By F+A Staff

Getting To Know F+A Senior Account Executive, Julia Irwin

Julia Irwin joined Firmani + Associates in 2016, after making a cross-country move from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, bringing creative and critical thinking and a wealth of PR agency experience to her role as a senior account executive at F+A.

Unlike some PR pros, Julia set her sights on public relations early on, selecting PR as her academic track while studying communication at the University of Minnesota. Fast-forward to today, as one of F+A’s senior practitioners, she leads strategy and execution for a number of the firm’s clients – and she also boasts the agency’s most meticulous copyediting skills.

We sat down with Julia to hear more about her outlook and insights into the PR industry and beyond.

Q: From hospitality to mobile HVAC, you work across some of the firm’s most disparate industries. What stands out to you about advising clients in such different fields?

A: I’ve always enjoyed working on client accounts that are very different from one another, not only because I get to learn the ins and outs of so many different industries, but also because having such a varied portfolio of clients keeps me on my toes. While the nature of a client’s industry certainly impacts the strategies we recommend, the common thread in all of our work is to understand the organization’s business objectives and then figure out how PR and marketing can help realize those goals.

I love that in any given day, I might help a b2b client generate sales leads by developing a digital advertising and email lead generation campaign – and then switch gears to working with a brand that wants to reach consumers directly within a key market, perhaps by securing local broadcast coverage to drive thought leadership and overall visibility. The possibilities are endless, and I never get bored!  

Q: Why Firmani?

A: As a mid-sized agency, F+A offers me the opportunity to really take ownership of my work and gain valuable experience in different areas. While there are areas we specialize in, I appreciate that we don’t limit ourselves to only working within particular industries or with certain clients.

Working here has also enabled me to continually challenge myself and regularly take on new skills outside of my comfort zone. Additionally, working one-on-one with my clients has enabled me to form fantastic, truly collaborative relationships with them. There’s no better feeling than delivering a client win and sharing in our success together.

Beyond the work itself, the team at F+A has become more than just colleagues; I consider them an extended family. My fiancé and I moved to Seattle from the Midwest almost three years ago and barely knew another soul in our new city. Since then, we (and our two pups) have been fully welcomed into the F+A crew. We’ll never say no to a work-sponsored happy hour, Mariners game or putt-putt tournament! Luna and Jolene appreciate all the toys and treats in the office, too.

Q: What advice do you share with recent graduates and young professionals coming up the ranks of marketing and communications?

A: Hone your writing skills. Making it in the agency world (and elsewhere!) requires rock solid writing chops, so look for any opportunity to continue developing your craft. You won’t regret it.

Network, network, network! Join PRSA or any other young professionals group in your area and attend their events to meet fellow people in the industry, on both the agency and corporate side. And if you meet someone that works in a field or position you’re interested in learning more about, don’t be afraid to ask them to coffee. You never know what can result from the connections you make now.

Q: What trends do you see on the horizon that all organizations should heed?

A: Right now, it’s all about data storytelling. We are big believers in using an integrated approach to realize any organization’s PR and marketing goals – and in today’s terms, that means weaving traditional and digital tactics. Organizations should embrace the data mining and digital analytics tools we have at our fingertips to uncover what’s compelling about their own proprietary data. Figure out what makes your data interesting and then present it in a visually compelling way. Better yet, partner with an integrated marketing and PR agency, and we’ll help you tap what’s interesting and promote it in the most effective ways.

Learn more about Julia at www.firmani.com/team-biographies.

By Jordyn Bauerlein

Meet F+A’s Four-Legged Colleagues

Here at F+A we have a wide variety of furry coworkers. From the first pot of coffee to the last, their steadfast puppy eyes trail us and their little tails wag; they remain impervious to the whirlwind current of client meetings, brainstorming sessions and content development.

We feel that these productive pups enrich our lives and our work. And as it turns out, science is on our side. According to a study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH), pets in the workplace increase task performance and social interactions. The floppy-eared friends reportedly reduce stress and lead to an overall greater sense of work-life balance.

Anecdotally, we’ve experienced all of these benefits and more – and we love introducing our pets to visitors at the office and via the F+A blog.


Name: Kiki

Breed: Chiweenie

Owner: Keri Barker

Kiki is the first member of our canine team, but don’t let her pint size fool you— this seven-pound Chiweenie can pack a punch.

Kiki, also known by some as Dobby the House Elf due to her prominent ears, is two-and-a-half years old. Her best friend is a tabby cat named Ridley who, unfortunately, doesn’t come to the office, but about whom we’ve only heard great things!

Kiki is known to be fiercely territorial of her backyard and protects it from evil squirrels, villainous racoons and feathered flying creatures of the night. She loves treats, sitting in chairs you just vacated, and her fellow furry coworkers.


Name: Jolene and Luna

Breed: Border Collie mixes

Owner: Julia Irwin

The next two pups we have the pleasure of working with are Jolene and Luna. Both were rescued through Desiderata Rescue and are aspiring Instagram celebrities, which you can see here.

At four years old and the older sister of the group, Jolene is the protector and provider. Much like Kiki, she envisions herself as a master squirrel hunter and has even tried her hand at tree climbing, with little success. After a long day of critter stalking, Jolene likes to hang around as a couch potato, use her insanely effective puppy eyes to earn bits of peanut butter, and cuddle with her little sister.

Luna joined the family in 2018 at just four months old, and quickly captured the hearts of all those she met. Nicknamed “Wigglebutt” for her full-body tail wags, Luna is always excited to meet a new friend, especially if they come bearing milk-bones.

In addition to hanging out with her big sister, Luna loves playing fetch, staring intensely at tennis balls until they are thrown for her to retrieve, and deciding what other random objects can be used in fetch.


Name: Mr. T

Breed: Yorkshire Terrier

Owner: Annie Alley

Last but certainly not least is Mr. T.

As resident “old man” of the group, Mr. T enjoys the simple things in life like a soft bed and a really good scratch behind the ears. At 17 years young, this Yorkshire Terrier has seen the better half of the world, including visiting six countries and living on two continents. For being so well-traveled and popular, it is surprising that the fame hasn’t gone to his head! This bearded pup is as sweet and as humble as they come.

When he isn’t at the office working hard to produce lucrative amounts of ZZZs, Mr. T loves to spend time with his human children, Rowdy and Ruthie, and takes regular strolls through his backyard.

Through the good and the bad, the slow days and the crazy ones, we are thankful for our furry coworkers and, after all the treats we give them, we’re sure they are grateful for us, too.

By Keri Barker

Ready to start your PR career?

Firmani + Associates, a progressive public relations and marketing firm located in Seattle, Washington, is offering a four-month, full-time paid internship beginning this February/March.

We’re looking for highly motivated and talented candidates who possess a bachelor’s degree in public relations, journalism or another communication field, excellent writing and editing skills, and the drive to succeed. Knowledge of social media concepts and experience with execution and implementation is preferred.

We serve a range of industries, with a focus on legal, technology, health care and professional services companies. Our dynamic team provides interns the opportunity to work alongside savvy public relations professionals spanning a range of ages and experience levels. We pride ourselves on offering a real-world learning experience and value someone who will step up and add to our team of creative minds. Our interns gain hands-on experience with account coordinator-level responsibilities such as writing press releases, researching market trends, pitching to media outlets and planning strategic social media campaigns.

We offer an internship stipend, transportation stipend, paid holidays, and a bevy of other perks.

To be considered for this position, please send a copy of your resume, three writing samples, and a cover letter describing yourself, your work history, GPA, and why you think you’d make a good fit to recruiter@firmani.com.

By Kelcie Goetsch

The Quest for Relevance: Does Talkability Trump Truth?

PR professionals work tirelessly to serve as trusted media informants to achieve client coverage from both traditional and digital news sources. While the ability to use these outlets to sway public influence and alter brand reputation often positions PR as a key player in brand management, industry professionals tend to find themselves fighting against the public stigma of serving as puppet masters, rather than storytellers.

Fake news, alternative facts, propaganda and click-bait are just a few common buzzwords used to refer to the media’s “spin” on stories; this amplified public distrust of the media has not only put the credibility of reporters into question, but also the trustworthiness of communications professionals. Although the 2016 election and the subsequent political landscape has brought issues of ethical reporting to the fore, PR professionals have long combatted a reputation of manipulating stories and staging events to gain falsified media attention for their clients.

Many say that the origins of the field (and its tarnished reputation) began pre-Civil War era with P.T. Barnum’s Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, an operation infamous for spreading lies and deception to the press to foster public intrigue. Barnum exploited the hot-button issue of slavery to sell tickets, publicizing an 80-year-old African American woman as the still-living 161-year-old enslaved nurse of George Washington — even going as far as to plant an anonymous letter in a Boston newspaper to stir up rumors around the act.

Thankfully, the majority of present-day PR professionals don’t pursue media coverage by means of deception; however, the value of brand trust is still hotly debated.

In a PR Week article published last summer, top agency executives stood divided when asked whether relevance or trust is more important for a brand. Matt Neale, co-CEO of Golin Agency, explains that brand relevance has an unfair advantage when compared to trustworthiness, because relevance is something marketers and communicators can directly impact. Neale argues relevance is the most critical metric for brand measurement: “It’s what attracts and keeps people paying attention, and what moves them to act,” Neale says. “And if a brand isn’t relevant, it’s being ignored.”

Neale’s hypothesis was put to the test in Golin Agency’s 2017 Global Relevance Review, the first ever study to reveal what drives relevance for brands in 13 markets across the globes – and [SPOILER], it’s not trustworthiness. While consumers around the world believe their ideal brand would be considered trustworthy, the findings reveal that zero percent of the most relevant brands studied actually met that desired standard of trust. “Our research indicates that despite people being continually let down by the perceived trustworthiness and truthfulness of brands, they continue to buy their products and services,” Neale says.

Before you shake your head and cue the groans, it’s important to note that not everyone agrees. While PR professionals understand the importance of hype and attention, the argument that brand relevance supersedes trust raises (at least) one issue: sustainability.

Anne Green, president and CEO of CooperKatz & Company, tells PR Week she credits the industry’s shift in focus to long-term sustainability for the change in perception that truth and transparency triumph all else. “The company everyone is talking about today can easily burn out tomorrow, and that burnout often ties back to trust… It creates a cognitive dissonance that festers over time.”

Green highlights Uber and United Airlines as examples of companies that have not necessarily seen profit loss in the wake of negative press, but are still creating distrustful customers who second-guess using their products and services — an effect that can have longer-term consequences. “They may be winning the relevance game. But the long game has a higher cost.”

We at F+A agree: We all know that relevance drives newsworthiness – but while deploying relevance tactics may garner media attention and talkability, obtaining five minutes of fame is not worth the trouble if it puts the reputation of your client, and your agency, in jeopardy. For this reason, PR professionals meticulously drum up communication strategies where truth and newsworthiness overlap, achieving the perfect combination of relevance and transparency for their clients.

When KIND Snacks rolled out its sugar-free Fruit Bites last August, the company cleverly used transparency as a vehicle to achieve relevance and make a statement. Founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky knew that there was an opportunity to capitalize on the attention surrounding consumer distrust in fruit snack nutrition — especially with a recent IRI research study revealing that nine in 10 leading fruit snacks have added sugar as the first ingredient. KIND stacked 45,485 pounds of sugar in the middle of New York’s Times Square – the amount of sugar that U.S. children consume every five minutes – positioning the brand and its new offering as the solution to deceptively high-sugar alternatives.

“We have always been focused on bringing transparency to the industry and categories that we’ve been playing in,” Lubetzky tells Business Insider. “The stunt in Times Square is just a new way in which to do this.”

As PR professionals, it is our job to possess an unbeatable understanding of internal needs and external environments to tactfully position our clients as relevant and newsworthy without having to sacrifice brand trust. The success of KIND Snacks’ marketing tactic is a testament to just how sweet it is to nail that delicate balance — literally.

By Jed Bush

‘Crisis’ in Chinese: A Dangerous Opportunity for Jelly Doughnuts

When John F. Kennedy famously declared, “In the Chinese language, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity,” a crisis communication credo was born. Kennedy, whose love of foreign expressions would later earn him an undeserved reputation of having an insatiable appetite for pastries and a more deserved one for habitually practicing translational malpractice, wasn’t the first to invoke the connection, but he did introduce the tidily packaged aphorism to the masses.

There’s just one problem: it’s not true.

The Chinese phrase for “crisis” is “Wēijī:” 危机. Wēi, 危, does in fact mean danger. However, Victor Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, writes that, in this context, Ji (机), represents an “’incipient moment; [a] crucial point (when something begins or changes).’ Thus, a Wēijī is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry.”

Ben Zimmer, language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, wrote that President Obama cannily dropped the Chinese character framing when linking crisis to opportunity in a weekly address; in doing so, he eschewed the august, bipartisan tradition continued by luminaries like Richard Nixon, Condoleezza Rice and Al Gore (who notoriously dropped the line in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize). Maybe he discarded it because his speechwriters felt the rhetorical device had drifted into cliché. Perhaps his fact-checkers stumbled upon a copy of a Chinese dictionary the night before. We may never know.

Still, the expression’s durability echoes our own philosophies at Firmani + Associates, beliefs drawn from a deep well of experience helping clients navigate crises. Stepping into a crisis with a clear plan will equip you with tools to steady your hand and, when appropriate, strike prudently and decisively as you steer through the storm. You might pick up a scar or two along the way, but, properly managed, a crisis will also bring the opportunity to reassure, to renew trust, to reinvent.

That said, resolving a crisis probably shouldn’t require butchering foreign languages along the way. Why not follow the lead of Homer Simpson instead?

“Lisa: Look on the bright side, Dad. Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity”?

“Homer: Yes! Crisitunity!”

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Getting To Know F+A Senior Account Executive, Julia Irwin
Meet F+A’s Four-Legged Colleagues
Ready to start your PR career?
The Quest for Relevance: Does Talkability Trump Truth?
‘Crisis’ in Chinese: A Dangerous Opportunity for Jelly Doughnuts