High-Lights: Our Tech PR POV

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.