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PR in 2024

Digitisation of products and services continues unabated. It is not quite time to implement fund tokenisation, but the time when it will need to be considered within PR plans has moved closer suggests the second report from the Technology Working Group of the Asset Management Taskforce Further Fund Tokenisation: Achieving Investment Fund 3.0 Through Collaboration” issued by the UK Investment Association. 



Over at the Bank of England Museum there is a section dedicated to The Future of Money (https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/museum/whats-on/the-future-of-money), providing insights into the Fintech and policies that central banks are grappling with linked to things such as distributed ledger technology (DLT), and the possibility of Central Bank Digital Currency alongside commercial cryptocurrencies. Although, visitors can also still touch and hold a standard 13kg ingot of gold. Sometimes, ‘old school’ has its values. The Bank has some 400,000 ingots in the vaults.


Digital or virtual asset classes, artificial intelligence and fintech are themes that impact PR – whether in content on investment strategies, or addressing corporate developments of provider firms, distributor platforms, or investor research, or indeed conducting PR.

 

This is both reflected in and a reflection of the evolving world. The office vacancy rate in Detroit, the capital of car making in the US is at over 31%. In San Francisco, heart of the US IT industry, it is over 23%, while over 46% of households in that city have at least one member working from home according to the US Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey.

 

Digitised consumption may help explain why Meta reported Q4 2023 revenue of more than $40bn, or over $134bn for the full year. Quarterly ad impressions were up 21% YoY.

 

But these numbers are about marketing using advertising, not PR. Paying money to Meta or the other magnificent seven comes with particular risks. The European Commission in March 2024 “opened non-compliance investigations under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) into Alphabet's rules on steering in Google Play and self-preferencing on Google Search, Apple's rules on steering in the App Store and the choice screen for Safari and Meta's “pay or consent model”.”

 

At heart, the financial industry remains one of people. Setting up a chat with a financial journalist (‘media relations’ in PR speak) arguably comes with less regulatory risk while still targeting a suitable audience with a decent message.

 

What does this mean for transfer of information?

 

Marshall McLuhan’s seminal work on media from the 1960s gives a clue (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_medium_is_the_message), coming as it did against the backdrop of the influence of television into people’s lives. Today it is the always-on internet delivering content via social media platforms. Content needs to fit. But it still needs content.

 

Asset managers are increasingly turning to video and podcasting to deliver their messages. These suit social media platforms as well as traditional media outlets that have gone online and are arguably more efficient ways to condense complex ideas into a format that end consumers of such content, for example, fund selectors, enjoy. Videos and podcasts are better suited to mobile phones than trying to scroll through longer written articles. Downsides include the lesser ability of, say, portfolio managers to influence the way that they come across. Not all are ‘natural’ in front of the camera or the microphone.

 

The video theme also shows through in use of Zoom or Teams. While not as ubiquitous in daily use compared to ‘peak pandemic’, those work-from-home figures noted above suggest that they are embedded in the panoply of communications tools.

 

Content is also to be considered in mind of physical meetings, primarily in the form of b2b events – forums, conferences, roundtables, breakfast briefings and so on.

 

In the regulated format of buyers meeting sellers, it is often the case that portfolio managers and their sales associates stick to a narrow script: read only from the slide deck, answer a few questions.

 

But even here, it is possible to pick out strong stories and convey them in a way that is more exciting than the next person – a definite competitive advantage, especially if the press is attending the event.

 

Remember the saying: “Content is King!”.

 

PR is not marketing - it is about REPUTATION

 

As outlined, channelling by medium needs to target recipients of information through judicious use of content.

 

Public relations is not marketing. You are not buying advertisements. You are telling stories to create visibility and credibility – particularly on the web, where information never dies.

 

Umpteen studies point to the importance of credibility and trust in supporting long term business gains. Today, professional bodies for PR specialists such as the CIPR offer courses to members in how AI is impacting reputation management. It is another facet in the battle to maintain visibility online that is credible in the face of the threat of imaginary stories being accepted as real.

 

Engaging in proper PR is crucial to maintaining a reputation and hence a credible voice in the asset management industry, where trust is intertwined with fiduciary duty undertakings (https://rpc.cfainstitute.org/research/surveys/enhancing-investors-trust).

 

Power of the internet

 

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently warned that they are watching so-called Finfluencers and use of social media ads (https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/fca-warns-firms-and-finfluencers-keep-their-social-media-ads-lawful).

 

Promotions aren’t just about the likes, they’re about the law.

 

This warning per se proves just how powerful use of social media can be to deliver relevant content.

 

They are being used effectively for b2b delivery of news, updates and insights. LinkedIn is one. But particular markets have particular biases. For example, Xing is strong in the DACH region. PR content may need to target multiple social media channels.

 

But it is also worth noting that many organisations in the financial industry place certain limits on the types of social media channels that their regulated and authorised staff can access.

 

Remember the old school noted above? There is still PR gold to be had in b2b and retail investment media outlets – newspapers, magazines and wire services – even if they have gone fully digital themselves. They retain key audiences, and they remain relatively trusted.

 

Email, arguably the original internet app for delivering content, remains powerful. Standalone platforms such as Mailchimp or Adestra are specifically designed for email campaigns, while others are embedded within low- or no-code website building platforms – such as ShoutOut from the Wix platform – that can be used highly effectively to target maintained lists or communities of investors. Again, however, recipients are less likely to engage if the content is not interesting or relevant.

 

Your email came through with a link to buy tickets to see Taylor Swift. Will you click the link? Versus, your email came through with a link to a white paper on valuations of Japanese industrial pump manufacturers. Will you click the link?

 

PR insight is about what part of that story is most interesting and/or which financial editors and journalists to target. It is also about understanding how to avoid the blandness that many opt for in the face of regulatory fears around marketing/advertising. That remains as true in 2024 as at any other time.

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