Every financial services company knows that it takes something extra to cut through the media noise today. Our industry is shaken-up regularly by market flashes, crashes and pivotal regulation. At the same time, there’s nothing new about calamity and scandal in the press – it’s just a matter of which company’s name will be splattered across the front pages next.
While the global economy is in a better place than it was a few years back, much uncertainty and discord continues to pervade Wall Street. As such, many of our financial services clients are looking to add something more positive and definitive to what continues to be a speculative conversation. Some are making quantitative tactics a core part of their communications campaigns.
This means bolstering a qualitative thought-leadership campaign with some hard numbers in the form of surveys and research findings. These can be used by the media and analyst community to support articles with empirical evidence. And it provides a great bit of content to push out across traditional, social, digital and other channels in order to reach influencers.
Acquiring and packaging data
The first step is to acquire the necessary data.
With ‘big data’ all the rage, many financial services and financial technology (aka ‘fintech’) firms have a wealth of information at their fingertips already.
For example, one approach can be to mine the customer database for KPIs, or aggregate and analyze statistics to identify customer behavior and market trends. Other great options are to partner with an industry association to add the credibility that a recognized third-party can bring to your data, or commission a research firm to conduct a survey of industry professionals (ideally with a 500 or 1,000 person sample size) on your behalf.
Once the data is collated, it must then be analyzed and packaged for consumption.
Branding that data with your company’s name can help to give it legs and bolster your company’s thought leadership reputation each time that data is used. Financial services and financial technology firms can use branded data as a tool to help move the dialogue away from the company, product or the same trend everyone is already talking about while still taking the conversation to a meaningful place.
Five companies that did it with data
Banking: Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ The New Digital Tipping Point surveyed some 3,000 banking customers in nine markets to understand their digital media needs and behavior. The report found there was a high correlation between digital engagement and share of wallet and that digitally active customers tended to have the largest product holdings. It also found that primacy in a banking relationship drives increased share of wallet, leading to higher revenue generation from the customer pool. As one of the ‘big 4’ accounting firms, Pricewaterhouse Coopers is an incredibly well-known brand and a customer survey of this size demonstrates its tremendous footprint, while increasing brand awareness.
Brokerage: The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation issues a monthly report detailing annuities sales that is regularly referenced in publications such as Financial Planning. This is a great example of a company that, by its function, manages a tremendous amount of data that it can package to provide a unique product to the industry and, at the same time, boost its thought-leadership profile.
Credit: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling released its 2014 Financial Literacy Survey, revealing that most U.S. adults don’t have a budget and very few have ‘rainy day’ emergency savings, highlighting the urgent need for greater financial education. What’s more, they distilled their findings into an engaging infographic. This survey not only provides telling insight into the psyche of the American public, but also demonstrates the commitment of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to improving financial literacy, an important corporate social responsibility initiative.
Hedge Fund/Alternatives: According to Towers Watson’s Global Alternatives Survey 2014, investors are showing considerable demand for alternatives, with total global alternative assets under management hitting $5.7 trillion. The survey reveals that while real estate managers hold the largest share of assets, pension funds represent the largest share of assets within the Top 100 alternative managers. The research helps align Towers Watson with the topic of alternative investments and positions the firm as a thought leader in the space.
Insurance: Insured Retirement Institute’s (IRI) member-only 2012 Summary Prospectus Survey highlights the importance of a short summary prospectus for investors. The survey found that 95 per cent of investors prefer a shorter paper summary prospectus and 59 per cent would consider a variable annuity as part of their investment portfolio if they had a short summary prospectus. As a member organization, it is important for IRI to provide value to its members through exclusive content and give voice to its members’ interests by providing industry commentary. The Summary Prospectus Survey is a great example of how an association can help the industry to better understand its members’ needs.
Working data into an effective communications campaign
Data means nothing if you’re unable to use it effectively, which is why firms today need the ability to mine, analyze and report on ever-increasing volumes of data if they are to provide senior management with the required strategic insight. However, it is also vital that firms recognize the PR potential of their data and use their insights to punch up their marketing and communications campaigns:
- Media – The media loves data. A quote or thought leadership piece expressing your company’s opinions can be incredibly valuable, but journalists have many sources that often hold similar perspectives. If you can tell them what the percentage increase has been in front-office technology spending in 2015, for example, your contribution becomes infinitely more valuable.
- Analysts – While they provide data of their own, sharing aggregate customer data with analysts can help reinforce their own findings and secure a place in valuable vendor rankings. Data providing a window on wealth management investment strategies for 2014 for example, could well be of interest to financial services analyst houses such as Aite Group or niche players like Beacon Strategies.
- Byline articles – To integrate your data across your PR campaign, include top-line findings in your byline articles. Not only does this avoid having to quote those of a third party while strengthening your brand as an industry authority, but it also means you can include hyperlinks to a more comprehensive data set or report on your website – enhancing your search engine optimization (SEO) and driving more traffic to your site.
- Social media – Social media provides the opportunity to poll industry professionals via channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Not only can these enable you to conduct research, but they also enable you to obtain feedback on your findings. Moreover, companies can tweet about key findings and include a unique hashtag for each data point, ensuring a truly integrated PR campaign.
- Infographics – There’s more to communication than the written word. In both traditional media and online – on company websites and marketing brochures – we are seeing the rise of the infographic: slick, creative visualisations of data that engage the viewer’s attention and quickly provide the big picture. The infographic is often an ideal way to package up a data-rich story.