3Points was born at the intersection of trading and technology, and we have loved serving the capital markets industry over the past 10 years. We can admit, though, that it presents some unique challenges, which is part of the reason we like it so much. Our VP, Director of Fintech, Lorna Kiewert, explains some of those challenges in this post.
When I graduated college 10 years ago with a degree in communication, I didn’t realize it would take me to the capital markets industry. I got my first taste of marketing with an internship at an independent software vendor and later transitioned into a full-time account management role at a futures exchange. Now I’ve been at 3Points nearly eight years, working with a wide array of financial services clients and recently taking the lead of our fintech practice.
In the past decade, I’ve certainly learned a lot about fintech PR, and I’ve seen a lot of changes. Here are five key challenges I’ve found working in financial communications today — and how we overcome them at 3Points.
1. Financial services education
In order to do your job at a high level, a PR professional must have domain expertise, both in terms of the client’s business and the competitive landscape in which the client operates. The financial services industry poses a challenge for a few reasons. For one, it’s an industry most people have little experience with — working in, say, edtech, everyone has at least gone through the educational system and knows generally how schools work. Very few PR people (or aspiring PR pros) have ever had to learn how the markets work, and reports have shown that millennials are even less financially literate than older generations.
The solution to this challenge is fairly simple: you have to study. Sure, you’ll pick up industry knowledge just by virtue of working in the industry, but it takes a more active approach to really become an expert. Ask questions of your peers with more experience. Use resources provided by exchanges and industry associations, investor letters, blogs of market participants, and reports by market research outfits. Go to fintech events. Read the financial press! Put in the work so you can confidently speak the same language as clients and reporters. One nice benefit is that the more you understand about the markets, the more you can put that knowledge to work for your own financial wellness.
This isn’t the case for all financial firms, but many are regulated entities that have compliance procedures. This can slow down the PR process and also make the company “lose out” on timely opportunities when content and media relations opportunities require compliance approval. But, it is an essential step, as the alternative is a potential fine from the SEC, CFTC, FINRA, or another applicable regulator. Other times, clients may not be able to publicly disclose certain information — for example, hedge funds are allowed to market their companies but not their strategies. (Jeremie Bacon, CEO of our client Imagineer Technology Group, broke this down in a ValueWalk piece last year.)
Just as in point #1, it’s important to study so that you know which clients have to abide by which regulations. It also becomes highly important to plan as far ahead as possible, leaving ample time for any PR initiatives, such as quote checks or social media posts, to be run through compliance.
3. Social media influencers
PR has transitioned beyond the classic press release. Brands are set to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022, according to Business Insider. Companies are connecting with influencers on social media, but fintech (like many other B2B industries) does not lend itself to as many opportunities here when compared to fashion, music, or food.
One way to combat this is to get creative and expand your definition of an influencer. While they may work as transactionally as B2C influencers, you can find, for example, traders with large social media followings. With them, it’s more about respect than reimbursement — if you intelligently engage with them and show them that you have a relevant and insightful point of view, you may see them engage with you as well.
4. Monetization of thought leadership opportunities
Credible industry awards, speaking opportunities, podcast appearances — all fall under the service category we call “earned media,” because those recognitions have to be earned. At least, in theory they do. In practice, we are seeing more “pay-to-play” in the industry, whereby the key qualification for recognition is not the work you’ve done, but the fee you’ve paid to the organizer. And, given that it’s financial services, those fees can occasionally be quite high.
Before you bring an opportunity to a client, do your research to see whether there is a cost associated with the opportunity. Even if there is, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth pursuing — you’ll just want to notify your client up front so they are aware. From there, you can do a cost-benefit analysis and determine whether the advantages are worthwhile. (For example, Forbes Finance Council has a membership fee, but some of our clients have found the benefits outweigh that cost.)
5. Consolidation and closure of trade publications
We love trade publications at 3Points — a strong trade media can bring out the best in an industry by challenging industry participants with its expertise and narrow focus. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the financial trade media shrink over the past decade. That harms the industry in general, and from a PR perspective, it only increases competition among fintech companies for coverage in the remaining publications and at the national level.
From a tactical standpoint, it’s important to keep your media lists up to date, and it almost goes without saying that it’s crucial to nurture your reporter relationships — don’t just keep in touch with them, but make sure you are always providing value to them. On a broader level, it’s vital to support high-quality journalism and insist that others do so as well. We all want news for free, but the healthier journalism is, the healthier PR is as well.
For all of its challenges, fintech is a dynamic industry filled with great people and leading-edge technology. If you can navigate the idiosyncrasies, it is well worth your time as a PR professional.