The best fintechs maximize their chances for long-term success by approaching their various business challenges in a structured and disciplined way. This applies to such key components of the enterprise as product development, business development, funding and staffing.
Public relations needs to be managed the same way.
Whether they have an in-house PR operation or tap the services of an outside agency, fintech executives should approach their strategic communications work in a thorough and rigorous manner.
But what if they don’t?
What types of mistakes typically occur when fintechs fail to take an orderly and strategic approach to public relations? Here are five common errors:
Number one: Failure to convene a dedicated message development session early on:
Message development is essential as the first phase of any public relations campaign. A PR initiative without messages is a rudderless ship, floating unguided from one random point on the water to another.
Watch “Meet the Press” or “Face the Nation” any Sunday morning and you will watch a succession of well-prepared guests engaging in world-class message delivery. There’s nothing spontaneous or off-the-cuff about the messages viewers hear. Each is the result of much preparation and practice. Fintechs should emulate this essential and time-honored PR technique.
Fintechs that skip this step are likely to sabotage their media relations program. Spokespeople are left out there on their own, grasping for ways to articulate what’s special about the company. Better to equip spokespeople with a clear checklist of messages and proof points, all approved and embraced by a consensus of senior leadership.
The best way to measure the value of a media placement is to judge whether it has successfully delivered company messages. Unless a fintech has established and embraced its messages, it won’t really know how well its PR program is doing.
Number two: Failure to create and implement a structured media relations program:
The company’s relationships with key media should never be driven by a spirit of spontaneity, reactivity and opportunism. The PR team needs to be proactive — and take a conscious and structured attitude toward media relations. The spontaneity can come later.
One useful approach is to make a list of the ten or fifteen most-important targets in the firm’s media landscape, and then scrupulously proceed down the list, one by one, perhaps over the course of two or three weeks.
On a systematic basis, reach out to each target with the goal of setting up a get-acquainted (or get reacquainted) call. Create the basis for a relationship.
Systematically kindling a relationship with everyone on the target list — or at least trying to do so — provides the opportunity to establish a vital baseline of context and familiarity between company and journalist. That way, when a reason arises for a CEO to contact a reporter, the call won’t be coming “out of nowhere” from, basically, a stranger. A foundation will exist. There will be context.
Number three: Failure to engage in proactive media outreach when a funding round is raised:
When it comes to funding rounds, it’s advantageous for a fintech to establish control over the narrative surrounding them.
Companies should be fully aware of the regulatory framework that guides disclosures relating to these rounds. They should internally agree upon talking points and messages about the round for when the rules allow them to talk publicly about it.
The company should be creating and projecting the funding-related narrative. Never hand that job over to outsiders. The firm would then have lost control of the situation. Important company messages may never get articulated, or get articulated only weakly. The company may be thrown on the defensive.
Don’t let others tell an important story that only your company can tell well and tell accurately. Never fail to implement a proactive media strategy upon completion of a funding round.
Number four: Failure to leverage public relations as a recruitment tool:
Fintechs can make the error of not leveraging good media coverage to help attract top-notch employees. The public relations program shouldn’t narrowly fixate on, for example, the technical aspects of the company’s business proposition. Where possible, firms should also try to secure coverage about their history, their growth story, and their workplace culture. Articles like this may capture the interest of potential new hires.
Land media placements that position the firm as a desirable place of employment — and leverage those placements as part of the recruitment effort.
Number five: Failure to capitalize on the founder’s story:
Particularly in the company’s early years, a company’s public relations strategy should aim to showcase the vision and even the personality of the founder. Adding this to the PR mix helps to humanize the brand. It also begins to position the founder as a thought leader.
– – – – –
Fast-growing fintechs are juggling a lot at once. People are working long hours and have little time to spare. But even so, they need to devote the time necessary to implement a sound and strategic PR program.
If fintechs avoid committing the common mistakes listed here, they’ll reap the dividends.