Applying investment fundamentals to financial communications

Just as asset allocation remains a fundamental of investing, it could just as easily be applied to other areas of investment operations, such as marketing, communications and more.

While investment managers approach asset allocation with a keen eye on diversification, and investors are told to do similar, many organisations have lately tended to focus their marketing and communications spend on one channel.

Consider how over the past few years, the largest allocation of marketing and communication has focused on all things digital. A large part of this has gone to Google and Facebook, which now control over a fifth (20%) of global advertising spend between them (from nothing over a decade ago). And these two have captured two-thirds (64%) of all the growth in global advertising spend over the past four years, reported AdNews earlier this year (May 2017). Then there is LinkedIn for the business market.

Like investing, is it bad to focus all your marketing assets in one area? Does your organisation need to diversify its marketing and communications?

That, of course, depends on your customers. What do they read and view, how do they best connect with you, what worries them, what motivates them? What channels do they already use – newspapers, radio, television? What social media do they pay the most attention to?

Today’s consumers, like you, tend to use a majority of channels for their information, education and entertainment. So, you need to do the same – in other words diversify your marketing and communication across a range of channels.

The key is to determine the allocation mix that works best for you and your organisation. Here are some things to consider when determining how to allocate your communications and marketing spend.

Digital – More than meets the eye

Whatever your company, digital matters to you because it matters to your clients.
Whether your customers are institutions or mum and dad investors, they’ll be operating largely in the digital sphere, whether they are ordering a taxi, reading the news or searching for investing advice.

So the key question for communications and marketing teams isn’t whether to invest resources in digital media, rather they need to determine which forms of digital media to invest in.

Let’s look at a few popular options.

Google Adwords remains the favoured way to get on page one of Google searches (ahead of Search Engine Optimisation). Advertisers pay to display brief advertising copy, product listings, and video content within the Google search engine. If people use your Adwords to search Google, your product or service displays at the top of the page. Searches conducted on mobile rank you higher than desktop searches in their algorithms.

LinkedIn is increasing in importance for business-to-business marketing, but it has to be educational and useful, rather than self-promotional. One effective way organisations are engaging with their target audience is through the creation of LinkedIn groups. This is where a group is formed and information is posted and curated by an ‘independent’ group owner and ‘members/clients’ are invited to join to learn the latest about their profession, segment, or the like.

Instagram also allows the formation of groups and is particularly useful where visual content is the focus.  Organisations can also form and curate ‘channels’ on YouTube of related content.

Build it and they will come

Meanwhile, organisations are increasingly creating their own channels. This can range from improved websites complete with blogs to direct client communications and video/YouTube channels.

According to PwC, two in three marketers have seen a shift in marketing spend from ‘bought’ to ‘owned’ channels. The survey also found that one in four marketers spend between 20-30% of their budget building and maintaining their own channels.

The nature of owned channels is also changing. Owned channels used to primarily be an organisation’s website. Today, websites are increasingly being developed as portals for communicating—not just a one-way flow of product pushes along with some information, but also enabling some comment and feedback.

Twitter provides another channel and similarly enables an audience to follow a particular Tweet feed, creating its own channel. US President Donald Trump favours this channel to distribute his messages.

Print and Broadcast – Do comms marketing pros still need traditional media?

Old school media still has a role to play in most communications and marketing strategies. While the circulation of many newspapers and magazines are dropping, major publications still have broad reach and the best publications have earned a level of trust from their audiences that gives them authority and status – so traditional media coverage can help you gain credibility.

Also, social media feeds on traditional media. Bloggers often write about the news as they hear it or see it on traditional media, and so if your story makes it traditional media, there’s a good chance it will be seen on social media as well.

The important thing is to choose traditional media outlets that your customers or clients are consuming. For some financial sector firms, that may be the Australian Financial Review.

However, for others, trade media may reach their market better, as it is focused and considered a ‘must view’ if you are to keep up with developments in your industry. This is why some trade media publications are growing while national and metropolitan media have contracted.

So, what should your marketing allocation contain?

Tap into and create an expanding range of channels to get your messages across.

Apply the rule of diversification – if you put all your eggs in one basket and one basket breaks, all your eggs will be broken. If you diversify across channels and one isn’t cutting through, you can make up for it elsewhere.

Also, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Bloggers talk about newspapers articles. Facebook can be used to bring potential customers to your website or video channel. There is a symbiotic relationships between the different platforms.

Of course, asset allocation isn’t just about diversification, it’s about analysing which asset types are appropriate for an individual’s risk appetite and one’s expectations of returns.

Similarly, it’s important to not just blindly follow trends, or even to necessarily divide your resources evenly between all available platforms. It’s better to ask what’s the solution for your organisation to reach existing and new customers?

Ask your clients/customers how and where they want to receive content. Listen, and respond.

The power of humanity in communications — Why robots won’t replace good PR

© MCA Sydney – by  Ebeth Fitzgerald

Communicators, enjoy the rest of 2017.  By next year, according to research by Gartner in the US1 20 per cent of business content will be authored by machines.

Some communicators may see this as a potential boon meaning many less writing tasks on their to-do list.  However, I am not convinced our value as communicators will be diminished.

Recently I was assisting a senior executive to develop some responses to a journalist’s questions.  The questions were on leadership and career learnings and were challenging in the sense they were designed to tease out the client’s personal views and life experiences.

While the client was very happy to participate and provide candid responses, and clearly had some passionate views on the topics and interesting experiences to share, they initially struggled to express themselves.  The executive’s language was passive and uncompelling, with repetition of certain words which made every answer sound the same.

Sitting listening, as this person’s communication adviser, I was struck by the thought – what would be the outcome if, instead of working with a person on this, the client used a machine to author the responses?

I could imagine that the responses would have been in the journalist’s email box even before I was back at my desk ready to start writing.   But what would have been the output?

Certainly, the client’s responses, if taken verbatim by a machine, would not have been suitable for print – not because there was anything wrong with them, but because they wouldn’t have entirely reflected what the person was trying to express.

I went back to my desk and didn’t just transcribe what the client said, I interpreted it beyond the words alone.  The client did make some changes to my draft, but very few, and was very happy with the result.

What made the difference was the combination of my knowing the person, having worked with them for some time, and my ability as another human being to recognise and understand a deeper meaning behind their words.  This enabled me to take the client’s raw remarks and reflect them back in a way that also captured the spirit intended.

Will a machine ever be able to do this? I am sure some technology whizzes would say, perhaps, one day.  But probably not as well as a human – and certainly not by next year.

As communicators we know the power of words, but we can’t forget the power of humanity.  Most of us would have experienced times when the best-crafted communications – from speeches to press releases – over which endless hours of blood, sweat and tears had been spent, fail to make an impact with their audiences.

Often this is due to overly engineered language and little or no thought beyond the words.  The emotional connection must always be made for communication to be effective.
So, while we still have the opportunity, before an algorithm wins the Nobel Prize in Literature, play your advantage.  Make It human.

[1] “Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2016 and Beyond” Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2015, October 2015.