As both an artist and businessman, David Finn, co-founder and CEO of the PR firm Ruder Finn, is many things.
A watcher he is not.
In a new chapter in relationship marketing – let’s call it PR for PR’s sake – Finn is a pioneer. Several months ago, his firm launched MOVE, a vanguard custom pub that is reportedly the only one of its kind in an industry increasingly focused on lobbying and promoting itself, as much as its global clients.
In an opening letter from Finn in the first issue, he writes about the theory behind MOVE, “There is much to learn from individuals who have demonstrated the ability to persuade millions to follow their lead, from new concepts that have changed the way we think about the nature of things, from new products that have dramatically captured a market.” In a conversation with us, he is reluctant to call himself a trendsetter despite the fact that his firm’s new custom pub may be the only belle at the ball.
The Evolution to MOVE
The opening article in the debut issue of MOVE is a Q&A with Finn and Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations. The art that accompanies it is a photograph of a sculpture by George Kolbe. Both text and imagery are interesting fodder for thought.
But what do Ruder Finn and sculpture have in common when you consider the big picture?
A lot. The introduction of MOVE represents the epitome of synergistic marketing, of integrated external, as well as internal, communications at its pinnacle. Rarely do we see this kind of united front when a first-ever custom pub is produced, but Ruder Finn drew from its history to help bring about this wedlock.
For years, Ruder Finn has hung posters with photographs of sculpture and insightful prose (i.e., Oscar Wilde’s “The supreme vice is shallowness”) that serve as a common thread throughout Ruder Finn’s network of offices in 100 cities. Those creations have since been featured in “Thoughts & Images for Work and Life,” a book chronicling this collection that was recently published.
Thus, the images of sculpture by Kolbe and Alberto Giacometti in MOVE (also reiterated in a firm marketing brochure) link in whole the philosophies that Ruder Finn has used to build its brand. “There is no question that MOVE is tied to our branding efforts,” says Finn. “But it is also meant to build on our newest messages – that we are moving along with technology and how the world is changing when it comes to communication.”
The Wonders of Writing
From the first time you pick up MOVE, it’s clear that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill publication. The clean design – achieved through dominant images, bold colors, white space and high-quality production – makes this book a standout, but the contributors, topic selection and provocative writing is also what sets this book apart from its custom pub peers.
We excerpt the following from one of the stories, “Deconstructing Wall Street’s Wisdom,” that appeared in the first issue.
Lev Janashvili writes: “Investor interest in Internet stocks has waxed and waned, mixing euphoria with gut-wrenching uncertainty. But over the last few years, the securitization of Internet companies has created more wealth, for more people and in less time, than any other sector ever in the market’s history. All this, despite dogged expectations of an anticlimax, often propounded by highly paid and widely followed market strategists.”
Lev Janashvili is a Ruder Finn account supervisor in the corporate/investor relations group, one of the agency’s strongest initial core competencies. He is one of more than 600 employees worldwide who specialize in integrated PR, marketing and advertising in offices that span Chicago to Jerusalem.
Full Circle Thinking
The idea for MOVE came about two years ago after the company celebrated its 50th anniversary with a conference, “The Value of Values,” whose format included some highly high-brow stuff such as “Finding the Sacred Through Art” and “The Civil War of Values.”
The conference stimulated thought, made the powers that be think about publishing a magazine. A committee of about seven, including Chief Creative Office Michael Schubert, was assembled, with various ranks from a variety of business units represented.
The committee met once a week and pondered everything from the size of the proposed book (no one wanted it to get lost among other promotional material) to the impact of other respected business pubs like the Harvard Business Review. They wanted the writing to be serious and enhance the firm’s image, but not to prostitute the brand with too much over-the-board promotional text.
“The goal was to create something that was both visual and communicated thoughts as well as the way we go about business,” Finn adds.
And instead of turning to freelancers to write the copy, the team turned to its own staffers, inviting everyone from its execs to account supervisors to contribute work. Not only does this cut down on the budget for the pub, but it buttresses the firm’s goal toward integration, bringing full circle its objectives to link not only its marketing materials, but its internal voice with its external messages.
Likewise, the layout and design are handled in-house. Schubert oversees this process and has noticed that the custom magazine has so far provoked “a much stronger or much higher reaction when it’s given to someone that any brochure or marketing kit we use.”
Sidebar: The Word on MOVE
- Four-color over-sized custom magazine launched in May;
- The only such custom publication in the PR industry, according to reports;
- For the debut, 10,000 copies were printed, with about 3,000 distributed to the firm’s approximate 500 clients as well as to Ruder Finn’s other key publics, including associates and friends;
- The magazine continues to be a far-from-costly proposition since the content and design are managed and produced internally;
- For the main text, Adobe Garamond is used. Other fonts used in the book include Berkeley, Univers, Avenir and Bell Gothic.
- Printer for first issue was Dolan Wohlers, New Jersey;
- The firm received 55 reply cards and letters in response to the first issue, with 90 percent of them positive.
- Clients for which it has produced custom pubs: The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, Novartis, Continental Insurance, the National Sculpture Association and Digital Cable Radio.
Sidebar: A Tale of Two Buddies
In 1948, childhood friends Bill Ruder and David Finn decided to begin a business that would focus on an atypical concept. The duo intended to create an interest in the business community in fine arts programs “as a way of achieving corporate public relations benefits, and in the process provide news sources of support for contemporary artists.” The company was first referred to as Art in Industry, Inc., but in its folds were the roots of Ruder Finn, a leading international PR firm in the league of giants such as Edelman and Burson-Marstellar.
What followed next was simply fate: a prominent lawyer friend was impressed by the presentation the duo had put together for Art in Industry and recommended that they extend their creativity to other markets. He helped Ruder and Finn get their first client to promote the records of Perry Como and at the end of the first year, Como won first place on the “Billboard” poll of most popular recording artist and took out a full-page ad thanking Ruder and Finn for their efforts.
In 1960, Bill Ruder was appointed by President Kennedy as assistant secretary of commerce and took a two-year hiatus from the firm. He later wrote the book, “A Businessman’s Guide to Washington” and in 1980, formed his own consulting firm (he is still a Ruder Finn stockholder and board member). His office is located in the New York headquarters of the firm.
Finn, who now heads up the firm, may be one of the most interesting principals in PR today. An art collector, sculptor and an expert in sculpture, he is also an author and renowned photographer. His books include “Public Relations and Management” and “The Corporate Oligarch” as well as a dozens of art-related titles.
Published in the August 2000 edition of Publications Management