Traits of the Modern PR Executive

Over the past decade, the role of the financial public relations professional has changed significantly; most notably, an increased correlation between sales, marketing and public relations. Because this link is blurring lines between the disciplines, PR professionals must act as strategic financial industry consultants and not merely tactical individuals.

The media landscape has also changed, presenting industry-wide challenges as the public increasingly turns to non-traditional outlets as news sources. Also, the media industry continues to face other challenges. From “fake news” to layoffs, consolidation, and in some cases, a lack of public trust, a disruption of the traditional media landscape has made public relations efforts increasingly difficult.

Here are 4 traits of today’s successful financial PR executive:

  1. Strategic partner for clients: PR is not limited to pitching reporters/media, writing and distributing press releases. PR professionals must forge strategic partnerships, proposing top level ideas to a client’s C-level executives, thus becoming a trusted partner and sounding board. They must think outside the box, developing solutions and looking at how – through traditional and non-traditional PR strategies – they can help move the needle and raise AUM for their clients.Doing so requires a thorough understanding of the client’s firm, goals, investment strategies, and a strategic ability to apply this understanding in unique ways, to include providing counsel across the board and maintaining open and honest lines of communication. As firms look to re-evaluate their budgets for 2020, which may result in cutting back on expenses, the successful PR professionals will be the ones that can prove themselves as reliable partners.
  1. New content distribution channels are emerging: As the traditional media landscape changes, we are witnessing the emergence and growth of new channels. With media consolidation on the rise and less reporters on staff, publications are increasingly open to thought leadership type content from outside contributors. Your firm might already be creating excellent thought leadership pieces and research papers, so why not increase visibility and distribution of your content outside of your website and email distribution list? In addition, many major news outlets have syndication partners, adding even greater distribution of the content.Publishing unique content in national news and trade publications is a surefire way to boost visibility, gain professional credibility, and drive traffic to your website. However, getting published involves more than simply emailing an article to a media outlet. Publications receive a high rate of submissions, thus are extremely selective.  PR professionals need to work strategically with their clients to develop unique story ideas relevant to their client’s brand, while developing and maintaining strong relationships with the media.  Working closely with both sides is critical to success in this endeavor.Alternative distribution channels that firms should seek to utilize include trade associations, other digital content syndicators, native advertising, social media and influencer marketing, with the goal to expand the reach of the firm’s thought leadership and overall message. More to come on these topics in another article.
  1. Messaging/branding experts and storytellers: Simply put, PR professionals are the voice of their client’s firm. They must master the ability to help financial firms develop their overall brand and message in such a way that differentiates their client from the crowded asset management space, by telling their own stories more effectively than the rest. This is especially important as the traditional media landscape shifts and contributor networks grow. The first step is to have a clear understanding of the client’s message. In recognizing this, they will be well on their way to telling that story in a manner that resonates with the firm’s target audience.
  1. Strategic partner for media: The ability to develop longstanding relationships with members of the press has always been important for PR professionals but will be increasingly critical moving forward. Blindly reaching out and asking reporters “I have a 5-star rated fund. Want to talk?,” “Can I help with any stories you’re working on?” or “Need sources for any stories?” were rarely successful when trying to establish media relationships, but tactics like that today could ruin a relationship. Especially as the media landscape shrinks, folks cannot afford to make enemies with the press. Given increasing competition, it has never been more critical for PR professionals to establish positive relationships with the media.

In order to succeed in an evolving position, and new media landscape, PR professionals need to think critically about adding value to the stories they pitch, as well as their strategic partnerships with the media. Do they truly understand the publication they are pitching and the target audience? What can they provide to make the reporter’s job easier? Is there a better angle to be utilized? Ultimately, if a PR professional can use their expertise and experience to turn reporters into advocates of the asset management firm, it’s a win-win for all involved.

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. Click to read our latest insight articles.