Does financial PR deserve its reputation?
3rd March 2015
For those who work in mainstream consumer or B2B PR, the world of financial public relations can seem very far removed from the rest of the industry, like a slightly odd cousin who you know is technically related to you but you can never think of anything to talk about with at family gatherings.
But is financial PR really so different? It’s all about building relationships and securing great media coverage for the client, right? While that’s true to a certain extent, there are some real differences too.
Financial PR focuses largely on publicly listed companies which are legally required to be a lot more transparent than private companies, reporting their annual results as well as a various other information about the way the business is run. The public relations element of this often involves trying to gain positive press and analyst coverage of this kind of news rather than the more brand-focused activity of mainstream PR. For financial PR, the primary audience is usually investors rather than customers.
Because of this, PR execs working in this sector need to have a strong understanding of business, finance and how the capital markets work. Their work often takes place behind the scenes and is more likely to involve relationships with the most senior executives within the client’s business.
A junior financial PR executive can expect to work with board-level decision makers at large businesses early in their career. They’ll also be able to advise on strategic issues that can have a tangible impact on the business’s reputation in the City and, consequently, its financial performance. An interesting element of financial PR is that, because it is so closely linked to the performance of the business and its share price, it’s arguably more measurable than brand PR.
The financial PR world has a lot more routine to it; every year sees the same cycle of results and other reporting, although of course the results may well be very different from one year to the next, as will the business media’s reaction. That said, there are also less regular events such as IPOs and mergers which can be exciting to work on, especially since there’s always an element of cloak-and-dagger secrecy surrounding them.
Undeniably, then, financial PR requires a specialised skill-set, including an understanding of the regulatory requirements around financial reporting and practical knowledge of how publicly listed businesses operate.
But in case you’re starting to think that it’s an entirely different world, there are also a few similarities with brand PR. Both disciplines rely on the art of crafting messages, the ability to establish productive working relationships with media, and an understanding of how client stories can fit into broader issues in the news agenda. Client relationships are also incredibly important in both disciplines, although in financial PR your relationship is more likely to be with the financial director or CEO than the head of comms/marketing.
If you’re thinking about specialising in financial PR, don’t be put off by its arcane reputation. At its heart the job is perfectly straight forward for any talented PR exec, you don’t need any special qualifications, just common sense and a willingness to learn how things work.
Lance Concannon, head of digital at agency Hudson Sandler PR