Creating thought-leadership content has grown to become a major part of financial services firms’ marketing efforts—and for good reason.
But beyond creating content and embarking on basic efforts to promote and distribute it, marketing leaders in the industry should also be thinking about how the content they are creating fits within a larger, comprehensive media and communications strategy.
As a veteran public relations and financial communications professional, I’ve seen firsthand the power an effective media and communications strategy can have on a company’s bottom line.
Effectively articulating a company’s story against the competition in the media can not only drive deeper awareness of a product or brand but can boost the value of its stock or other valuation metrics.
Still, I’ve also seen how poor planning and strategy on the front-end of a company’s public relations and communications efforts can result in a complete waste of time and money.
Thankfully, Scott and Frank from Wentworth Financial Communications have asked me to write this blog post to provide readers with greater insight into what a focused and effective media relations strategy looks like.
Here are six things financial marketers should do to elevate their media outreach efforts to the next level.
Link the media relations strategy to specific business objectives
The biggest mistake I see firms make when it comes to their media strategies is having no clear link to any specific business goal or objective.
Most firms embark on a PR and media strategy in a broad effort to “get our name out there.” The mistake is that there isn’t a clear direction linked to a specific goal.
For example, improving a company’s public reputation is an entirely different goal than increasing profits. Additionally, launching a product will require different tactics than aiming to position the CEO as a thought leader in a given industry.
In each case, a media strategy can be effective, but the tactics used to carry it out will be very different and will depend largely on the specific goal the strategy is trying to reach.
Know who your target audience is—and why they’re important to your business
Just as any media strategy has to have specific goals tied to specific business objectives, the same goes for the audience that the strategy is trying to reach.
Again, the target audience for a product launch will be different than an effort geared toward raising awareness for an important social issue tied to the company—so make sure the audience is aligned with the goal.
How can financial marketers determine the specifics of their desired audience demographic? Oftentimes, the audience for a media and communications strategy will comprise the usual suspects: industry reporters and editors, as well as industry analysts and other industry observers.
But, sometimes, your audience will extend into other areas. If the audience is mostly customers—say, for a product or service launch—consult with your firm’s sales organization to get specific insights. If it’s other industry executives—say, as an effort to position your CEO as a thought leader—make sure your strategy and tactics are aligned accordingly.
Determine your framework and message
With clear objectives and a firm target audience in hand, now is the time to ensure that the messages you create—and the channels used to distribute them—are properly aligned.
What’s the problem that you’re trying to solve with your media strategy? That’s the question at the center of the proposition or theme of your media and communications strategy.
Once that core question is answered, the message of your media strategy should also:
- Be simple and explain the cause or message clearly
- Emphasize the critical importance of the “news,” or what you’re trying to get the media to cover
- Tell people something new—what makes your message different or unique compared to the competition?
I cannot over emphasize the second bullet enough. Ultimately, put yourself in your audience’s shoes when crafting your message or pitch. Why should they care?
You—as an employee or executive at the company trying to get covered—obviously think your message is important and interesting. But not everyone on the outside is going to see it the same way. If you can’t answer that question, from the perspective of the audience you’re trying to reach, then you should adjust your message, or ditch it entirely.
Leverage the strategy across mediums
Writing a press release shouldn’t be the end of your media strategy—it should be the beginning.
Once the objectives, goals, audience, and message are created, it’s vital to know when to amplify the strategy through different mediums. If, for instance, a CEO or other company executive is speaking at an upcoming conference, use the opportunity to see what media will be in attendance to connect with for an interview.
In the same vein, if the executive’s speech is related to the message of your strategy, see if there are ways it can be repurposed on social media or as part of a written thought-leadership effort. The bottom line: For the media strategy to be comprehensive, it has to have multiple touchpoints with your desired audience.
Thought leadership, speaking opportunities, social media, and external “earned” media and editorial opportunities—among other mediums and channels in a company’s arsenal—should all be aligned with the larger strategy’s message and goals.
Determine the right timing—and timeline—of your media strategy
Not all media strategies are meant to last forever—nor are they all evergreen and relevant for any point in a company’s calendar year or lifecycle.
First, the timing of your media strategy around a given message is important.
An obvious example: starting a media campaign on December 24 around a hot new toy that your company is hoping to sell in heaps over the holidays isn’t going to be effective. The same can be said for releasing important press releases or news that you want your desired audience to pay attention to on Thanksgiving Day—unless, of course, your medium is a commercial aired during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and your audience is among the likely viewer demographic.
Outside of these obvious—and exaggerated —hypothetical examples, it’s important for financial marketers to consider the context and timing of their strategy’s release. A private wealth management firm wouldn’t want to start promoting its year-end tax planning tips on December 30, nor would a sell-side analyst who covers the retail industry want to go on CNBC to discuss back-to-school consumer trends in November.
Equally as important is the timeframe of when your strategy’s campaign should end. Not every media or communications strategy should last indefinitely. Whether it’s quarterly, monthly, weekly, or even daily, make sure your strategy has a clear start and end period.
Determine measurable results—and learn from them
Part of the reason your media strategy should have a clear start and end date is so that you can measure it effectively against the business objectives and goals you set out at the beginning.
If the goal was to increase your company’s “share of voice” among your competition—known in the PR industry as the number of times your company is positively and prominently mentioned in the media compared to your competitors—than the number of newspaper clips or social media mentions featuring the company or its executives is a useful metric to follow.
No matter the strategy, make sure there is a clear goal and objective to measure it against.
And, then, learn from it. The most effective media strategies are those that evolve over time. If a company launches a strategy that doesn’t result in the expected results, the company can learn from where it went wrong, improve, and try again.
For more insights on how financial services firms can create and distribute compelling thought-leadership content—whether on their own or by working with a ghostwriter or outsourced writing agency—subscribe to WFC’s YouTube channel.
About the Author
Lauren Timen is veteran public relations practitioner and President of Striker Communications, which specializes in media strategy for national privately-held and publicly traded corporations. Her clients have been featured in coverage on publications and outlets including Forbes, CNBC’s Mad Money and Squawk Box, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Fox Business, and The Wall Street Journal.