Financial Services PR in the New World Order and Why You Need to Care

Written by: Katy Lithgow

Winter is coming and with it a bloodbath of media redundancies worthy of Game of Thrones. Last month Fairfax laid off around 100 journalists , including 30 forced redundancies. Many of these journalists were respected senior names including Australian Financial Review economics editor Alan Mitchell, international editor Tony Walker, cartoonist Rod Clement and property editor and associate editor of the paper Robert Harley.

At the Sydney Morning Herald, investigative journalist Michael West tweeted that his "skill sets were not aligned" to Fairfax's new business model.

Likewise over at News Corp in November last year, 55 journalists lost their jobs.

It’s not just print that’s feeling the squeeze. SBS and ABC have also been subject to cutbacks, program cuts and staff losses , dating back to 2014.

Traditional TV news audiences are declining at the same rate as print according to a study by the Reuters Institute . With generations growing up with streaming services like Netflix, public interest in traditional, linear, broadcast news is shrinking. Media is now consumed on-demand and in sound bites.

This year has also been earmarked by Reuters as a breakthrough year for “robo-journalism” – leading to strikes in newsrooms over job losses. With news stories being written by robots, and foreign correspondents and international bureaus being replaced by newswires and syndicated content, the traditional PR pitch won't be all that effective #understatement .

So with that as the new landscape you, as a financial services PR or marketing pro, need to understand how PR is changing in 2016, or risk having your message disappear faster than a Game of Thrones lead character.

1) A successful pitch had to be well-crafted and targeted

The media relations basics that PR folk relied on, and which were the standard when I started in PR nearly a decade ago, still apply today (and likely always will). Getting coverage for your story relies upon a strong knowledge of journalists and their interests. If a journalist trusts your spokesperson as a reliable contact, they’ll call upon them when they seek market commentary. Harried journalists will appreciate relevence, helpfulness and timeliness. "Help me to help you" has never been truer.

2) Your pitch has to be bullet proof, and there are no second chances

This year, there are rumours that Fairfax is considering shifting its newsroom to a national model. This means that, for example, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald could be edited by the same person. With fewer journos, there are fewer names on your media lists and those that remain are stretched thinner than Ramsay Bolton's sanity.

So the outlook for your financial services communication strategy sees a landscape where news is managed from a centralised head office covering several states, yet where global news comes from outlets like the Washington Post or The Times. The scope for a story that fits the agenda of your limited local media contacts is looking pretty narrow.

3) Your audience isn't always getting their information from your CEO

Communications methodologies are also changing with the digital revolution. In the traditional PR model, you could choose your spokesperson (usually your CEO and other execs). Today any employee can communicate (broadcast) and has access to resources that will enable them to disseminate their message, whether or not your company approves. Employees’ personal social channels such as Facebook and potentially Twitter are open to public scrutiny that could reflect back on your organisation, and customer views are also easily shared online.

On the flip side, if there are staff within your organisation identified as influencers, their profiles can be used to gain traction for your content. These influencers can be a great asset in maximising your reach.

So it’s not all bad news. Digital disruption has created new opportunities for your financial services communications strategy .

There is a plethora of new sites being created by various influencers, many of them experienced journalists embarking on new ventures in digital publishing outside of the traditional media companies.

Thought leadership will remain in demand, and perhaps become even more highly valued as the appetite for content grows while resources shrink.