Why I’m Running

Children run. The innocence, energy, and boundless enthusiasm of childhood is embodied in the simple act of pushing off and pumping those little legs as fast as they can. Some fast, some not so fa11001917_10153241216476019_6777791798801577751_nst, but all children run.

My two and a half year-old son Ermias will never be among them. He suffers from epidermolysis bullosa, a rare affliction that renders his skin and connective tissue unbearably fragile. Even the gentlest touch leaves painful blisters. For him, every day is a gauntlet in which every surface is an unavoidable injury. Needless to say, running is out of the question.

There is only so much my wife and I can do for him. At the end of each day we nurse his many blisters, which must be lanced, drained, medicated and dressed. We try to make his life as free from pain as we can, b10389487_10153246857706019_2136222968211514843_nut that’s difficult when the entire world is a weapon, aimed straight at him.

I want to do more. I want this terrible disease to go away, both for Ermias and for the other children who suffer as he does. The only way that can happen is with continued research and study, which must be funded.

I’ve never run more than a few miles at a time in my life (when I ran!), but there is no awful disease stopping me. I have no excuse. I’m going to run the Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon in June to raise money and awareness for the EB Research Partnership. Because I can and Ermias can’t. Because my love as a father can only do so much. Because we need help to beat this thing. I’m joining Team EBRP (EB Research Partnership) to fight the fight!

Learn more by checking out my Crowdrise page here. You can also follow along on twitter by searching #EBRun4Ermias.

Thank you for your support!

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Sometimes Winners Lose

It was a risky play and it didn’t work. A bad call. A ball in the air at 2nd and goal? The sound of the Patriots’ fans screaming was momentarily drowned out by the sound of a million 12s facepalming at once. How could this be? We had this! 

Moments before we had seen one of the most insane receptions ever put to tape, the kind of football miracle the Seahawks history is quilted with, a sure sign that we were witnessing another epic triumph at the eleventh hour, and now this? I still can’t believe it. (I can barely listen to sports radio! And I can’t talk about it. You know the feeling.)

But wait. That was still one hell of a game. The Pats were in top form, almost surgical in their execution, and we matched them. This was not last year’s epic Super Bowl; we were going up against the best and we weren’t getting it for free.

But here’s the thing: we lost, they didn’t beat us. There was something I saw on the Patriots’ faces at the buzzer, kind of hard to place, a mix of relief and exhaustion. It wasn’t elation. It’s as if they knew they had won because we blew it, not because they had prevailed. I’m not saying the Pats didn’t win fair and square, I’m just saying we, as fans, shouldn’t see this as a complete loss.

Everyone successful knows that losing is crucial. Mistakes are made to be corrected and the lessons that stick are the ones that sting the worst.

The Seahawks delivered. They played the game their way and had the Pats running scared. What more could we ask of this amazing young team? I’m willing to bet there are no less 12s in the world after last night. The return parade might not have the energy and attendance of last year, but that’s only natural. Everybody’s tired. But I know every blue jersey and flag will be lovingly folded and put away, ready for next year, ready for anything. Just like the Seattle Seahawks.

Corporate Social Responsibility: It Takes a Village

This past holiday I sent a letter to The Fearey Group’s corporate clients and partners announcing our decision to forego giving gifts in lieu of donating to programs helping communities in need.

Ermias Blank, the son of Fearey Group CEO/President Aaron Blank.  In this photo he was a model for Burt's Bee.
Ermias Blank, the son of Fearey Group CEO/President Aaron Blank. In this photo he was a model for Burt’s Bee.

As many of you know, my son Ermias was born in Ethiopia in the small village of Woliso. Like many places in the world, the people of Woliso have limited access to clean water; most of the people live in a state of constant crisis without reliable hygiene or hydration. Through a non-profit organization out of Denver, Colorado, my family and I coordinated efforts with several other families to set up a CarePoint site in their village to help create a long-term solution. The goal is to stabilize that community by providing foundational items and global philosophies to help bring them out of poverty.

We also contributed to Global to Local, a Seattle-based initiative providing innovative, holistic and community-driven health care and economic development strategies to one of the poorest zip codes in the U.S., right in our own back yard.

As an organization, The Fearey Group is working to empower its employees with the tools to make an impact as individuals as well as within the company. We encourage each team member to sit on two boards, one that is specific to themselves and one corporate, which could be supported by Fearey. The personal position helps strengthen individual communities and the corporate joins our energies to make the strongest impact possible.

I personally sit on the Jermaine Kearse Foundation (soon to launch!) and the Lenny Wilkens Foundation boards—both individuals involved with sports or the community and causes close to my heart—as well as the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. These organizations allow me to assist my community and make an impact close to home.

As you can see, corporate social responsibility is something we take seriously here at The Fearey Group. It was ingrained into the DNA of the company by our founder and we expand upon it continually.

In the New Year, we encourage our partners and our friends to consider developing their own Corporate Social Responsibility program.

Here are some tips on how your organization can implement a program.

  1. Let your team take ownership. By giving your employees the reigns, they can use their own passion and energy to make changes to both better the world and strengthen your organization. Create a focus, but let them decide what they want to do.
  2. Connect the dots locally and globally. We share this world, and it’s shrinking every day. The power of one person is truly extraordinary when we focus our intentions, and now we have the means to extend our influence from our neighbors next door to our friends around the globe.
  3. Spread the word. Show your peers and partners how it’s done. The best leaders lead by example, and a good example should be seen by all. I’m writing these words not to promote myself, but to encourage others to join with me to help make some big changes. The more of us on board, the greater the impact we can make!
  4. Define your program. Make sure you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Like with anything, create a program plan.

CSR is not just a PR tool to make us feel good about ourselves. It’s our job as global citizens to improve our world and focus our resources toward positive change for all. Let’s open the discussion to explore the ways in which we can all make a difference. I look forward to learning about your CSR program.

If you are interested in donating to our CarePoint site, we’re still raising money for our clean water project. Our final goal is to raise close to $30,000 so that Ermias’s friends no longer have to drink water from the brown river. Here is a link to our crowd funding site.

The children of our CarePoint site in Woliso, Ethiopia. We have 200 children who visit the site each day for food, shelter, clothing and emotional support. In 2014, we used social media to get our community to sponsor each of these kids until they are 18.
The children of our CarePoint site in Woliso, Ethiopia. We have 200 children who visit the site each day for food, shelter, clothing and emotional support. In 2014, we used social media to get our community to sponsor each of these kids until they are 18.
The people of Ethiopia bathe here, get their drinking water here, clean their cars here, etc. We are working hard to raise money for a clean water site at our CarePoint site in Ethiopia.
The people of Ethiopia bathe here, get their drinking water here, clean their cars here, etc. We are working hard to raise money for a clean water site at our CarePoint site in Ethiopia.
Aaron Blank, president/CEO of The Fearey Group, with his family and the leaders of our CarePoint site in Woliso, Ethiopia.
Aaron Blank, president/CEO of The Fearey Group, with his family and the leaders of our CarePoint site in Woliso, Ethiopia.

Meet Annie Zak, PSBJ Healthcare Reporter

A. Zak

Annie Zak is the new health care reporter for the Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ). In September, she replaced Valerie Bauman, who moved on to a reporting position at Newsday in New York.

Annie stopped by The Fearey Group offices recently to meet our team and share a bit about her background and her work.

Annie is not entirely new to the Pacific Northwest, having completed an internship at Portland’s alternative newspaper, Willamette Week.

Prior to joining the PSBJ, Annie was in Southern California reporting for the Los Angeles/Orange County Register. Before that, she earned a master’s degree at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she focused on investigative reporting. She also has a bachelor’s degree from Knox College in Illinois.

So what is it like being the new health care reporter for the PSBJ? Annie says it is quite different from her previous position as a general assignment reporter. That said, two months into the job, she is hitting her stride. Annie has made a point of meeting as many people in the health and life sciences community as she can.

What many people don’t know is that Annie writes two or three stories EVERY DAY and spends much of her afternoon planning for the next day’s news.

She says that while she enjoys the diversity of subjects she covers each day, her passion is pursuing more in-depth stories that take time to develop. She also has a keen interest in life sciences. Good news for her – there is no shortage of biotech and biomedical companies in the area.

So you might be wondering: why publish so many stories each day? The answer: digital is king. The PSBJ has increasingly emphasized online news content, which requires frequent updating. But the weekly print edition, delivered each Friday, remains vital as well.

Other than sharing a little from the inside, Annie offered a few tips for PR pros and the organizations that we support:

  • Know your audience. Too often we receive pitches that are irrelevant for this market and our readers.
  • Always be thinking about the headline when you pitch a story. Would it motivate you to click on a story?
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify. What good is a story so mired in jargon and technical speak as to be incomprehensible to the average reader?
  • Studies can often be a hard sell for readers; on the other hand, news about the latest startup launch or research breakthrough tends to draw attention.
  • No surprise, controversy attracts interest, whether it’s controversy over mergers and acquisitions or competition between institutions.
  • Email remains the best way to reach reporters, but don’t overlook Twitter DMs or texting once a relationship is established. And sometimes it’s an old-fashioned phone call that does the trick.
  • Keep reporters’ daily and weekly deadlines in mind before you reach out. Timing is everything.

Thanks to Annie for stopping by The Fearey Group. And a big welcome to Seattle!

The 366th Day: A Reflection

Time flies when you’re having fun. Cliché? Yes. True? You bet.

Not sure how often that phrase is referenced when talking about work, but I’m going to go ahead and put it out there. Today I celebrate my one-year anniversary here at The Fearey Group and I cannot believe how quickly these past 12 months have flown by.

First day!

Before you dart off thinking this will be all Kumbaya-like, stay with me for a moment. If you’re a PR person reading this, you’ve likely heard and battled every stigma ever noted about the PR industry – very fast-paced, high-intensity, long hours, overly demanding at times, etc. I would be lying if I said that there isn’t a smidge of truth to some of these. But all that aside, there is such rewarding glory in doing what we do as PR and communications professionals. Having spent my career working as an in-house counselor, an account executive at a global agency, and now an account supervisor at a boutique local firm, I feel I can say with confidence that serving as a strategic and thoughtful counselor to members of my community is a job unlike anything out there.

Every place I have worked has impressed upon me the marks of its passion, and The Fearey Group is no exception. Looking back at the past 365 days, I think about the ways in which my time here at TFG has helped to shape me as a PR pro and as a professional:

1. I get to help my neighbors tell their stories. Storytelling is why I got into this industry in the first place. Serving as a bridge to help translate the heart and soul of a brand or company to audiences near and far is a creative outlet that should not be taken for granted. It’s problem solving on a whole new level and in a way that deeply impacts public perception for days, months, years to come. What a challenge!

2. Fearless and nimble – that’s how we do it at TFG. We have a motto here – “Fearless Thinking.” It means that in everything we do, we strive to marry the creative with the courageous to bring about an impact for our clients that is bold, surprising and successful. To be encouraged by leadership to take these risks and be daring is liberating to say the least. Not to mention the look on clients’ faces when our campaigns help them achieve the highest in metrics – it’s a win-win!

3. We are family (cue Sister Sledge!). There are many benefits to working within a boutique firm, many of which are centered around the fact that we are able to be more nimble and forego much of the process and red tape a larger agency would require. But beyond that, Aaron Blank (our fearless CEO here at TFG) has continued to ensure that TFG goes beyond the tradiional offerings of an employer – helping to make TFG one of the best places to work in Washington. We have each other’s back, we support each other in all that we do, we have the flexibility to keep a healthy work/life balance, and at the end of the day, we really like working with each other. Hugs all around?

Mostly my time here has flown by because I’ve been fortunate enough to take on the very best this industry has to offer under the roof of one of the most respected agencies in the city. You can’t beat that. At the risk of coming off salesy and showing my true bias, here’s a link to open positions we have here at The Fearey Group. Come join me in taking on the world and feel free to contact me either over LinkedIn, via Twitter or email!

A Fearless Footprint on the Future

Web_CHOICES-logo_250L

Here at The Fearey Group, employees are encouraged to take an active role in the community by engaging and partnering with various organizations they are passionate about. I for one am very keen on initiatives surrounding youth education and mentoring. Therefore, this past month, my fellow colleague, Heather Fernandez (whom also shares in this passion), and I had the opportunity to volunteer with CHOICES Education Group, a not-for-profit mentoring network based in Seattle.

We first learned about CHOICES through Aaron Blank (CEO) – whom had been introduced to the organization’s founder through a community event. Excited to learn more and get involved, Heather and I attended a couple online trainings and then eventually co-led our own seminar for local youth here in Seattle.

So what exactly does CHOICES do? Well, CHOICES is an interactive, decision-making workshop that empowers teens to achieve academic success in pursuit of their career and life aspirations. Developed much like a guest mentoring seminar, presenters from all professional backgrounds are paired with 7th and 8th grade class rooms all over the greater Seattle area. From there presenters lead sessions focused around real-world exercises on academic self-discipline, time and money management and goal setting.

In two 50-minute sessions, Heather and I took a class of 8th grade students at Catharine Blaine School in Magnolia through a series of scenarios, decision making exercises and participatory models that sparked their thinking and encouraged inspiration for who they want to become later in life.

The goal of the seminars was to help teens envision the true impact of their early life decisions as well as help teens discover how they can take charge of their lives. The mission of CHOICES Education Group is to empower students with vital tools that will increase their career and life opportunities.

Heather and I had such a wonderful experience volunteering with CHOICES and are looking forward to participating in the program again next year. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can find more information at www.choices.org/getinvolved.htm.

How to Make Measurement Tangible and Manageable for Employees and Clients

Before this year’s PRSA 2014 Counselors Academy Conference, we reached out to Linhart PR’s Kelly Womer to learn more about her presentation, “How to Make Measurement Tangible and Manageable for Employees and Clients.”

Measurement is one of the most challenging things to deliver in a digest able format for both employees and clients. At Linhart PR they have developed a method, Linhart PRoof™, to give their employees and clients an impactful measurement tool that shows what successes they have seen. We asked Kelly to give us a sneak peek into the framework her team uses to provide measurement for clients.

Kelly: We developed LinhartPRoof to help us better determine and measure what most matters to our clients. It gives our team a seven-step framework, guided by best practices we already use, to know when, how and what to measure to share success. The seven-steps include:

  1. Mission and objectives: It starts by understanding the ins and outs of an organization’s business and how communications can help.
  2. Strategic planning: This involves developing ideas – from “mild to wild” – to create a plan, scope of work and budget to meet the goals created during step one.
  1. Success metrics: Any agreed-upon plan and activities must be measured to understand what’s working and what’s not.
  1. Tools: There are many measurement tools and techniques available, ranging from online software to in-depth consumer research.
  1. Frequency and formatting: It’s important to develop a schedule for reporting results based on the plan, the organization’s needs and budget.
  2. Analysis and reporting: There’s great power and potential in interpreting results-related data at appropriate intervals.
  3. Satisfaction: There’s always room to learn and continuously improve

We can’t wait to see Kelly’s full presentation and learn how effective measurement has become a best practice for her team to deliver results for their clients.

10 Things Small Business Can Do to Improve Social Presence Today

Today our President and CEO, Aaron Blank, spoke at the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce to a group of city leaders and small to midsize business owners. He specifically discussed how to build and leverage social from a business perspective and provided 10 ways small businesses can improve social presence today. Check out his tips below!

  1. Know Where Your Customers Are – What networks are your customers most likely to be on? Spend your time on the social networks they are most often on. This increases your engagement while keeping your time put in low.
  2. Find Your Voice – Does your brand have a voice that you portray on your website or in person? Keep that voice consistent on your social media channels.
  3. Take the time! – Set aside 30 minutes at the beginning or end of your day to review social media posts since your last review time. Take the time to respond to customers that interact with you, two-way communication is important!
  4. Use LinkedIn to Build Your Business– LinkedIn is not just a job searching tool, it’s your digital Rolodex and a new business cultivation tool. Send a personalized note to everyone you meet in a professional setting to connect and grow your network.
  5. Show off Your Expertise on LinkedIn– As your network starts to grow, post interesting articles, comment on posts from others or just like other posts at least ONCE a day. This keeps your name at the top of your connections feed and shows you know your business environment.
  6. Curate and Share Content More Easily – Buffer is a relatively new tool that can make posting regularly on all of your social networks easier. You link everything to your Buffer account and add a button to your web browser. When you find a page or article you want to share you press the Buffer button. Then at regularly scheduled intervals throughout the day Buffer sends out your messages. Other tools to consider: Hootsuite and TweetDeck
  7. Help Your Google Search – Set up a Google+ page for your business and claim the name from Google. This way when people search for your business it’s your actual website that comes up. This also helps your search rank in comparison to similar businesses listed on Google who do not have a business page.
  8. Don’t Just Post About You – Social media is just that, social. Don’t just post about your latest project, promote good things going on in your community or the success of other businesses around you.
  9. Focused on Your Personal Page? Don’t Be Afraid to Show Personality – If you are using a personal social media page to promote your business, don’t be afraid to show some of your personality. If you are all business all the time, people won’t find it compelling. Show some of your personal side and interests, your customers will love to learn more about you.
  10. Follow Others In Your Community – Again, don’t just follow your customers or friends, follow others in the community and interact with them. Supporting them makes it much more likely they will support you!

social

Social Media Lunch: Organically Grown Relationships and All-Natural Partnerships Make for a Healthy Networking Diet

Social media and the suite of tools, platforms and apps that make up this digital highway have transformed the way people meet and interact. Twitter alone has opened a plethora of doors for professional networking, B2B marketing and interpersonal relationship building. Today millions of people are connecting via social media long before they ever meet in person – that is if they ever meet at all!

Lot's of tweeting going on!
Tweet Tweet!

My professional network is largely made up of people I met via social media. These relationships were further cemented when we met in person. Never underestimate the power of a face-to-face interaction! It truly helps to build trust in one another and add a layer of emotion and compassion that might not exist through a purely digital relationship.

This is why The Fearey Group started SMLunch a few years back. It was started as a way to take relationships offline and into the real-world. SMLunch rotates monthly among local businesses, showcasing a variety of brands and the social media community behind them. Each lunch follows an informal program filled with ample amounts of networking, short presentations by host businesses, plenty of cool giveaways and the opportunity to showcase your brand, service or mission to a group of engaged and connected individuals in the community. Attendees range in industry – from artists to writers and executives to entrepreneurs, from real estate agents to social media community managers and those in the non-profit sector. At the end of the day, the point is to take these relationships we’re building online and meet in person – to further inspire collaboration, inspiration and support.

Great way to meet new people in the social media scene.
Great way to meet new people in the social media scene.

Our next lunch will take place on May 22nd at the Porch.com offices where attendees will learn more about Seattle’s hottest startup. Tickets are now available at Brown Paper tickets.

Be sure to check out SMLunch on Facebook and follow @TheFearyGroup and #SMLunch for additional details.

We hope you’ll SMLunch with us soon!

 

What’s the buzz about? Here’s what fans of SMLunch are saying!

“SMLunch is such a wonderful way to bring those in the social media world together once a month to actively engage with one another in person. Not only are you able to spread the word about your company, but it helps solidify relationships with your existing online connections and network with those across such a broad spectrum of brands- all over lunch!” – Annie Hong, Social Media and Public Relations Manager, Anthony’s Restaurants

“#SMLunch connects those from the digital world into the “real world” with food, networking and education. This fast-paced event has become a must-attend event for the Seattle social. #SMLunch has helped me to develop relationships with influencers and companies in the area that I never knew I’d need to know!” – Ann Peavey, Chief Concierge, Visit Seattle

“SMLunch is a great, intimate way to meet and network with other professionals in a casual setting. As an attendee and host of an SMLunch, I can truly say it’s been a really valuable experience and great opportunity to showcase our company and create new business connections.” – Kara Drinkard, marketing manager, glassybaby

“I started attending SMLunch to network and meet local people in the social media and marketing community. While I did do just that, what I really came away with was a number of new friendships that have enriched my life and a group of friends that constantly teach me new things” – Howie Cohen, General Merchandise Buyer, Bartell Drugs

 

Heather Fernandez

 

Heather Fernandez is an Account Supervisor with The Fearey Group and chief event organizer for SMLunch. She’s also a Mother, PR dynamo, Reader, Fashionably-challenged, Seattleite via SoCal, lives to laugh, lover of the sea & a fan of great beer #GoHawks

Networking is a Funny Thing

by Caleb KruseImage

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a networking event hosted by The Seattle Chamber of Commerce. This event was sponsored by YPN, Seattle’s Young Professional Network. YPN is the premier group In Seattle, providing professional development and networking opportunities for emerging business leaders. They offer monthly events designed to give young leaders the opportunity exchange ideas, grow professionally and share common interests. Their goal is to have events in the hip, hidden gems of Seattle. This particular event was at Unexpected Productions Theatre behind the iconic gum wall! I have walked by this wall numerous times and was unaware of a theatre behind this sticky Seattle monstrosity. This event featured food, drinks and an improv comedy show.

This was my first networking event, initially, I felt a little like I was the one doing the improv. The concept of going to a place full of people you do not know and trying to meet as many as possible was new to me. Much like an improv comedian, I had to think on me feet and enter a whole new environment with an entirely new “crowd.”  After my first introduction I became aware that everyone else was there for the same reason and they actually wanted to meet and talk with me. I enjoyed sharing a little bit about The Fearey Group and what we do, as well as hear what other people do at their companies. The environment was very welcoming and laid back, with great pizza.

As I reflect on the event, there are a number of takeaways. I am used to a very conversational form of communication when I meet and talk with people; I want to hear their whole story and connect on a deep level. I’ve realized that at a networking event like this, where time is limited, you can’t spend all of your time talking with one person. Finding the right time to say “well it was great to meet you” is a skill that I definitely need to master. In such a diverse group, finding the right people to talk to can also be a challenge. At YPN events, the businesses that attend are largely service based (Law, IT, Accounting, etc.) so it is important to target the businesses you would like to connect with. Going into a networking event with a plan will help that time be more efficient and productive. One last takeaway would be to relax and have a great time. All the people who come to these events are there after work just like you and what’s wrong with sitting back and enjoying some improv comedy with new people? At my next networking event I’ll leave the improv to the professionals.