Written by: Kerrie Sydee
PR for financial services isn’t dead, it’s just undergoing a revamp. Old school tactics (some at least) still work – but only when updated for online. Here’s how.
The growth of the online space has changed the way financial services organisations connect and influence our customers. To stay relevant, we need to embrace online platforms. That means it’s time to ditch the divide between offline and online and give action to an exciting new world of integrated online, print and social marketing and communication. Further to our blog The New PR: three ways to manage your PR online, here are three ways to ensure you do just that.
1. Develop useful, relevant content
Growing online accessibility and affordability means fewer consumers are buying their hard copy newspaper each day. News and other information can now be accessed from virtually anywhere whether it’s online, via the 24-hour mainstream media cycle, social media or blogs. In this world that never sleeps, brands can make their mark by developing useful content that chimes with customer needs. In so doing, you can position your brand as a leader and, when the time comes, influence customer behaviour to your advantage. Remember: according to the CMO Council, 87% of buyers state that online content has a major or moderate impact on their selection of vendor or product.
Having a clear content calendar is the first step in using content in this way (a.k.a content marketing). The Content Marketing Institute provides four key elements to consider when creating a content plan:
Understand who you are creating content for – understanding your target audience and their personas will allow you to develop content based on what they need, not what you offer
Know why you are writing the content – knowing the purpose of your content, whether it’s to generate leads or show thought leadership, will shape how you approach your topics and how they will be published
Know your accessible resources – when planning your content consider the resources you have and/or may need to deliver your plan successfully
Understand how to make your content unique – knowing the industry and audience you’re writing for and the current information gaps will help your content meet your business goals and have the impact you want.
2. Use social influencers
Often mistakenly seen in the financial services industry as a frivolous communication tool, social media is becoming an increasingly significant path to purchase. The Yellow Social Media Report found that 30% of social media users use social media to research products they are looking to buy, with 63% of users making purchases on their researched products.
Partnering with socially cluey influencers is now an important aspect of earned media, with 90% of consumers trusting peer recommendations compared to only 33% who trust advertising. Gone is the Hollywood celebrity, with social media giving rise to a new generation of influencer, one which has passion and a significant follower base.
Selecting the right influencer calls for you to take a step beyond your audience personas to find the right fit to grow your networks. A recent study by Forbes found that 70-90% of a buyer’s journey is completed by the time they engage with a vendor or provider. This includes visiting the company’s website.
Engaging influencers to create earned media, whether it’s by blogging, vlogging or social media posts, eliminates the issue of cutting through online noise, with influencers reaching an already devoted and interested audience.
Hootsuite provide us with five steps to selecting the right social influencer:
- Define your social media influencers; who will be able to influence your circle?
- Attributes include: relevance, reach and resonance
- Check their blog ranking and follower numbers
- Connect with high level networkers: make sure they have over 500 connections and properly filled out profiles
- Join the conversation where your target market is talking and engage with them
3. Make SEO work for you
The front page of Google is the new front page of the newspaper. SEO is the process of gaining traffic from free, organic searches on search engines. Once viewed as a practice for marketers only, SEO enables PR practitioners to showcase their stakeholder knowledge and understanding. Truly effective SEO is having your business land on the first page of Google without any paid advertisement.
Strategically placing keywords, updating URLs and adding alt tags (which allow you to add keywords to your images) are all steps you can take to encourage Google to recognise your brand’s field of expertise. Taking these steps enables your owned media to positively impact on your website’s SEO and ranking, helping to enhance your brand building and authority.
These 3 tips from Content Marketing Institute will help you get the SEO basics right:
- Make your content attractive to search engines by selecting the right keyword. You need to choose a keywords that won’t be too competitive (i.e. don’t choose “bank”) and a word that people are actually searching for. Google Adwords Keyword Tool will help guide you through this.
- Include your keyword in the title of your content, the first sentence of your paragraph, the URL, meta description and the alternate text field of images
- Make sure your content is at last 300 words in length, has a short URL and is easy to read with concise sentences
The PR industry may have changed, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills to adapt. The ability to navigate the online space, whether through social, news or blogs, equips you with the ability to engage a new breed of stakeholder.
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