garnered much attention for IEEE and really elevated the organization’s presence at SXSW.

And finally, as the last unofficial lesson from SXSW Interactive, but one of the most important of all: have fun! A lot of work goes into big events and it’s imperative to enjoy yourself and enjoy the ride – it’s over before you know it.



Finn Partners Midwest Hits the Detroit Tech Scene during TechWeek Detroit

History, opportunity, ideas, dreams, achievement, trust, warmth, creativity, quality, hard work, optimism, collaboration.

These are the words that come to mind when I think of both our recently opened Finn Partners Detroit office, and TechWeek Detroit, a weeklong event that showcases, celebrates and enables emerging innovative ecosystems in Detroit. And, not coincidentally, these are also all attributes of our host city.

We’re thrilled that, like us, TechWeek Detroit is a newbie in town from the Windy City, but the primary reason we gravitated to this event was because we share a belief in the incredible talent and opportunity that are unique to this city – especially in the realm of technology and innovation.

We’re eager to spend the next few days exchanging ideas with fellow Detroiters, learning from, and engaging with the 2,000+ attendees. With seminars on everything from How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation to The ROI of Happiness and panelists from The Atlantic, Detroit Denim and The Detroit Lions, we’re thrilled to learn more about the minds behind Detroit’s booming tech space and to contribute to the conversation.

Although there have been TechWeek events in New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, I think this one will be unique because this city and the people here are different. The history of Detroit reminds us to thrive in the face of adversity and look at a future full of opportunity. We believe there’s a lot of potential in Detroit, and in Michigan overall – this week, and the ideas and relationships that come as a result of it, are a testament to that.

If you’re attending the event let’s meet up or, follow our team’s adventures from afar on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.



Tech Anniversaries: Balancing Both Sides

In a few weeks, the city of Philadelphia will celebrate Tech Week by playing the world’s largest game of Pong, ever. For someone my age, this is an event not to be missed. I’m no gamer, but like many who grew up with Pong (then Atari), I vividly remember the endless hours spent in front of our small black and white television set. Also, let’s not forget Pong’s innovative hand-held version, Blip. Now that was modernization, 70s style.  In fact, we played these games for so long that we’d hear the “blipping” sound in our heads for hours. I think I can hear it again now…

What’s always interesting to me, as someone who identifies as a technology PR professional, is how we wrestle with celebrating an important technology milestone or anniversary, without simultaneously “looking old.”

Smart communicators know how to balance this. They can demonstrate forward-looking innovation without too much reliance on relics of the past. IBM100 was one such campaign: a creative blend of ideas, events and messaging. And just last week, the cell phone turned 40 (can you believe it?). I loved Mashable’s infographic CELL-EBRATION. It was a good mix of history and modern lifestyle changes brought about by mobile technologies. Both campaigns, while different in scope and purpose, helped mark the importance that each technology has had in our lives, in their own way.

So, is Philadelphia getting it right with a 29-story LED game of Pong? Yes, I think so. Pong may be considered ‘old’ gamer technology, but it’s nostalgic and a piece of our culture. Not to mention, Pong’s developer is a professor at Drexel University — what an honor to see his innovation on a local stage that’s much more impressive than our old 19-inch B&W television.

Finally, as a challenge to the rest of America’s cities, I dug into my old toy closet to collect a few other items I’d personally like to see honored.  Which city will be brave enough celebrate their own Tech Week with a life-size or mobile version of my big button telephone? A digital PayPass version of my coin counter? The world’s largest game of waterful ring toss? An interactive or 3D version of Spirograph?

Happy Innovation, and Happy Tech Week to the city of Philadelphia.


What 4-year Olds Can Teach Us About Tech PR

My kids teach me something new every day – little things like how to get marker off the walls, that our black Newfie looks good in pink bows, and that play-doh is one of the greatest inventions ever. But occasionally, I am amazed by what they teach me about the bigger things in life, and how they encourage me to look at my job in a whole new way.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to impart some of my 4-year old’s knowledge on to you, too. Just the other day, my daughter Maisie got a hold of my new Finn Partners post-it notes; I think we can all learn a little bit from the results.

Lesson #1: Tracing doesn’t always look the same as the original, and it shouldn’t. As hard as we try to copy where we’ve had success in the past, we shouldn’t be afraid to try new things.  Technology is one of the fastest moving industries and we must keep up. Maisie’s drawing of the hand has some good qualities on its own – it doesn’t need to look like the one I would draw. Just like a press release I write for a client shouldn’t look just like the one I wrote a month before, and no one pitch should look the same as another.

Lesson #2: It might be unclear what kind of animal this is, but that’s the beauty of it.  We all see things with a unique lens. Our individual experiences as technology consumers gives each of us a different perspective on the benefits of the technologies we represent. I use my mobile phone to distract my kids in restaurants, others use theirs to tweet about their service. When we can collaborate for our clients, bringing together our unique perspectives to achieve a common goal, we are providing them with a service they will grow to expect, and appreciate.

Lesson #3:  Happy people draw happy faces. When we care about our clients and we are passionate about the difference their technologies are making in the world, when we care about each other and when this care genuinely comes through in our work, it makes everyone involved happy. Positive attitudes beget positive results. This inevitably leads to happy people with happy faces.

Lesson #4: A rainbow looks better with many colors (or in this case, lines because she only had a pen). In tech PR, it takes many layers to build a meaningful story. Your “red” layer might be the company message, orange the products that support the message, yellow are customer use cases, and so on. The most important thing? They work together to form a timely, relevant story.

Lesson #5:  This might not look like my name to you, but it does to my 4-year old. And maybe it’s about time we all started thinking about words in a different way. Think twice before using the word “leader” or “disruptive” and write what you actually want to say. Is your client’s product important because it’s “leading?” No, it’s probably important because of what it can do – track a package, protect a computer network, or enable a text message. We must challenge ourselves, and our clients in the process, to use new words and ways of describing the most complicated products, services and technologies to make them relevant and understandable to all.


Congratulations, Helen C. Shelton!

It’s not every day that one of your colleagues is honored by an entire industry, so when that happens, it creates a truly inspirational moment for all of us at Finn Partners. Last night, Senior Partner Helen Shelton was honored at the 9th annual BCA Global Food and Wine Experience for her work to promote excellence and diversity within the wine and spirits industry. Over the years, Helen has worked with several iconic brands and has developed dozens of signature campaigns for mass market to ultra-premium labels, while pioneering the use of branded entertainment, radio and social media in the spirits marketing communications mix. So, it was only fitting that she was recognized amongst more than 300 industry leaders and influencers in accepting the 2012 Vision in Wine and Spirit Award. All of us at Finn Partners salute BCA Global for the tremendous contributions it continues to make and the opportunities it creates for professionals and students of diverse backgrounds. Moreover, we are so very proud of Helen for receiving this terrific award and for her accomplishments that inspire us all.


Hunter Mountain: A Special Place of Collaboration

Some of the Finn Partners team at the Catskill Mountain Foundation in Hunter, NY

The Catskill Mountain Foundation in Hunter, NY is an important focus and passion of Finn Partners’ Founding Partner Peter Finn. The Foundation is focused on revitalizing the village of Hunter by bringing the arts to the picturesque community nestled in the mountains. Theatre troupes, dance companies, and musicians from all over the world come to practice their art in the amazing facilities that the Catskill Mountain Foundation provides. As collaboration is the founding pillar of Finn Partners, Peter has combined his two passions—The Catskill Mountain Foundation and Finn Partners—to develop a company retreat program. The first Finn Partners Hunter Mountain Retreat took place in August 2012.

For our first retreat, we brought together 19 nominated employees of varying levels from our network of offices. Our focus: Creative brainstorming. The retreat was led by Cliff Berman, a senior partner based in NYC, and Jessica Ross, a managing partner based in D.C. Both leaders leveraged their extensive experience into a day and a half of teaching, breakout sessions and presentations. What stood out almost immediately is how strong our enthusiasm, passion and commitment to collaboration is. We started our trip with a cook-out at the Red Barn that included great food and smores on the BBQ! After dinner, Peter explained how he started his career in PR; how his family influenced his strong interests in the arts; how this passion resulted in the formation of The Catskill Mountain Foundation, and then led to Finn Partners.

Day two began with a hike led by Peter. We then dove into icebreakers, case studies, presentations and lots of chatting. We had the opportunity to attend a workshop presented by a violinist that really resonated with our group. The presenter discussed virtuosity and how many people will have technical skills, but only the ones that can truly enhance these technical notes with creative touches are the ones that are true geniuses.

At Finn Partners we strive to not only be technically proficient, but also to demonstrate how we are more than just collaborative PR practitioners. We come from a rich heritage in the arts and will bring creative solutions to our clients that are unparalleled. Spending time at Hunter with our colleagues was a truly rich experience. Taking the time to learn more about our colleagues and their relationship with PR, their outside passions and their skills is crucial to building teams.

Due to Peter’s commitment, we are pleased to share that this wonderful retreat program will be continued twice per year and will be dedicated to supporting and expanding collaboration and partnership.


Hotels.com Infographic Cited as Exemplary Work, According to Leading PR Publications

Hi – I’m Meghan Callaghan and I work in the Consumer | Technology group in the New York office. I’m also one of the members of the hotels.com account team.

Biannually, hotels.com puts out hotel price information in their HPI (Hotel Price Index), a regular survey of hotel prices in major city destinations across the world.

Last March, Finn Partners decided to add an infographic (see the bottom of this post) to the already growing list of multi-media resources that supplement HPI survey data and worked with Randy Krum of InfoNewt to develop a visual which helped map complex data in an easy-to-read way. At the time of HPI, the infographic was shared around the web and showed the news release data in a quick, visual way.

Now, months later, Ragan’s PR Daily and the PR Newswire blog have both cited the HPI infographic as an exemplary use of an infographic, with Ragan’s PR Daily calling it a “beautiful example.”

In addition, PR Newswire’s Beyond PR Blog stated, “Hotels.com replaced lengthy lists of the top travel destinations by tapping into our natural visual associations and incorporating it into the graphic you see embedded in this post, and incorporating pricing data for each market.”

Finn Partners strives to help clients tell their stories in meaningful, multi-faceted ways. By supplementing news with infographics, videos and imagery, we aim for cross-platform promotion and increased visibility, a tactic that indeed works. In fact, according to a recent analysis of press releases by PR Newswire, the inclusion of multimedia assets significantly improves the number of views a message generates.

As always, we at Finn Partners are utilizing as many resources as possible for our clients to shine in the media!