On the surface of it, public relations can seem relatively straightforward. Reporters write about your products, readers invest in your products, and your assets under management skyrockets… right?
Well, sure, at least in theory. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
One of the most persistent misconceptions we encounter among clients is the idea that the news media or any reporter works for them—they don’t. In fact, reporters are under no obligation whatsoever to write about anything they’re pitched, even if it’s one of the most interesting stories they’ve ever encountered. The best (and as far as we’re concerned, only) way to make financial PR work is to be as useful as possible for reporters.
So how does one become useful to journalists? By monitoring the news cycle. This can sometimes seem a bit like a tail wagging a dog (how can something be newsworthy if it’s already in the news?), but it establishes critical context for the next segment of the PR process: talking points.
Your spokesperson’s talking points constitute their unique point of view on what’s happening in the news. In most cases, the best talking points are typically attention-grabbing and contrarian. If everyone is saying the market is set to tank, a reporter is more likely to pay attention if your spokesperson has a strong reason for thinking otherwise. Once talking points have been assembled and prioritized, it’s time for the next step in the PR process: pitch writing.
The pitch is arguably the beating heart of financial PR. It’s where a spokesperson’s talking points are honed down to their most essential, salient features, and packaged in an attractive, attention-grabbing format that makes a reporter sit up, take notice, and request an interview. Sloppy, poorly written, or irrelevant pitches are unlikely to garner a reporter’s interest and may make them less likely to speak to your spokesperson down the road. Even the best-written pitches, unfortunately, are not guaranteed to garner responses from reporters. Sometimes they’re already working on a different story, or they don’t think their editor will go for it. It’s also possible that they’ve already spoken to a preferred source, and don’t have a need for further comment.
In any case, when a reporter does find your pitch interesting and decide to set up an interview, that’s where the rubber really meets the road. It’s your spokesperson’s time to shine! It’s important to recall once again that reporters are under no obligation to publish anything that a source may say—it may be nice, but if it doesn’t add to the story, they have no reason to publish it. Useful interview strategies could be an entire other article (and indeed, we’ve written about this too), but in general it helps to be articulate, knowledgeable, and opinionated when speaking with a reporter. Long verbalized pauses, a discomfort with the material, or an unwillingness to go out on a limb regarding an opinion or conviction are all examples of what to avoid during an interview. Reporters are always on the lookout for memorable nuggets of information, so be sure to include specific facts and figures in your conversation if you feel it would be relevant to your point-of-view.
Finally, your words may appear in print. This doesn’t happen every time you have an interview with a reporter, but, as with most things in life, if you stick with it long enough, with sufficient dedication, you’ll begin reaping the rewards of your hard work.