Q&A: Peter Finn on Finn Partners' expansion into APAC

The founder of PR and marketing firm Finn Partners gives us a deep dive into his decision to acquire Ying Communications.

Peter Finn pictured with the founders of Ying PR, Allan and Yin Ching
Peter Finn pictured with the founders of Ying PR, Allan and Yin Ching

Three months ago, Finn Partners announced its acquisition of Ying Communications, a b-to-b PR and marketing firm. Campaign Asia-Pacific spoke with Peter Finn, the founding partner of Finn Partners, to learn about his motivations surrounding the move.

What was the rationale behind acquiring Ying Communications?
Finn Partners is one of the fastest growing international PR firms in the world, but until we acquired Ying Communications we did not have a presence in Asia-Pacific. Our largest practice area is technology, and our tech clients have been asking for support in Asia-Pacific, so we have known for some time that we needed to extend Finn Partners into this region. One of the things we love about Ying is that it is both a PR and a digital marketing agency. PR and digital marketing are converging more than ever, so Ying’s strengths in both areas was an important plus for us.

What are the factors that make an agency worthy of acquisition for long-term business growth?
Since the launch of Finn Partners in December 2011, we have made 10 acquisitions. During this time, more than 60 acquisition opportunities have come our way, so we are very selective in deciding which opportunities are worth pursuing. Our goals in growing through acquisitions are as follows.

  • Continue to expand our management team who share our core values, the most important of which is "work hard and play nice." We believe that we can be successful in business while placing a high priority on being decent people, having a heart, and a conscience. We are also very focused on creating the best place to work for our staff. We believe that the best place to work helps keep and attract the best staff, and that enables us to do the very best work for our clients. We were very happy to discover when we met Allan, Yin Ching, and their management team that they shared this value and that they live it every day.
  • Strengthening market share where we have an office, or enter a new market that is strategically important. The acquisition of Ying enabled us to do the second part of this.
  • Adding practice expertise to support client needs. Tech is our largest practice area, and we are always looking for ways to continue to build on this strength. With the addition of the Ying team, we have more than 150 members of our staff in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. who concentrate solely on the tech sector, and we serve more than 150 tech clients, working in almost every part of the tech ecosystem. We have deeper expertise in tech than almost any other agency, and we are very happy about this. Ying made us even stronger in an area in which we were already strong.

What is your big picture vision for your firm in the marketing ecosystem?
PR and digital marketing are converging. Our goal is to become one of the most respected integrated agencies in key markets around the world in our key sectors. Finn Partners is an independent agency, which gives us many advantages. Unlike the publicly held holding company agencies, we are not driven by quarter-to-quarter results. This makes it possible for us to invest in our business, and in our client relationships, for the long term. We made decisions that would not be possible to a publicly held firm. We believe this enables us to continuously strengthen the firm and to do better work for our clients. While Finn Partners is a rapidly growing global agency and has depth in many different specialty areas, we remain privately owned, and we believe that our independence gives us a strategic advantage in the marketplace.

What is your approach to tracking the bottom-line effectiveness of PR?
There are several ways in which we evaluate the effectiveness of our work. First, we have an in-house group of measurement and analytics experts who can evaluate the effectiveness of a PR campaign, from analyzing shifts in consumer perceptions and attitudes about a client’s brand to tabulating the qualitative and quantitative presence of a client’s key messages in media coverage. This specialty group can also measure the overall business impact of a campaign, meaning, how our PR work positively affects a client’s bottom line. Secondly, our clients want to be viewed as innovators and thought leaders in their respective areas and this is achieved by designing PR campaigns that go viral in the digital and social ‘spheres. We are continuously monitoring the conversations in these areas and assessing if our programs are helping clients to achieve breakthrough moments that elevate and distinguish their products, services, and senior management. Finally, one of the best indicators of PR effectiveness is client retention, and we are pleased to report that we have a low level of client turnover.

What weaknesses did you offset by purchasing Ying?
Finn Partners needed to expand into Asia-Pacific, and the highest priority was to find a solution to serve our tech clients needing support in the region. The acquisition of Ying is the perfect first step for us in Asia-Pacific.

How have the clients of Ying Communication benefited from the acquisition?
Ying’s clients in Asia were unequivocally positive about the acquisition, and they’ve shown great interest in how Finn Partners’ existing capabilities, industry expertise, and global reach would help strengthen our offerings to them. Already, within the first couple of months of the acquisition, the Ying team has tapped into Finn Partners’ CSR and education expertise to beef up our existing clients’ APAC CSR and education programs. We’re also jointly working on several new global retailers and projects, and we expect this momentum to continue. 

This story first appeared on campaignasia.com.

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