3 takeaways from the 2017 PRSA conference all financial services marketing pros should know

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In October, Gregory FCA attended the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) annual tri-state conference in New York City. The conference brought together over 200 professionals from across the region to gain insight from PR and marketing experts who covered the issues, topics and trends on every marketing and communications professional’s mind today.

Speakers touched on a range of trends that will impact marketers as we head into 2018. Here are three takeaways from the conference that everyone involved in financial services marketing should know:

PR continues to evolve: Be flexible and start early

The conference’s keynote speaker, Melissa Ben-Ishay of Baked by Melissa, credits the PR her company received early on for shaping what Baked by Melissa has become today. When the company was founded in 2009, its PR strategy consisted of events, newsletters and celebrity endorsements. Today, Melissa participates in Facebook Live segments and the wildly-popular Tasty videos, which did not exist in 2009.

An open-minded and flexible approach to PR bred success for Baked by Melissa. For financial services, it is important to be open to trying new media vehicles as they arise, especially when they speak directly to your target audience. For example, your experts may strive to get quoted in the print version of the Wall Street Journal, but their prospect base might more heavily rely on digital platforms, like Cheddar or Reuters TV,  to get the news.

Melissa also credits her initial brand awareness to early adoption of PR. While a comprehensive PR strategy may feel like a stretch for a start-up fund company or advisory firm, it should be considered an integral part of their marketing plan early on. Doing so can pay serious dividends in audience awareness and brand building.

Conduct a first impression audit

Producers and reporters do their homework when looking for sources. The media is constantly vetting experts on blogs, social media, YouTube, other media appearances and sometimes even by asking around among their own contacts.
To firms attempting to get in front of these individuals, it begs the question: How do the experts at your company look to the outside world? Paula Rizzo and Terri Trespicio of Lights Camera Expert, an online media education center, suggest conducting a first impression audit. Search your experts on Google and their social media channels to get a better picture of how they appear to reporters and even prospective clients. Examine the experts’ media and social activity within their current role, as well as past roles at other companies. Keeping on top of their activity and regularly monitoring what associates are saying and where they are saying it is especially important for companies that feature multiple subject-matter experts across various disciplines. Larger spokesperson rosters yield more media mentions but can also dilute the overall brand message if the process isn’t managed strategically. The expert’s online presence should align with the brand’s overall voice, look, feel and objectives.

Fake news is here to stay: Ensure your messaging is on-point

Today, it can be difficult to decipher whether news is fact, fake or a combination of the two – especially considering the increasingly competitive race to break news. In the current environment, where the concept of “fake news” can quickly challenge the perspective of your most seasoned spokespeople, the need for thoughtful messaging is more important than ever to ensure your firm’s point of view is clearly and consistently conveyed. The time-tested practice of developing talking points and engaging in ongoing media training to meet the evolving media landscape can make a significant difference. Sources who can provide accurate information in a timely manner are highly regarded among the media, and fostering these relationships is key to getting invited back to the program.

Marketing and communications experts know the importance of staying on top of trends and changes that influence all industries. Hearing from experts on all sides of the public relations spectrum at the conference like Julie Townsend, vice president of communications at ABC, to Chris Riotta, a reporter at Newsweek, was a great learning experience for PR and marketing professionals in all industries. As the communications space continues to evolve and new strategies emerge, these takeaways are worth the attention of all financial services marketers.