Written by: Milin Iyer
The media landscape has changed drastically over the past ten years, with the public increasingly turning to non-traditional outlets as news sources. Fast forward to 2020, the media has exponentially evolved in just one year.
The industry continues to face other challenges from layoffs, consolidation, and in some cases a lack of public trust. Magazines include fewer pages and less stories as many younger readers digest news from a variety of digital sources. These changes have made traditional media relations increasingly difficult. The consolidation has made it far more competitive for asset managers to gain coverage with influential financial publications such as Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes.
The digital age, 2020 and beyond
COVID-19 created a challenging environment for almost every industry, including financial services. The largest asset management firms were quick to adapt and implement new digital strategies to stay ahead of the game. More than half of the boutique asset managers with whom we corresponded over the past year have elevated their digital efforts to raise brand awareness and AUM or, at minimum, were willing to consider one new approach. However, roughly 30% of firms that we spoke with are still struggling to adapt and implement a digital strategy. As the pandemic halted travel and client-facing employees were forced to work from home, interactions had to go digital.
The media was no exception. Major networks like CNBC witnessed a dramatic increase in viewership in March 2020, according to stats from The New York Times*. Producers and reporters at numerous outlets were inundated with breaking news stories, making it difficult to grab their attention. There was also an increase in demand for advertising with these outlets. Firms needed a way to access their target audience, and digital was one of the many credible avenues to explore. While this created a challenging environment for media relations, it has also made it valuable because of the increased visibility.
Social media engagement has significantly increased, providing firms with greater opportunities to engage with target audiences and build brand awareness. Additionally, there are now a vast number of digital content strategies available, which anyone can access and publish, including:
- Thought leadership articles/Insights
- Research/white papers
- LinkedIn articles
Publishing your own content on one or more digital platforms is one of the many ways to build credibility and awareness in today’s environment. This will play a large part in building your firm’s overall brand awareness.
Developing a content and distribution strategy
The above points address the importance of implementing a content creation strategy. It is an in-house strategy to build PR from the ground up utilizing digital channels. Many companies are already doing it, including the largest asset management firms and your competitors.
A content distribution strategy is a key component of building a strong, effective brand image that differentiates you and your firm. A thoughtful strategy will help build an audience and attract more clients—in addition to the attention of the media. Integrating a content strategy into your overall media strategy will enable you to achieve brand and visibility goals in a more comprehensive manner.
Content can be shared with connections on LinkedIn, Tweeted to followers, published on the insights pages of partner firms, and emailed to clients/prospects. It can also be sent to reporters who cover the topic you are writing about, leading to media coverage or TV opportunities. Equally important, Google will index the content, which can result in reporters reaching out directly for a story after locating your article online.
Strapped for time and bandwidth, publications are increasingly open to thought leadership content from outside contributors. This creates an opportunity to increase visibility and distribution of content outside of your own social media, website, and email distribution lists. In addition, many major news outlets have syndication partners, adding even greater distribution of your ideas. Publishing unique stories in national news and trade publications may help boost visibility of and overall thought leadership.
Getting published in a credible media outlet involves more than simply emailing an article to an editor. Publications receive a high rate of submissions, thus are extremely selective. Asset Management firms must work strategically to create unique story ideas relevant to their firm, while developing enticing pieces to catch the eye of their desired publication. Doing so will result in building stronger relationships with media partners. Working closely with and understanding the needs of the publication is critical for success with this strategy.
“The Internet of Things” ……sort of
A sophisticated digital strategy is another component to building brand awareness. When an influential publication publishes your content, they may provide a “backlink” to your story, which is an important factor for your Google ranking. When a prominent publication provides a backlink to your website, your site will rank higher in Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). Originally, marketing strategies relied heavily on the technical knowledge of SEO. In today’s digital era of PR and Google’s ability to understand online content, that has changed. Digital strategies, search engine optimization and public relations must be integrated. Other benefits may include:
- Syndication to other media outlets
- Increase in website hits
- Spikes in Google rankings
- Increased domain authority
- Additional social media followers
While not the exact definition of Internet of Things, which is broadly defined as the concept of connecting any electronic or smart device with an on and off switch to the Internet, and/or to each other. I like the analogy to describe how easily accessible and connected your firm and strategy can be to a client/prospect with a proper digital strategy.
Additional digital marketing tips can be found in our article Prioritizing Your Digital Marketing Wish List
Live video and TV Interviews
Portfolio managers know that TV is still a credible way to share expertise with a large target audience. Today, these opportunities can be conducted from the comfort of your own home or office, saving time given hectic schedules.
Prior to the pandemic, most major financial news networks such as CNBC, Fox Business, and Bloomberg TV required guest to travel to studios for live interviews. In some cases, the closest studio was hours away. In 2020, that changed virtually overnight. Networks still sought out experts for their shows but needed a way to accommodate them safely. Networks are currently featuring industry experts and more unique guests to comment on investment topics due to the ease of accessing these individuals via video conferencing, such as Zoom and Skype. Nearly all networks have adopted video conferencing technologies as a primary option for guest interviews.
The primary principals are still relevant
Despite the media challenges, many traditional media relations strategies are still relevant in 2021.
Similar to sales, successful media relations continue to rely on four actions.
1. Identify your goals – Why are you trying to raise your brand awareness? To raise AUM? To add credibility?
2. Know your story – Do you completely understand the details of your core business? What makes your firm unique?
3. Know your target audience – Who are your clients? Who are you selling to?
4. Identify your media targets – What media outlets do your clients and prospects read and watch? What is their preferred method of obtaining news?
Develop a strategic plan
Once these goals are established, a strategic plan is necessary to implement the campaign. How do you get the attention of reporters? A traditional pitch is still essential. The pitch is the 10-second, three sentence, or quick paragraph used to grab the interest of a reporter on a potential topic. The pitch is the reason they want to take a second look. Cultivating media relationships is essential, as is understanding what interests individual reporters and producers.
Today, reporters may receive hundreds of pitches a day, on top of 5-10 stories. Without an existing relationship, it is difficult to get a reporter on the phone. If they do pick up, they’ll likely ask you to email them. If you do pitch, there is a chance that yours may likely get lost in the mix, may not be different enough to take a deeper look, or simply forgotten about. Relationships matter, but a unique hook matters the most.
Despite the complex and ever-changing landscape of media relations, compounded by pandemic challenges, there are countless opportunities to increase your credibility and reach. A targeted public relations strategy for your asset management firm is a necessary and powerful tool to help you or your firm achieve maximum impact.
Milin Iyer is the Public Relations Director of Sondhelm Partners, a firm that helps asset managers, mutual funds, ETFs, wealth managers and fintech companies grow through marketing, public relations and sales programs.
*April 2020, New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/07/technology/coronavirus-internet-use.html