PR Niblets

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jules Version 4.0 Working on the Weekend

It was the first month of my tenure here at Feintuch Communications as the brand new head of our brand new healthcare and life sciences practice, and one of our brand new clients needed to appear brand new at a trade show I’d never been to before.

Anyone who’s ever worked at a trade show knows how intense they are, both in the preparation and in the execution of the work. So to say that it was stressful would be an understatement. Except we only had two weeks to prepare for the show – do all of the creative, draft and produce all of the content, oversee all of the production, not to mention staffing – the whole magila. Two weeks. Two. Weeks.

After a momentous push by our superstar team, and some last minute crisis management, we managed to get the client to the show and demonstrating the product to passersby.

Cut to day two of the show, and I’m on my way home from a long day of booth management, having to get into a tuxedo for a gala celebration that night. I’m literally one block from my apartment door when I’m accosted by a group of garrulous individuals wearing t-shirts that say “jules 4.0…”

Needless to say, my curiosity is piqued.

As I’m reading their t-shirts, trying to figure out what they mean, the loudest of the group grabs me by the arm and tells me I simply must have a drink with them. I’d had a day already, so the idea wasn’t out of the question, but technically, I was on the clock, and don’t like to indulge. Also, I was scarfing down a slice of pizza in preparation for what could have been a night of necessary imbibing at the hands of a new client and a fairly new employer. But to be accosted in the street by strangers and implored to drink with them?

I explained very demurely that I would love to have a drink with this mob (who wants to take chances), but that I really had to get home and change for a work event, and could I take a rain check. They were not having it. They absolutely insisted, explaining all of the benefits of having a drink with them (carefully leaving out the potential damage they could have done to my person). I agreed, indicating that this agreement was based only on the fact that they were wearing t-shirts with my name on them. This information incited the rowdy crowd even more – they gathered around me, took pictures with me as part of the group, and ushered me across the street to the bar on the corner – Cowgirl (a plug for them – they’re quite good). All the while, the group was cheering and making overtures that they were “going to get extra points for this one!” I wondered if it was the suit or the name. I wondered what “extra points” entailed. Would I ever see my beloved wife and child again? Would I be allowed to escape the labrynthian confines of Cowgirl? Either way, I’d never been considered extra points before, so I was intrigued.

Finally, upon one more picture being taken at the back of the bar, it was finally explained to me. A woman named Jules was having her 40th birthday party at Cowgirl (another plug, they have a nice party room in the back) and had asked all of her friends (and she has a lot – way to go Jules!) to go on an “Amazing Race”-like adventure. One of the requirements was to usher a stranger into the bar and have a drink with them. My being named Jules did indeed garner the yellow team extra points, and me a yellow Jules 4.0 t-shirt.

So Happy 40th Jules. I’m right behind you soon. And thanks for an amazing (and kind of weird) 15 minutes sandwiched between a wacky couple of workdays.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Creating a Healthcare and Life Sciences PR Practice

Sometimes you develop elaborate plans and hope to implement them carefully. Other times, stuff happens.

This is an example of the latter.

Now in our second year, our strategic relations firm and PR practice are growing. That's despite the economy... minimal capitalization.. and other challenges of starting up a small business. We've added a significant investor relations partnership with MS-IR, headed up by Miri Segal, and together successfully added several clients. The potential for growing integrated IR/PR business is significant. More on this later.

Our friend and colleague, Steph Johnson, left for a new and exciting opportunity with a UK-based financial technology PR firm. We'll miss her decidely offbeat sensibilities but will continue to collaborate as appropriate. Steph and I have worked together twice; we both feel the threat of a third time looming.

Which takes us to healthcare. It's always been an important sector in the PR industry. And in recent years, the market has expanded aggressively into numerous related segments including medical devices, pharma and life sciences. I've been on the periphery many times -- and worked on many accounts in the space -- but truly never became the domain expert. At my last firm, I watched a significant healthcare/life sciences practice develop and ultimately walk out the door.

At Feintuch Communications, we served an initial client in the category and began incubating and working with several more. Many other leads began to materialize. Opportunity was knocking at our door... and then... serendipity struck in the form of Jules Abraham.

While searching for a healthcare freelancer for a former client, I met Jules -- again.

It turns out that we met briefly several years ago but the timing wasn't right and we each went our separate ways. Now, at age 39 (and sharing my May 3 birthday), and with Jules "between jobs" as so many PR practitioners can lament over the last 18 months, we restarted our conversation.

First and most importantly, Jules is a nice guy. His business credentials are equally impressive. He brings nearly 15 years of healthcare and life sciences public and investor relations experience. He's worked in nearly all aspects of the healthcare and life sciences industry including large and specialty pharmaceutical, biotechnology, clinical diagnostics and medical device companies, as well as small health systems, regional hospitals, managed care organizations, Medicare Part D providers and advocacy groups.

Previously, he helped launch and manage the healthcare public relations division at Lippert/Heilshorn & Associates. He also served in the global healthcare group at GCI Group and held positions at Manning, Selvage & Lee, Zeno Group and GTFH Public Relations.

He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the College of William & Mary and a master's degree in public communications/journalism from Fordham University. He lives in New York with his wife, Dana, son and two cats.

So now, the chance timing of our meeting again was amazingly right. We had clients ready to join the firm but we lacked the expertise to serve them properly. Jules had clients and former clients that wanted to work with him but preferred a more stable agency environment. We talked; we planned; we started to work together over the last few months.

Now, Jules has joined our firm as a vice president and managing director of our healthcare and life sciences practice. We've tied the practice to our investor relations partnership. This allows us to offer an integrated public and investor relations package to companies seeking to go public, or those that are public but are seeking better coordination of their messaging and outreach to Wall Street, Main Street and the media.

The formal press release goes out this week and soon we'll be announcing our initial clients. Wish us luck; send us your referrals; and call/write to meet Jules. In addition to talking healthcare, get him started on his days in the Peace Corps as a volunteer (where he became fluent in Spanish), his songwriting and his work as a "not-so-accomplished" Naam yoga practitioner. If the conversation goes well, he might even offer you a copy of his recent CD of original music for meditation.