VC CommsCon 2022: Taming the Overload

There was an unofficial theme present at this year’s VC Comms Con 2022, put on by BAM Communications: marketers are spread thin! This group of high-performing marcom professionals got together to share insights that help them navigate the pressures of marketing their VC firms, as well as support the portfolio companies the firm represents. Often, they find themselves trying to influence change in an organization where they are the only one in their role.

We work with many marketers in similarly siloed roles outside of the VC world as well, from lone CMOs just starting to think about building their teams, to the fresh out of school marketing professional learning the ropes by supporting a smaller organization with everything from social media to hosting events. They all face the same question.

How can they do it all?

In service to our broader network, I’d share some of my takeaways and teachings from this year’s VC Comms Con, and strongly encourage anyone in a marketing role at a VC fund to keep a watch out for details about next year. It’s an event like no other. 

Cliff Worley gave us a list of online tools he’s curated over the years, to support any need from getting a perfect shareable picture of a tweet, to better LinkedIn analytics, which just serves as a reminder to marketers everywhere that if there’s a hack you wish you had, it’s likely out there. Another pro tip? Use Zapier to connect Twitter and Slack so you are the first to know. 

Nikki Parker gave the most sage advice to look at moving work forward by leveraging your team and taking stock in your initiatives, asking yourself what’s reasonable for you to own, and what’s not. She asks herself:

  1. What can I Own?
  2. What can I Influence?
  3. What can I Outsource?
  4. What can I Force?

Having good resources is key.

There was also a recurring discussion from multiple attendees around curating resources. In the main stage panel with Elise Brown, Nikki Parker, and Tyana Daley, the shared consensus was that PR and Branding agencies were the most sought after resources by their portfolio companies this last year. Having an arsenal of experts at their side makes them more powerful overall, and able to recommend the right resources at the right time.

Websites are an especially fun challenge.

I was invited to speak during a breakout session on behalf of Four Fin about keeping website redesigns from flying off the rails. The main takeaway? Be thoughtful and right-size the lift. Especially in the venture ecosystem where the speed of business moves faster than a new Tik Tok trend, it pays off to take a minute upfront to get clear.

The top six reasons a website redesign flies off the rails:

  1. You want the website to do too much
  2. Everyone battles for their win
  3. You use the website redesign as a chance to revisit your brand
  4. Content takes way longer than you thought
  5. New ideas emerge and you react to them
  6. Your team forgets that websites can be iterative

Have you experienced any of these site redesign pitfalls?

The main theme in the solutions presented for all of these, is that any good website redesign will not magically happen by simply signing a contract with an outside agency, no matter what they might tell you. Your team needs to be aligned internally on what the website needs to do (not all it can do), how you’ll gather and develop content to provide to your agency, and when to “park” new ideas for a phase two or future website update.

Your agency can and should help guide you, but it’s a partnership. 

At Four Fin, we strive to keep branding right-sized for the early stages of growth, making sure the work we do is impactful enough to move brands forward to their next stage, without overdoing it.

Our solution for launching an impactful brand and website in the early stages of growth (Seed-stage or early Series A for my VC friends here) is a four-month, guided exercise called Brand Splash. Splashes are designed with the following:

  • A set schedule
  • Iterative and collaborative work sessions
  • Are scheduled across a reasonable amount of time for the client to supply content with everything else they have going on, and
  • A hand-held approach that doesn’t blow your marketing budget

Thanks again to the team at BAM communications for creating this incredible experience. Your hard work created a safe place for the free-sharing of ideas that is rare, and a community that supports each other openly. I was honored to share my expertise, and in awe of the attendees present, and their tenacity for excellence in a field where doing it all feels impossible.   

FINterview Series: Morgan Clark

Favorite thing about Four Fin?

The Fins! Insanely talented, down to earth good people, talk about a dream team!

What is your favorite food?

Fresh Mexican food – one of the many reasons I love living in San Diego!

What do you like to do in your free time?

Most weekends you can find me checking out a brewery with friends, flying home to wine country to see family, heading to dog beach with my puppy, Tucker, or at the ballpark for a Padres game!

Favorite Book (or Movie)?

Shoe Dog. I’ve played sports my entire life and Nike has always been a staple in that. Aside from my lifelong connection with Nike, I enjoyed reading the story behind the brand – guess I can thank “Just Do It” for fueling my love for branding!

Create a Coherent Online Presence for Your Remote Team

With more businesses moving their teams completely remote after COVID-19, maintaining a unified team presence is becoming increasingly difficult for companies and organizations.

If company-wide professional headshots were never taken for your team, all you have would be a handful of photos of faces that were taken at different times with various lighting, cameras, positions, styles, and resolutions. Put them side by side in a presentation, proposal or on your brand new website and they will look like they are freshly pulled out of Google. This could have a negative influence on your company credibility.

While it is more expensive and time-consuming to hire photographers in each location and get on the same page regarding the style, companies have an opportunity to think creatively about how to tackle this issue.

Here at Four Fin, we have come up with some creative solutions that help our clients present their complete remote team with a look of professionalism and coherence.

Black and White headshots, with branded color roll over

Seismic is a PR firm with team members spread across the US. As they prepared to launch their new website with a shiny new brand, team headshots needed to be freshened as well. We helped Seismic put together a photoshoot at their post-Covid, in-person team-wide retreat. This gave the majority of the team a unified look. However, not everyone could attend the event, so we also accounted for future additions, by shooting them on a clean white background.

Benefits of this approach: 

  • Even with headshots in different positions, cropping, and sizes, the team still looks coherent as a whole.
  • When new team members need to be added, it’s quick and easy to turn any headshot into black and white and give it a clean background.
  • Easily works with any brand colors. To add interest and enhance the brand impression, we added Seismic’s gradient color to the roll over state of the headshots, which also helps users to know that it’s a clickable page.

Use a graphic treatment to unify

Benhamou Global Ventures is a remote team spread across the globe through different time zones. The leadership team, who needed to be showcased on the website, faced the challenge of not having the capacity or time to take a new headshot.

 If you find yourself in a similar circumstance, a nice way to still achieve a coherent team look is to enhance the graphic treatment for the photos. However, this method does require more production work.

Benefits of this approach: 

  • Using clipping paths to cut out backgrounds reduces the differences
  • Added graphic element (here we used a circle) in the grid system helped unify the overall look and feel
  • Easy to add new faces

That’s a wrap

If the solutions we mentioned above don’t solve for your specific case, there are some additional options to try:

Team-wide retreat/photoshoot

Like we mentioned above for the Seismic team, any physical team building event is a great opportunity to gather everyone’s headshot. Pick a place you enjoy, and make an appointment with a great local photographer, communicate the style and you’re good to go.

Put together a headshot style guide

A style guide provides tips and guidelines for headshots that help both team members and photographers achieve a consistent look. By defining width and height, resolution, clothes to wear, backgrounds, lighting, postures, etc, you can easily yield workable results.

Use virtual headshots services like Heroic Headshots

If all you are looking to do is improve the headshots you’ve collected from the team, and there’s not much time or resources to be creative, consider using a paid service like Heroic Headshots, that automatically generates the headshots to align with your brand, in a few easy steps.


We hope this gets you started on creating consistent team headshots. Nowadays with smartphones, we can easily take high-res photos that are good enough for any digital presentation. With the right creative strategies, you’ll find it easy to improve the quality and unity of your team shots, and leave a great first digital impression of your team.

Still need help? Reach out!

FINterview Series: Rebecca Tall Brown

FINS_Square_Rebecca

What did you want to be growing up? 

I wanted to be President. My hand was perpetually raised in school, volunteering for anything that would get me out of my seat and into a new experience.

Favorite book or movie?

l always stop to watch Denzel’s portrayal of Frank Lucas in American Gangster. He built community and gave his family upward mobility which was all foiled by {spoiler alert} a full-length, $100k chinchilla coat.

Favorite thing about Four Fin?

Learning alongside other talented people who are also dedicated to great work – every time. The “get it right” culture prioritizes our clients needs. It energizes me daily.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Walking my sweet senior pups and catching stand-up comedy and live music with my husband, Erick. We went to the Sunset Bowl this autumn for our first live-show post Pandemic and it was magic.

San Diego Design Week Impressions

SD Made Factory
SD Made Factory

San Diego Made Factory

This year we at Four Fin were fortunate to be able to attend a number of SDDW events: I chose a couple of virtual ones in the middle of the workweek and a couple of live events over the weekend. Here’s a brief overview of what I experienced. 

First up was General Assembly’s UX Design 101. It’s always good to brush up since it’s an ever-changing industry, and I did learn a few new tricks. Daniel Huss was an entertaining presenter, who sprinkled solid UX axioms with witticisms and amusing examples. Some takeaways included: 

  1. Ask open-ended questions. Start with a small amount of questions but dig into them by asking why after the initial answer.
     
  2. “Love the problem, not the solution.” This is so important for every designer to remember (and so easy to forget). There are many possible solutions and it’s best not to get too attached to any one. We love to explore this maxim during Brand Sessions.

  3. Silence is the best tool because people want to fill the awkward silence, and therefore they’ll elaborate more. Allow gaps. Who knew being awkward could be a bonus?  

As some of you may know, I’m one of two Fins who moonlight as design educators (can you guess who else does?) so the next session that caught my eye was the live portfolio review with the lovely Julia Masalska. She had plenty of good tips for building a strong portfolio including:

  • Let your personality show through
  • Create case studies
  • Present a shocking fact about the problem you’re solving
  • Make it functional
  • Don’t overuse free mockups
  • Be creative with presenting your work
  • State a clear intention: do you want to get hired? Full-time? Freelancer?

These are helpful tidbits not only for recent grads but also more seasoned designers who are updating their websites. Her presentation was followed by a live review of a few portfolios by Erika Lauro, Talin Wadsworth and Temi Coker. One to watch is Antonio Mustico. Rising star, for sure! 

We’ve always been fascinated by shipping container homes, so my next stop on Sunday was the Work-from-home Life In A Shipping Container tour by Noble Intent Studio. The workspace was small in size but big in creativity with a view of the garden through the floor to ceiling windows. Next we got to see the guest house portion of the container. We loved the plywood floors, which apparently shipping containers come with, and they just sanded and stained them. If you missed this one, you can check out their instagram here

My final hurrah was the San Diego Made Factory tour. It was welcoming and vibrant, with mimosas and music and art and vegan snacks. There was so much visual eye candy (special shout out to Alyssa Rose for the beautiful abstract paintings). Conversations were flowing and inspiring, and I even got an impromptu tour of the upstairs workspaces, led by Raygun’s founder, Stacey Edelstein. We’ve been a fan of their work for a while here at Four Fin, so it was a treat to meet her and see where their magic happens. As an added bonus, we got to peek in our client Sam Mazzeo of Better’s office window. Lastly we checked out the basement, where Humble Design calls their home. I’m in awe of what they do to transform empty spaces into fully furnished homes for people emerging from homelessness. 

San Diego Design Week was a good reminder of the creativity that San Diego houses all year long. We promise we won’t wait another year to seek out more local inspiration and you shouldn’t either. 

FINterview Series: Aaron Van Fossen

FF_AVF_LinkedIn (1)
What is the most uncomfortable thing you have done? 

A cross-country Greyhound bus trip. Barely slept for days, narrowly missed being mugged, shared food with strangers, and used Google translate to make a new friend. Uncomfortable, but ultimately life-changing.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Lose my voice at live music shows. Live and die over the Green Bay Packers.

You’re a new Pantone color, what are you called?

Imperial Stout.

What is your dream vacation?

Japan. The food and the art. The gardens and parks. Super Nintendo World. Maybe tea with Hayao Miyazaki if he’s got time.

What is your favorite thing about Four Fin?

The great collection of people (and plants)

Brand Evolution: Just the Right Fit

Mission Driven Finance

Brands don’t always need to completely rework their identity to signal change or growth. A Brand Evolution (improving upon what’s existing) or a Brand Revolution (creating something completely new) is the lingo we use to describe what kind of brand solution clients embark on. Deciding on which solution is best for the brand depends on answering questions like:

Is our brand still relevant to our audiences/markets?
Has our business outgrown our existing brand?
Are there certain aspects of the brand (logo, colors, etc.) that resonate with stakeholders we need to keep?

To name a few…

Here are four clients that maintained existing visual equities, yet evolved their brands to keep up with their evolving businesses.

Mission Driven Finance

On the cusp of celebrating their five year anniversary and announcing major funding partnerships, Mission Driven Finance was looking to clean up before these big milestones. MDF tells a great story their brand evolution on their blog here


Mission Driven Finance

GIA Wellness

GIA had been a well-known brand in wellness consulting circles, but in shifting to a more Direct-to-Consumer model, they needed a fresh take on their visual identity beyond the logo. We partnered with GIA to make a subtle, yet impactful, refresh to the brand’s web and packaging consumer experiences. 


GIA Wellness Brand Evolution

CEG Multifamily

After developing the brand for Unfold Development, CEG’s newest division, the 30-year-old company was ready for change. The updated visual identity incorporates graphical elements kindred to Unfold while maintaining its typographic roots.


CEG Brand Evolution

CPA Collective

CPA Collective provides high-caliber accounting solutions and needed its brand to meet the same level of quality that the business provides. The evolved, refreshed visual identity and website express a more tasteful, experienced CPA Collective.


CPAC Brand Evolution

Are you considering an uplevel to your brand identity, but not sure if a brand evolution is the solution?

Reach out to us!

Making our own Waves

Photo by Philip Graves on Unsplash

Although we’re here to help our clients make waves with their businesses by building solid brands, sometimes we have to give ourselves credit for making a few waves. Four Fin was named one of the Top Branding Agencies In California of 2021 by Design Rush.

How’d we do it? By taking a nimble, no-nonsense approach to branding. Whether its participating in one of our three week Brand Sessions or our ongoing partnerships, our clients move forward instead of moving in circles. 

Are you making the waves or riding the waves?

Brand Strategy Q&A with Hillery

Hillery Kemp Brand Strategy
Hillery Kemp Brand Strategy

Often, prospective clients ask us how we arrive at our design choices, or how are we able to create a full brand identity in just three weeks during Brand Sessions. The answer always comes back to brand strategy.

Hillery, Four Fin’s Brand Strategist, gives us a glimpse into its importance.

What’s the difference between a brand strategy and a marketing strategy?

This is a great question that similarly goes with the classic “what’s the difference between branding and marketing?” inquiry I receive when telling people what I do. We wrote a great little number on this a while back if you need a refresher.

The strategy of a brand is the map guiding foundationally how the brand needs to show up in the world, based more on emotions than logic. This strategy is utilized by those responsible for bringing the brand to life visually and verbally (e.g., designers, copywriters, agencies, etc.) or through action (e.g., company management, employees, etc.). It’s truly the DNA for a brand, and although the components vary, they will often include the: brand concept, brand positioning, brand values, brand pillars, and brand personality traits. 

A marketing strategy, on the other hand, is a map guiding functionally how and where the brand needs to show up in the world to effectively reach target audiences, based more on logic. It is utilized by those responsible for articulating the brand’s value to audiences (e.g., marketing managers, social media and other digital marketers/agencies, etc.). These strategies often contain customer segmentation, promotional tactics and timing, and evaluation. 

Marketing strategies exist to help companies promote products and services, and are ultimately informed by the strategy of the brand . 

What’s the risk of not having a strategy in place for your brand?

Imagine building a car without knowing what kind of engine will be in it. How would you design the body style? How big could it be? How would it perform? A basic metaphor to say that managing a brand without a clear strategy is a blinding endeavour. 

If there is no framework for consistently showing up, several things happen:

  • Audiences will have a harder time remembering your brand
  • Internal alignment for both branding AND marketing activities become impossible
  • More time and resources are wasted attempting to solve brand and marketing challenges every time they come up (which happens often)

How do you create a brand strategy?

In developing brand strategies, being an outside perspective for our clients is key. It provides us with 360 degrees of context without getting too deep into the weeds of their businesses. 

At a high level, we look at the client’s business, competition, industry, and (often most importantly) customers. We understand the important factors influencing each of these aspects of our client’s brand and work to uncover the authentic space they can/already own. Capturing this ownable space are the grounds for building out the components of the brand’s strategy. 

Have a strategy-related question or could your brand use an outside-in perspective? 

Reach out to us! 

FINterview Series: Zenia Birdie

Zenia Birdie, Account Manager at Four Fin Creative

A little intro about Zenia

What’s your favorite food?
French fries! Yes, I have a preference for which kind/shape but it depends on where I’m eating!

What did you want to be growing up?
I’m told I wanted to be a school bus driver when I was three years old so that I could go to school with my older sister (seemed like the place to be)! Then a teacher when I was in elementary school which I later realized was code for wanting to help people grow. Lately, I’ve started to think more about what type of person I want to be rather than what I want to be (because when are any of us really done growing up). To which my answer is thoughtful & empathetic, self-aware & authentic and grateful.

Favorite thing about Four Fin?
Being a contributor to one of the most equitable, unique and healthy agency cultures with transparency at its core. And it’s not just thrown around as a buzzword. We naturally live it every day with each other, our clients and partners.

What is the most uncomfortable thing you have done?
I moved to Rome, Italy for a semester in college without knowing even one person. Within six hours of landing, I knew it was the best decision of my life and couldn’t believe I almost missed it because I was afraid. Little did I know that I’d also end up meeting my future husband there who was on the same program!