The finance industry has embraced public relations enthusiastically over time, as keen PR plans in this sector have again and again proved their value: here as a showcase for good news, there as a shield against bad news, here as a wellspring of new talent or innovation, there as a signature for a brand.
The benefits of financial PR are numerous and nuanced, which is why we’ve whipped up this article to answer, at length, some of the most common questions about financial services communications: What is financial services PR exactly? Why is it important? How is it best executed? And what are examples of good (or bad) financial PR in action? Whether you’re a marketer working with a new FinTech company yet to begin your first PR campaign, a well-known asset management firm with a great deal of experience, or somewhere in the middle, this one’s for you.
What is Financial PR?
Financial PR is the art of taking raw information to-do with your financial services company and expressing it in terms that will elicit a favorable reaction from shareholders, investors, or customers. Although finance may seem straightforward in theory — it has a single output, money, and a single input, also money — in practice there are a million ways of announcing the money a company has made or stands to make, a million ways of announcing losses, a million ways of enticing potential investors or patrons, a million permutations of financial instruments and so a million places a company can insert itself in the exchange and redoubling of money, and so on. Somewhere in all this complexity, financial matters become a little less about cold hard math and a little more about human emotion. That’s where a communications strategy comes into play.
Why Is Financial PR So Important?
Financial services PR can perform many functions for your business. No less than in other industries, the shareholders of banks, wealth management companies, insurance companies, and the like respond positively to educational material, requests for engagement, and signs of authority, competence, and mutual understanding. Also, with all the financial services options available to consumers and B2B decision makers, businesses in the field often turn to PR to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Campaigns centered on any of these objectives could fit the definition of financial PR.
Without some proficiency in PR tactics, a finance company leaves everything up to chance: a milestone you reach could be lost in a busy news cycle; the public could interpret your habitual silence as hauteur or lack of credibility; a disturbance in a market, left unexplained, could spook investors and send your stock price plummeting. The importance of PR lies in its ability to steer narratives that might otherwise stagnate or veer rapidly in directions contrary to your company’s interests.
Crisis Communications and Advising on Public-facing Actions
Speaking of narratives veering rapidly, remember what happened to the stock-trading app Robinhood right before its IPO? At first the company was hailed as and held itself up as a champion of the 99%, a force for democratization in the stock market. Then, a group of Robinhood users, angry at what they saw as unethical trading by large hedge funds, began buying up specific stocks en masse to inflict losses on the hedge funds. The problem was, because of its operating structure, Robinhood was required to have money to back the trades before they were completed, and their cash reserves couldn’t match the unnatural demand for these specific stocks. They hastily placed trading restrictions on the companies in question, and users were outraged.
Robinhood had no crisis communication plan ready to deploy; public opinion took its course without their voice being heard, at least not until they had taken time to marshall press releases about the controversy. In that interval the company’s reputation suffered grievously, as people speculated that Robinhood had halted trades not because of SEC requirements but at the behest of the large hedge funds, the very entities the app purported to help everyday people compete against in the stock market.
Not a good look, and an instructive event as to the importance of a crisis communication plan in financial services PR. As part of your financial PR strategy you should be sure to include a crisis communication element; any experienced financial communications agency can tell you how quickly a bad situation can get worse without a failsafe in place to manage public perception.
Examples of Financial Public Relations Strategies
So, now that you have a basic idea of why financial PR is important, let’s get more specific. What are some directions you could take a PR campaign that would breathe new life into your business? Three good objectives for your company’s PR, off the top of our head, are:
- Carving out a niche
- Adding personality to a brand
- Improving media relations
What do these strategies involve?
Carving Out a Niche
Vying for attention alongside competitors doing basically exactly what your business does, you may find it difficult to make your enterprise stand out. However, financial PR plans can help with that. There is always variation between companies, and a financial communications agency can help you find a distinction your company can claim that gives an advantage of some kind to your customers. Then, they can help you emphasize that difference in a targeted way that may eventually make the distinction part of your brand, a calling card for your services.
Add Personality to the Brand
Entertaining people, showing that you understand and empathize with them, and otherwise revealing the humanity behind all the transactions can be powerful PR strategies in a financial communications toolbox. The finance industry’s reputation for dispassionate profit-seeking may have fed a certain harmful popular conception; in the public mind you may take the form of a grey-suited automaton with no face poring endlessly over spreadsheets. This is of course unfair and untrue, so give people a look at your actual personality!
As an example, check out the blog run by FirstBank, a community bank based in Colorado. The tone is light, the advice is useful to the audience they’re speaking to, and in short the impression they create with their posts is one of warmth, ease, and heartfelt connection with the reader. This same kind of openness can help create trust between you and your stakeholders as part of your financial PR.
Improving Media Relations
We’ve touched on the public’s preference of earned media to bought media in other posts. Within your financial PR campaign, devote some time to cultivating relationships with journalists, social media influencers, podcast hosts, and any other third-party agents of communication you think might be helpful. Getting the stamp of approval from a few micro-influencers with followers who trust their judgment could do more for your business in 2021, dollar for dollar, than you could get from buying ads.
What’s next for your financial services PR plans?
If you’re sold on the benefits of financial services PR and want some help getting started or building on existing momentum, get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you!