Rob Swystun, Pristine Advisers
Providers of mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETF) need an effective communications plan, especially in this age of instantaneous reporting, social media distortion and the general atmosphere of competition among fund managers.
But, they also need a communications plan to help steer the conversation about ETFs in general and their own funds in particular. Often, reporters write whatever they want about ETFs, which is why fund managers should consider it their duty to help disseminate factual information about them.
You may see fund managers with mediocre track records constantly quoted in news articles and wonder why reporters keep going back to them. I can tell you from personal experience that when a reporter finds a source they can rely on for a quick quote near deadline, they’ll keep going back to that well regardless of management competency. When you need to get a story in and just need someone in the financial industry to give you some kind of perspective on it, it’s not how well they invest that matters, it’s if they have five minutes to talk that matters.
Chances are the story is already written and the reporter has left a placeholder where a quote goes and they’re just calling their best (read: most likely to be available) contacts to fill that placeholder. They don’t want someone who is going to wax eloquently for a half-hour. They want someone who will give them what they need in as little time as possible so they can hastily end the call, plug in the quote and get on with one of other thousand tasks they have that day.
Fund managers who can make time for a media call regularly, though, are smart to do so. They get their names in the news under positive circumstances and they get to point current and potential investors to these news clippings to show that their opinions are apparently sought after.
Regular appearances in the news wins the attention of investors and gives a fund credibility, maybe even moreso than the returns and portfolio structure of the fund itself, which is why it’s important for fund managers to have a communications plan that gets their name out there in the news where people can see it among all the links, videos, comments, posts, tweets and pay per click ads.
Communications Road Map
The methodical approach a fund manager can take to capture good media coverage involves:
- Contacting individual reporters about issues of ongoing importance:
It should be easy to find names and contact info for either specific reporters who write about ETFs or, at least, the people affiliated with a news outlet that runs stories on them. If a fund manager has expertise in the area of anything that is in the news, they can use that as a springboard to offer information of relevance to reporters. Your perspective has to add value to the ongoing conversation about whatever it is you’re commenting on and not just be self promotional. It will be particularly relevant if it enlightens a journalist by helping them understand something that they may not have already known.
- Determining the stories reporters should cover:
Don’t mistake lack of coverage of a topic with disinterest about that topic. It probably just means that a reporter is unaware of it. Pitching legitimate news stories about forthcoming trends, shifts in investments or insightful analysis about an industry will garner much appreciation (and hopefully some coverage) from reporters always looking for new angles and ideas.
Tips for the perfect pitch:
1. Give your email a unique, concise and informative subject line that is only four to seven words long.
2. Get straight to the point by providing only the most pertinent information and a hook that will catch attention.
3. Hyperlink to additional information so it’s right at the reporter’s fingertips already.
- Securing a relationship with reporters by proactively providing good copy:
Once you’ve developed a working relationship with a reporter, build on it by consistently sending thoughts and ideas that appeal to that journalist. Not every submission will make the final cut, but you’re showing that you’re accessible and want to be helpful. The reporter will remember your name when they need a quick quote about something that pertains to your expertise.
These steps are necessary for turning a fund manager into a voice of authority in the financial industry, one that current and potential investors will recognize and want to be associated with.