How Kerrie Finch creates space for writing and for brands

Happyplaces Stories (video)

Kerrie launched her agency FinchFactor in 2009. Now, FinchFactor is an international network empowering brands, creative agencies and start-ups. I had to talk to Kerrie, about how she creates space for space makers and how she does that for herself. FinchFactor, being a brand, helps brand builders to build their own brand or brands while these brand builders help brands to build their brands. A sort of Droste effect (the ‘Droste effect’ is the effect of a picture appearing within itself, a picture in a picture in a picture…) or a Russian Matrushka puppet (a puppet in a puppet in a, you get the idea).

There are too many brands out there, there are too many companies out there who talk at people. It’s not about that. It is about bringing people in as well. So, we can make something good, great. Because it is about amplification. But we can’t make something shit, good. There has to be a golden nugget. We’re not magicians. It’s not smoke and mirrors here. We have to start with a golden nugget. And that golden nugget, can be any shape or size, but there has to be a golden nugget. Otherwise we have nothing at FinchFactor to play with. That’s what we need.

Me space

I work very publicly, I guess. Because what I do for a living is PR and brand communications. But I also write, for myself. I write to create stories, I write working on a book. The space I use to do these two things are very different. I have an office in Amsterdam. But also work from home, because it’s my company so you work 24/7.

I’ve infiltrated my personal space too much with work. So what I find is that I can’t anymore be creative for myself. I can’t write stories. I can’t create chapters at home anymore. Because my personal space has been taken over as a work space. So what I had to do was to make a very specific area in my apartment specifically for creativity for me. I took a sofa out of my bedroom and I put a very nice small writing table in there. That is only, and exclusively for writing, which is my writing. Which is part of, the kind of stuff that I generate. Which is for me, basically. That is a very, very specific space in my apartment that I can write in. The only other way that I can write is, for me, when I am specifically writing for me, is going somewhere else. I will do it in a café. Or I work from another friend’s office, because it is not my office. She is a writer and her office is all about words to me. So I can work from her office because it’s a neutral space.

What we do at FinchFactor is to help brands as well as brand builders to build their reputation and build credibility. And what we’re finding is that a lot of our work, comes of the back of an irony, which is that brand builders don’t build their own brands. Brands don’t have time to look at themselves as a brand often. Or they’re busy with business development, or they’re busy working on clients and they forget to build their own brand. They’re excellent at it for other people. But it’s that story of the shoemaker’s children: the shoemaker makes excellent shoes but their children go barefoot. It’s the hairdresser in the top salon. You don’t want to have your hair cut by the person with the best hair. You want to have your hair cut by the person in the salon with the worst hair. Because they have done everybody else’s hair and no one is doing theirs. And I think that’s what happens often. Is that brand builders don’t have the time and the energy, and the space. They don’t have the brain space to be able to look at their own brand and say: ‘Okay, this is what we need to do. Who are we? Where are we going? What do we want? What’s the future? What’s the next step?’ And FinchFactor comes in and gives people brain space. And we help them to look at themselves as a brand. Help them build credibility, basically. By taking more ownership of the market. We help people to become thought leaders, and opinion formers and that’s all about taking up space. Taking up and owning the space. That’s all about claiming ownership. That’s all about brand recognition. And you don’t do it by one thing. Communications is a broad, broad, area. Everything is communication. It is not about a tweet, it’s not about building an app, it’s not about ‘Oh my god, how many likes do I have on Facebook’. It’s about ‘is this brand a #1 brand?. Is this brand seen as a challenger brand? Does this brand impact our lives? What conversations do I have with this brand?’ And that is for any company. But they just don’t have, often, the capability or the distance to be able to look at their own brand effectively.

I think what happens with brands, is that a lot of brands like to say: ‘It’s about the work, it comes down to the work’. And that of course is excellent and that is a very good place to start. But frankly, if nobody noticed you created that work, you’re not building your business and you’re not building your brand. You have to flag wave in the creative industry, like in any industry in the world. You have to flag wave, because you need clients. You need business. Brand builders need brands to work on. And they can do excellent work. But if you’re living in a vacuum and nobody knows that your brand exists, then what’s the point. It is not about ‘Oh, does this perfume make me look fat’. It’s about credibility management. And it’s all about building relationships so that our clients win new business. And build their brands in order to stand bigger and more centrally within their own marketplace, whatever that marketplace happens to be.

The chain reaction of who does ours… Everybody needs help. We help the brand builders to build their brands. And the irony is, that FinchFactor didn’t have a website for six months, because we didn’t have time to help ourselves build our brand. Because we were working with all our clients. So, it happens to the best of us. Everybody shoots themselves in the foot. We had to bring somebody in to help us build our brand, online at least, for the website. Everybody needs help. You don’t have the brain space internally all the time. That is what makes the world go round. It’s connections and it’s relationships.

We get approached by various clients. We don’t just take anybody on. Because life is to short, and frankly, I’m not that interested in money. It has to be a meeting of minds for me. It’s very, very important that I truly believe that FinchFactor can make something work. You’ve got to have a story to tell. We turn clients down, because for example a local company wants to go internationally. And we say to them: ‘Okay, but you’re all one nationality, Dutch’, we’re sitting in The Netherlands, ‘you’re all Dutch’. All your clients are Dutch. And actually, there is nothing particularly unique about anything that you’re saying. And it’s going to be impossible for us to make a story out of that. If you’ve got nothing to say, there is nothing to say. So don’t say anything. Otherwise it’s just air, it’s just noise, it’s just space. And you’re not creating a conversation.

You’re just talking AT people.

And I can’t do that.