Highwire Celebrates 10 Years of “Elevating the Story”

At Highwire, we believe a great story can change the world. That first line of our mission statement is as true today as it was ten years ago when we started the company. A lot can change in a decade – goodbye server closet, hello cloud; hasta la vista run of the mill analytics, hola AI; so long to wars waged solely on the battlefield, welcome WannaCry and Not Petya. Not to mention voice assistants, autonomous vehicles, drones and the meteoric rise of the FAANG. The one truth that never changes is that the story behind the companies, industries and trends matters. It is the instigator for change, the record of progress and the difference between merely showing up and actually winning the race.

PR and media have also evolved significantly over the past decade. As attention spans shrunk so did article length and the media universe. At the same time social channels created new opportunities to connect directly with constituents and communities of influencers evolved in every category. Today most everyone has their favorite podcasts for work and play. Every company is a content company. Media companies are attempting to reinvigorate C-level events and the mighty few are bringing back long form behind paywalls. Through it all, Highwire has remained tenacious, agile and creative to help disruptive companies tell their story to populations that matter for them.

As we celebrate Highwire’s 10th anniversary, we pay respect to the story itself. We will explore and appreciate together the topics, the journalists and the mediums. Throughout 2018, Highwire will be hosting a series of media panels and events that bring together the sharpest tech storytellers to discuss what the next 10 years will bring for PR, journalism and the media landscape at large. In May, journalists and PR peers gathered to examine trends like the future of work and the evolving image of Silicon Valley at our San Francisco panel event. Our next event on June 27th will bring together media leaders in New York City for discussion of the Evolution of the Story.

Stay tuned on our blog for insights from Highwire’s subject matter experts, who will look ahead to the future of the security, enterprise, consumer tech and AI sectors in our 10th anniversary series. As trends, technologies and trust continue to shape the intricate relationship between PR and the media, you can be sure of one thing: telling a compelling story will be as important 10 years from now as it is today.  

Highwire Celebrates LGBTQ Pride Month

Why do the colors of the rainbow signify the gay pride flag?

This question will kick off Highwire’s in-office LGBTQ trivia night later this month in San Francisco, as employees come together to take a break from the grind and celebrate Pride Month with one another. After learning more about LGBTQ history through a team trivia challenge, the San Francisco office will head down to Ginger’s for a happy hour at the historic gay bar.

This is just one of the events Highwire employees will take part in during the agency’s LGBTQ Pride Month celebration across the San Francisco, New York, Boston and Chicago offices in June. Highwire started off the month by changing its logo in order to showcase the company’s allyship with the LGBTQ community and to raise awareness both within the agency and across its network. We will launch social media campaigns throughout the month to spotlight employees’ thoughts on inclusion and being an ally.  Employees will also take part in other pride-themed events throughout the month, including pride-themed trivia in Chicago and after-hours drinks and pride trivia at Club Cafe in Boston. Highwire’s New York employees will take part in a group walk across The Highline wearing the colors of the rainbow flag.

“At Highwire, we are allies to all communities and embrace the talent and perspective they bring to the table,” said Andrew Robinson, head of HR at Highwire. “Our core value of curiosity encourages us to be brave debaters and unafraid to question the privilege, unconscious bias and prejudice that exists in society to ensure a safe space within Highwire and infuse awareness throughout our culture.”

Stay tuned for photos from Highwire’s June events and follow the agency on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for more LGBTQ social campaigns throughout June.

Meet Bob Finlayson, Highwire’s New EVP

When we first met Bob Finlayson about four years ago, we immediately recognized his gift for inspiring leaders and growing businesses through storytelling. Initially, he spearheaded our emerging leaders management training program, and subsequently our strategic offsites. With each session and interaction, he delivered valuable insights, from how best to assess current and prospective resources to staying ahead of the marketplace and anticipating client needs.

Bob has built his career by implementing effective marketing, branding, public relations, communications and social media strategies for a diverse range of companies that disrupted markets through technology. For example, he worked with Microsoft to help build Xbox into a category-disrupting brand at a time when Sony and Nintendo dominated the market. The keys to success were combining an influencer program with creativity and hard work across events as well as a proactive media plan. It also didn’t hurt that he had, “a fantastic client who was willing to take intelligent risks and run with our ideas,” he says. Additionally, Bob’s experience spans an impressive list of major brands and startups, including HP, SAP, Visa, Adobe, to name a few.  

With this post, we both welcome Bob and introduce him to you. Here he explains his vision in a short but important Q&A that reveals what’s most important to him as he dives into his new role.  

You’re going to be working on expanding our new products and services area to meet client needs. What areas do you feel are most critical? What are the big opportunities and why?

First, I would say that effective measurement — the ways that we demonstrate the value of what we do — continues to be one of our most critical needs. But more broadly, we know that the media landscape is changing, as is the way in which people interact with news, information, advertising and brands. We intend to be on the forefront of the communications and marketing strategies that reflect these changes by telling stories in new ways, while continuing to help clients achieve their business goals. My goal is to ensure we stay ahead of these changes so we can continue to meet and exceed our clients’ needs and expectations.  

What are some broad goals you have for yourself and the agency?

I’m focused on three main goals where I believe I can make the most impact:  

  • To expand our new services capabilities and revenue by building new products to meet the needs of a changing communications landscape.
  • To support and cultivate our agency’s culture so that we continue to attract and retain the best talent in the industry.
  • To identify and engage with the companies that want to change the world.

Summarize some key learnings/skills from your background working with tech companies and startups that ultimately prime you for success in this role.  

I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to work with some of the world’s leading technology brands and with some of the most innovative startups across just about every market category. This includes working with many tech visionaries. That means that I bring a depth and breadth of experience and expertise to client issues, challenges and opportunities. My background as a journalist and marketer enables me to help clients tell impactful stories for earned, owned, paid and shared media. I’ve leveraged the most effective marketing tools to project those stories with the objective of building brands and driving the customer behaviors that achieve client business goals.

Finally, tell us more about your passions or hobbies. How do you spend your spare time?

Technology, art and engineering are my passions, but mostly I think of myself as a futurist. Over the past 20 or so years, I’ve had the opportunity and the privilege to work with some amazing visionaries (Bill Gates and Elon Musk), some extraordinarily imaginative companies (Cisco, Infoseek, FireEye and more) and to launch some incredible products (Tivo, Hotwire and more). This has given me the chance to see technology trends as they were developing, which feeds into my other passion — science fiction writing. My first novel was Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection, which is the first in a four part series. I’m working on the second book now. It’s set in San Francisco, and is about the coming biotech revolution. You can also find a piece I wrote for NPR station KQED here that discusses our quest to extend the human lifespan.

My other hobbies include sailing, scuba diving, photography, international travel and home repair. Okay, the last one might not be so much of a hobby as a necessity.  

Highwire Named a Best Agency to Work For by The Holmes Report

By Andrew Robinson

Highwire has been ranked by The Holmes Report as the No. 3 Best Agency to Work for in our category — and I could not be more proud! At Highwire, we prioritize a strong company culture that fosters a positive, impactful and inclusive employee experience for nearly 100 employees. Being selected as a Best Agency to Work For is an impressive benchmark. It allows us the opportunity to showcase our vibrant culture within an industry whose primary asset remains its people.

Highwire’s culture and core values are guided by The Highwire Way, which embodies an environment of critical thinking, creative ideation and agile, tenacious execution. This philosophy is engrained in everything we do and enables us to create award-winning programs. It drives our high-touch focus on professional development to give every team member the opportunity to grow and develop. We’re committed to providing the tools they need to succeed through mentorship, quarterly goal setting, continuous coaching conversations with managers and a robust training program that includes a dedicated writing coach.

The Highwire Way defines our focus on balance and flexibility — team members can work from their location of choice, be it the apartment or a coffee shop, each Friday, and participate in wellness events like in-office yoga and small group classes at popular fitness studios.  The Highwire Way also inspired our “No Multitasking Manifesto,” through which we commit to fewer, focused meetings and to honor deep work without distractions.  

The Highwire Way pushes us to work toward a culture where every team member is valued for their unique perspective and life experiences. This year, we embarked on an intensive four-part diversity and inclusion training initiative. Employees took a break from their busy work days to join in an open dialogue about personal backgrounds and experience, effective communication techniques and tools that can be used to better understand our colleagues and our clients.

Highwire Inclusion and Diversity Training

One of my favorite projects that The Highwire Way has inspired is our H-Wow video series. In an effort to ensure employees feel appreciated and recognized for their work across all levels, we created an entertaining way to recognize employees with a “Weekend Update” twist. This internal video newscast celebrates employees and their hard work through peer nomination, and regularly publishes to the agency’s YouTube channel after being shared agency-wide.

From office museum trips to our annual Kickoff event that brings together employees from our San Francisco, New York, Boston and Chicago offices, our “work hard/play hard” mentality has led to a lot of fun times at Highwire. I am honored that our agency has been recognized for the hard work we do every day to create an environment where each employee feels valued and engaged.

Breaking Down Barriers with Diversity and Inclusion Training

Highwire Inclusion and Diversity Training

I bet you I’m the only one who…

“Was raised by a single mother.”

“Fell asleep on national television.”

“Travelled to Washington D.C. on a bus just for the Women’s March.”

These quotes do not come from a company happy hour or conversation across our internal communication platforms. This was just a warm-up and quick exercise from our four-part diversity training at Highwire PR — a new initiative we are setting off on to break down barriers and better gain self-awareness of personal perspectives.

“As Highwire grows, we want to continue our focus on our people to better understand the team members and clients we work with,” said Andrew Robinson, head of human resources at Highwire. “The program’s objective is for us all to learn to leverage unique characteristics, perspectives and life experiences that define us as individuals to ensure an environment where all team members feel valued, engaged and supported to reach their full potential.”

Robinson added, “This diversity and inclusion initiative will not just be a series of training sessions, but will also include a roadmap to incorporate into our overall way of life at Highwire led by our inclusion team.”

Not only can training help our organization as a whole, it is now a component of building a stronger community and environment for those at the agency.

Going for our goals  

For our diversity training across all of our Highwire offices, we called in Lia Shigemura from Enact Leadership, a women-owned leadership development firm in Berkeley. Shigemura encouraged us to stay engaged and “practice digital detox,” meaning no electronics were allowed — thus forcing us to stay in the here and now. We also made sure we stretched out of our comfort zones in order to gain new perspectives and learn from different experiences.

And that’s the purpose of the “I bet I’m the only one who…” opening exercise. While it was a fun way to break the ice and share some laughs, it was the perfect segue into a discussion of our overall diversity and inclusion goals, and how they connect back to the principles and success of Highwire. At our agency, new perspectives fuel creativity, help us grow and evolve and make us better suited to help our wide range of clients (and our own team too!).

From SAE’s to interns — a positive experience overall

Although it can be difficult to break away from our busy schedules, the feedback from our first training session was overwhelmingly positive. Colleagues across all levels — including our principals — sat together to discuss what makes us unique and how we can better ensure that all voices and perspectives are valued at our agency.

“While Highwire is a close team, this training is sparking conversations that let us see our colleagues’ perspective,” said Ben Liwanag, an account associate at the agency.

Other team members found it beneficial to sit down with colleagues and learn from their different experiences.

“It was a nice change of pace for this training to look outward and focus on the people we work with, rather than to be solely focused on our own work and clients,” said Natalie Pacini, a senior account executive for Highwire. “I think investing in this type of development will have big payoffs down the road for how teams interact and how successful we are as a whole.”

On the road to a more inclusive agency

At Highwire, we have people who have come to the agency from all walks of life. We want to foster fulfilling careers, while still catering to those with differences, whether that be work experience, skill sets, religion, race or passions.

We want to be proactive about our diversity and inclusion strategy, which is why we still have three training sessions to go. From there, we will make sure we are actively pursuing our goals and our guiding principles that help everyone at the agency feel welcome.

After all, at Highwire, we are our people.

If you want to be part of something different, consider joining our team as a Highwire Walker. Learn more about our opportunities here.

Inner Circle Labs Joins Highwire PR

By Julie Crabill

I founded Inner Circle Labs in 2010 with one goal in mind — to change the way people think about and do PR. Eight years later, I’m pleased to say our team has done just that. We’ve created smart, strategic programs, we’ve been an honest and transparent partner, we’ve achieved amazing success and tackled incredible hurdles together. We’ve launched hundreds of startups, worked with partners through rebrands and countless acquisitions, and been an extension of their team as we’ve grown into a team of our own. We’ve built a reputation I’m so proud of, but I’m even more proud and thrilled to share that Inner Circle Labs has been acquired by Highwire Public Relations – a fast-growing tech PR firm that is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary in 2018. Highwire has offices in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and Boston – and with the new infusion of talent from Inner Circle Labs, will be a team nearly 100 people strong.

I met Kathleen Gratehouse and Emily Borders in 2009 – and they’ve been friends, supporters, and mentors to team ICLabs ever since. Like us, Highwire takes a new world stance on the old world business that is public relations. They create integrated communications programs for the most interesting and disruptive technology companies in the world – ranging across enterprise, cloud, security, consumer, digital commerce, digital health, and robotics/ML/AI. They consistently win all of the awards that matter – like being named PRWeek’s Small Agency of the year in 2016 and a top place to work by PR News in both 2014 and 2015. And all of these awards are extremely well deserved. Highwire is the agency I’ve most strived to imitate in the eight years since founding Inner Circle Labs – and I guess they took that imitation as flattery based on today’s news.

When considering a place that would not only allow the killer Inner Circle Labs team to grow but to thrive, I looked for an equally amazing team that they could become part of with an organically similar culture. I also looked for leaders in which I could see philosophical alignment – Kathleen, Emily, and Carol Carrubba were a natural fit. Our mutual fandom of each other’s organizations has made bringing the two teams together feel like stars aligning.

Over the last year, the Inner Circle Labs team and our fascinating set of clients have reached an inflection point – a place where access to greater reach, size, and scope will help everyone involved pour gasoline onto their naturally-occurring fires.

Team members who have experienced rapid career and personal growth will now benefit from a larger organization and team. They’ll be given new ways to learn – and people to learn from – as well as improved tools and training options. And, all of this will be possible without losing the tight knit, entrepreneurial workplace they’ve come to love at Inner Circle Labs.

Clients who have become global brands and seen massive growth will now benefit from new capabilities like content programs and influencer marketing along with teams in New York, Chicago, and Boston. They’ll see an even larger pool of the PR businesses’ best minds focused on critical thinking, creative ideation, and tenacious execution on their behalf. All without losing the core team of people who deeply understand their business that are delivering amazing, impactful work for them every day.

Speaking of clients and passion, as part of this news, I’ll be hanging up my day-to-day PR hat in late January when I transition into a strategic advisor role for Highwire. This will allow me to be part of this journey even as I pursue something that has become a major passion of mine – joining the talented team at Descartes Labs in Santa Fe, New Mexico as their CMO.

This could not have happened without the tenacious, hard-working, kickass team at Inner Circle Labs. What we’ve built together is powerful and the equally fantastic team at Highwire sees the value in it. Thank you for putting your heart and soul into this – the best is yet to come.

In the coming weeks, we’ll quickly become one team – team Highwire. Our shared focus on being curiosity-driven entrepreneurs has made this a natural pairing and will lead to even more success in the years ahead. While Jonathan (ICLabs’ co-founder and COO) and I will move on from the day-to-day, everyone else in the company is joining Highwire and we look forward to a smooth and easy transition for the team and clients alike. Our priority is to continue our shared focus on creating a great place to work where creative and critical thinking along with strategic advice are the cornerstones of every client program. Here’s to the next decade of domination as Team Highwire!

Oh The Places You’ll Go! Our Year in Review

One of the core values here at Highwire is balance. We give 110% at our jobs, but we know that time needs to be spent on what matters outside of the office: friends, family, and personal interests. 

In 2017, our dedicated PR professionals found their balance — focusing their free time and energy on trips to France and Canada, welcoming new furry friends, and walking down the aisle. It certainly was a year of going places, growing families, getting hitched — and getting the ring! 

We’re excited for what 2018 has in store, so we wanted to reflect on all of the exciting milestones our employees have achieved this year. And if you’re looking for opportunities in the New Year, see if the Highwire family is right for you. 

A Puppy and a Proposal: Megan said “yes” — to a new puppy and her boyfriend’s proposal.

A Proposal with a View: Tricia got engaged in beautiful St. John, Canada. 

From Bridesmaid to Bride-to-be: Natalie’s two-part vacation (where she was a bridesmaid in her BFF’s wedding) ended in a big surprise!

Happiness in the Hudson Valley: Allie’s proposal overlooked the beautiful Hudson River in New York.

Sunny Celebration: Nicole’s August wedding was sunny and sweet.

#MomBoss: Christine welcomed Josephine (right) who gets along quite nicely with her big sister Kate.

Light Up Your Life: Patrick’s redecorating skills helped him brighten up his year.

#Travika2019: Erika’s proposal was complete with a picnic and private serenade.

Mommy & Me: Jennifer and her son Xavier took a quick getaway to Nice, France.

The Adventure Begins: Andrew’s stunning California wedding left him relaxed and recharged.

Trendwatch 2017 – Engaged: Morgan joined the “just-got-engaged” club in December.

The Next Journey: Ben’s wedding in a redwood grove in Oakland was full of love and whimsy.

Giving Thanks: The Highwire Way

 

At Highwire, Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday – and for good reason! It offers our teams a chance to step away from work to cook and share a meal together. This year each of our offices celebrated Thanksgiving in different ways, but each meal had a few things in common: laughter, gratitude and plenty of turkey.

Check out these photos to see how our San Francisco, Chicago and New York offices celebrated Thanksgiving.

 

Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

SF Office North Bay fundraiser

by Tricia Nugent

At Highwire one of our core values is balance — and part of finding balance is creating opportunities to explore our personal passions in our work lives. A passion of mine has long been giving back to communities in need, so this Giving Tuesday I’m happy to share some of the initiatives we’ve undertaken at Highwire to give back to our local communities.

This past October our New York City office volunteered as a group at a Ronald McDonald House to cook lunch for families in residence there. Ronald McDonald House Charities provide, among other services, free housing and meals to patients receiving critical treatment at hospitals far from their homes. Our volunteers spent an afternoon preparing pizzas and salads and serving them to a grateful and hungry group. The experience was as fun as it was rewarding — and the pizzas weren’t bad either!

Following a string of wildfires north of the San Francisco Bay, Highwire’s San Francisco office organized and hosted an evening fundraiser event to raise money for victims who lost their homes and belongings. The event involved cheese, oysters, auction prizes, a raffle and lots of wine, and ultimately raised over $18,000 for the North Bay fire recovery effort via donations to the Redwood Credit Union.

As the weather has cooled back on the East Coast, our NYC office has once again begun collecting coats for the annual New York Cares Coat Drive. Exploring another Highwire value of collaboration, we involve our entire building in the effort to collect warm coats to be distributed to the homeless throughout the winter. We’re off to a good start and hope to fill even more bags this year to spread the warmth farther across the city.

In the past, our San Francisco office has worked with Family Dog Rescue and the Raphael House. Our Chicago office has worked with the Salvation Army and the Lincoln Park Conservancy, and our NYC office also worked with Bideawee and the good+foundation.

I’m grateful to work for a company that supports and shares my passions and gives back to our communities not just on Giving Tuesday, but every day. How are you celebrating this Giving Tuesday? Feel free to share in the comments.

Why You Should Skip the Selfie During Your Next Museum Trip

Image source: Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The Color Factory, 29Rooms, Museum of Ice Cream. What do all three of these places have in common? Millennials love them. Pop-up museums are the newest Instagram-worthy trend targeting selfie-loving millennials. Who wouldn’t want to take a picture in a giant yellow ball pit or try sweet treats from famous ice cream shops around the U.S.?

These multi-sensory exhibits showcase a different side of art: accessibility. No longer do you have to take an Instagram photo from behind a velvet rope without the flash on. These pop-up museums actually encourage you to physically interact with exhibits and take photos. Drawing on walls with giant markers, playing in rooms with snow-like confetti sprinkling from the ceiling, and diving into a giant pool of sprinkles allows people to experience art in unique ways.

But if you’re hiding behind a small screen and taking photos or boomerangs, are you enjoying the full experience? Or a better question, will you remember the details of the delicious taste of the ice cream or the the colors of the flowers dangling from above? Unfortunately, probably not. Research shows that if you’re taking a picture, you’re focused on the act of taking a picture, not the action happening around it.

This “photo-taking impairment effect” was studied at an art museum. Students were broken into separate groups, one group taking photos of objects and the others just observing. Back in the lab, very few students who took photos could remember important details about the objects, compared to those who simply observed.

Why is this? The researcher believed that the students who used cameras were impaired, because they subconsciously counted on the camera to remember the nitty gritty details. The researcher also cautioned against thinking of photos as memories. Although the photo will remain the same, your will memories change over time. Thanks, brain!

Does this mean you should stop taking photos? Of course not. Just remember that it’s about more than getting the perfect photo for social. Maybe try putting down your phone or limiting yourself to a few photos per visit.