Competition in the fintech space is fierce, not only for acquiring customers, but for share of voice in the media. With a shrinking pool of trade publications and reporters that know the industry thoroughly, developing worthy pitches that will garner earned media coverage now demands a combination of creativity, savvy and, having a story of substance.
It’s a reality we’re all aware of, and yet I still observe so many fintech firms out there that haven’t come to terms with this. If you don’t believe me, go to Twitter and look up your favorite journalists to see their latest gripes about PR folks pushing them ineffective pitches on bland topics with no point of view.
Aside from hard news items that are newsworthy (most of the time), like client wins, acquisitions and funding rounds, a robust media relations program must include regular, quality contact with your target media. Here are three story approaches you can take to the media, which they will appreciate.
Client successes/case studies
Client success stories are the holy grail for technology vendors serving the financial services industry because it’s essentially a way of putting a face to your strengths. As we all know, those are hard to come by due to push-back from financial institutions (a topic for a future blog). However, if you’re able to secure them, they are some of the strongest stories you can pitch to the media.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do a joint pitch. If you can’t get your client to go on the record, there’s still a path for crafting an engaging narrative that the media can appreciate.
The first step is to take an inventory of what you will be able to divulge on the record in terms of the nature of the relationship. Which problem was your company brought on to solve? Why was your firm’s technology a right fit? Are there any measurable results/outcomes you’re able to show as proof that the relationship is a success?
Where your company’s tech fits into a mega trend
In my experience, you’d be hard pressed to find a fintech that thinks their technology isn’t “best in class.” However, when creating compelling pitches, being able to back up your claims isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Is your company actually doing something “revolutionary” with AI or blockchain? Hitching your trailer to buzzwords is particularly difficult if you don’t actually have the chops to back it up and just adds unnecessary jargon that journalists need to weed through to find the facts. Some of the best pitches we’ve done with clients are about existing, tried-and-true technologies that have been either enhanced or repurposed to serve a different part of a financial institution’s business in a novel way.
Newsjacking and leveraging the power of the pundit
Thoughtful spokespeople are valuable assets to your organization’s PR strategy, and when deployed correctly, can garner positive coverage for your company. The benefits are further enhanced when your spokesperson is commenting on breaking news that everyone in your industry will be reading (look no further than the recent wave of M&A stories hitting the fintech world as examples).
Working to develop company spokespeople into reliable, genuine, and insightful industry observers requires striking a delicate balance between representing the views of the company and providing a strong, differentiated (and sometimes bold) opinion that will make it into the reporter’s article (and survive the editor’s chopping block).
Most of the effective spokespeople I observe have been at their company (and in the industry) long enough and have a solid foundation of knowledge and experience to draw from. Some folks have a great wealth of experience, and simply need a bit of coaching.
And while some spokespeople take to this more naturally than others, if you want your company to get more exposure in the media, there’s no reason why you can’t have an executive or two out in the market participating in the conversations shaping the future of financial services and technology.
Honorable mention: product launches and enhancements
I want to add this to the honorable mentions category (and may address this in a future blog as well). These announcements can be useful, but it’s important to shift expectations. Aside from the few publications that do regular tech roundup-type articles, don’t expect your enhancement or minor product launch to make headlines. However, a simple news announcement posted to your website and a dedicated effort for distribution through other channels (social media, client newsletter, etc.) will serve the purpose of alerting your clients and prospects about your new offering. The biggest takeaway I see from fintech companies that get this wrong is in how they perceive the value of these announcements.
If you believe your product announcement is worthy of greater attention, I would refer you to the point above about connecting your news to a mega trend. Was this developed in response to an emerging trend or specific client request, and what does that say about the industry? If you can bring a client along with you, the pitch will be that much stronger.
Making your pitch count
When developing an effective media pitch, two common threads emerge, regardless of the category:
1. It’s got to pass the smell test, and should be vetted at multiple levels within the organization, in addition to your PR partner, who can help you position it in a way that will be most accepted by the media. Your PR partner is in many ways your best resource for insight into what the market is saying about you, and your competitors.
2. The devil is in the details. The more specific you can be, the better. Too many fintechs are putting out the same sanitized, high-level pitches and expecting interviews. If the AI you’re integrating into your platform will “optimize workflows of critical business processes,” then you should probably dig a little deeper, or refer to point #1.
A close relationship with your PR partner can make all the difference. The best agencies know your business (and the industry at large) inside and out, and act as the eyes and ears of your marketing department. They’re there to help mold the messages you want to take to the market. Show me an agency that’s content in being told what to do and how to do it, without a discussion, and I’ll show you an agency that’s either lazy, or worse, lacking the industry chops to serve you properly.
If increasing earned media is a part of your firm’s broader PR and marketing strategy, expect the bar to be high, but not unattainable. Finding the right stories to tell is part of the process, and reinforces the value a firm like BackBay’s offers in helping guide you to success.