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5 TIPS TO HELP FINANCE BUSINESSES SMASH THEIR COMPETITION WITH DIGITAL PR

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Gemma Flinders, Senior PR Account Manager at Receptional

Nailing digital PR isn’t easy. But when you’re in a “red tape” sector like finance, overcoming the hurdles towards a top-notch strategy can seem impossible. On one hand, your online competition is fierce – from high street banks and price comparison sites to asset management services. On the other, any campaign ideas you have can be shut down by compliance and regulations.

In spite of these hurdles, more and more financial institutions are recognising PR’s importance in executing a top-notch digital marketing strategy. According to our research, 69% of Digital Marketing Managers in financial services are prioritising budgets for digital PR in 2020. And so they should – with careful planning and execution, digital PR can yield a fantastic return on investment (ROI).

However, 50% of those we interviewed admitted to lacking the internal skills and knowledge required.

At Receptional, it’s taken us years to build our digital PR offering from the ground up. Now, we feel confident enough to share our framework for success. Based on our experience executing award-winning campaigns in this difficult sector, here’s how finance businesses can effectively use digital PR to smash their competition.

 

1. Take Time to Understand Your Target Audience

A successful digital PR campaign needs a target audience. If nobody’s going to view it, what’s the point in creating it? To do this, you need to evaluate where your target audience are and what’s appealing to them.

 

Gemma Flinders

Avenues for gauging you audience could be:

Job Titles – For example, if you’re running a PR campaign targeted at CEOs, ensure you’re actually relating to them in your content. This is especially useful for social media targeting on platforms like LinkedIn as you can filter your target audience by job title.

 

Content Types They Engage With – Which of your content formats generates the most engagement – a press release, video animation? Or, have any of your competitors used a content format that’s landed really well? Getting the content format right can make all the difference to a PR campaign.

 

Influential Advertising Channels – Analyse where exactly your audience spends most of their time. Is it reading your email newsletters, commenting on your social media posts or viewing video campaigns? This will help promote your campaign on the right channels.

 

There are also some handy tools to research your audience further. Two of our favorites are:

Answer The Public: features real questions that people ask search engines, e.g. “which banking investment solution is right for me”? This helps to find topics that address your audience’s key concerns.

Image source: https://answerthepublic.com/reports/ee5ed6c7-7449-4930-830b-d36dde59b8fa

 

You can also find related terms to search queries. For example, after a search for “asset management” on Answer the Public, one of the related terms “asset management market study” could be a great study for a PR campaign.

Buzzsumo: unlocks data on the actual content your audience is engaging with, what social channels it’s being shared across and how recently. If a particular piece of content is receiving a lot of interest, it’s a sign that your target audience wants to know more.

After a search for “business finance management” one article on integrated business and personal finance has received 3.8K total engagement. Possible PR campaigns could look into the future of business finance tech or what businesses value as the post important asset when looking into finance management.

 

2. Make Idea Generation Easier  

Any successful digital PR campaign starts with a solid idea – one that’s really going to resonate with your target audience. However, generating these ideas doesn’t need to be a painstakingly difficult task, there are some easy ways to cut corners.

Following industry trends and updates is one of the quickest and easiest ways to generate PR campaign ideas. Developments in the financial space happen daily, so keeping on top of these will keep your campaign ideas flowing.

Image source –  https://www.google.co.uk/alerts#

Set up Google Alerts for industry-related search terms, competitors and key thought leaders in the financial space. This way, you can quickly react to emerging trends, upcoming events or hot topics that could be leveraged, hijacked or piggybacked for your own PR. Knowing an industry update as soon as it hits the headlines will also allow you to respond quickly and produce content when it’s likelier to be picked up.

You can make things even easier by setting up information requests from journalists or publications. ResponseSource allows you to receive these requests in real-time from different sectors directly into your inbox. This’ll save you time in coming up with an idea – all you need to do is present your content in a creative, engaging way!

 

3. Will Your Idea Actually Work?

There is no point investing time and resources into PR campaigns that aren’t going to take off or yield any results. Our team must confidently answer these five questions to sense-check a campaign idea. If we can’t, the idea will be refined or scrapped if there’s no chance of it working:

  1. Why this campaign?

Justification is key to getting a PR campaign up and running. Consider what this campaign could achieve for your business and why it stands above any other ideas. 

  1. Is this campaign practical?

Having a really extravagant PR idea is fantastic – IF you have the resources to make it happen. We already know that 50% of the digital marketing managers in the finance sector lack the in-house resources to pull off digital PR, so any ideas you have need to be achievable.

  1. Does it tie in with your brand?

The main goal of digital PR is to promote your brand and your offering. But to do this, it needs to be relevant your products or services. Use PR campaigns to establish your business as thought leaders in your industry and the best on the market. Don’t try to cross over into territory you have little experience in. 

  1. Is it newsworthy?

For example, if headlines revealed there’s been a surge in consumers using independent businesses, you could do a research piece around asking consumers why they prefer shopping small. However, be sure your idea hasn’t already been covered already – publications will very rarely share the same campaign twice.   

  1. Who will be interested?

If you’re dedicating lots of time, resources and budget into a PR campaign, you need to know if it’ll appeal to your target audience. Look over the research you gathered from your audience tools, e.g. does a question relevant to your idea keep popping up on Answer The Public? If you can’t find any interest, your idea needs reworking.

4. Structure Your Campaigns for Success – ‘The Three Pillars’

Even if you’ve justified why you’ve chosen a campaign idea, it could still fall flat if you haven’t actually considered its framework. Whether you’re trying to push your brand name, increase search rankings or enquires, how is the campaign actually going to achieve its main goal? Remember, good PR isn’t created just to be newsworthy, it’s there to fulfil a purpose within your marketing strategy.

According to Moz, the top-ranking factors for 2019 were landing page content, linking sites and internal links. Based on these findings, we split our digital PR campaigns into three pillars. This allows us to plan exactly how our campaigns will look from start to finish:

 

Content/Landing Page:

This is an asset that can generate links without being too promotional or salesy. It also adds credibility to your content campaign. For example, if you ran a survey evaluating how satisfied consumers are with their banks, a dedicated landing page sharing the data would put your brand as the face of the research.

Be sure to link this as your main resource in any content you produce off the back of your campaign, e.g. exclusive articles, infographics, video animations to push your landing page even further.

From our experience of working with journalists, they’re much likelier to credit your brand if you have an attainable, not overly promotional, resource for them to link to!

 

Internal Linking:

Internal links are the backbone to any website. They are featured within your content to push SEO value through to the most profitable website pages and increase their ranking. E.g. if you had a blog post on ‘5 Different Types of Business Loans’, any relevant, high converting webpages on your site should be linked to within the text.

Add internal links to your website pages throughout your content/landing page. Any online publications who then link to your landing page will push SEO authority through your entire site; helping to push your most profitable pages further up the SERPs into those prime positions.

Note – avoid “keyword stuffing” with your internal links. Not every webpage is equal value, so splitting any link equity throughout your entire website will only reduce the ranking benefits.

 

Online Placements:

With effective campaign promotion, the target landing page will earn links within content placed on third party sites. These links establish landing page authority which sends SEO value through profitable pages and increase rankings.

Be refined over the publications you contact – your campaign isn’t going to be relevant to everyone. Limit your lists down to websites who’ll have interest in content around finance. E.g. business news, investments, insurance, etc.

Check to see if websites have a media pack too, as some have specific requirements for getting content featured on their site, e.g. the right tone of voice, an author and even wordcount. Some publications will also refuse to link back to your website, which isn’t ideal if your campaign’s purpose is to improve your rankings!

 

5. How to Avoid Missing the Mark…

A PR campaign that backfires can be detrimental to a brand’s identity and consumer’s views of them. All consumers want to trust the companies they do business with, but this is especially true in finance. According to research, 69% of people in the UK have expressed distrust in their finance and banking businesses in the past three years.

Mastercard know the effects of bad PR only too well. In 2018, the credit card brand ran their ‘Meals for Goals’ campaign, which promised that for every goal scored by Messi or Neymar Jr. 10,000 children would receive a mean donated by the World Food Programme charity.

 

Unsurprisingly, the campaign received worldwide backlash, with headlines describing it as “the worst marketing I’ve ever seen” and “don’t let the fate of starving children rest on multimillionaire footballers”. The fact is, although it had good intentions, Mastercard’s audience were disgusted by the notion of such a huge multi-national company allowing the fate of starving children to rest their two selected players scored goals during the tournament.

Financial businesses need to put trust at the centre of their digital PR campaigns. For instance, you could position your CMO a thought-leader in the industry through interviews with financial news websites and webinars.

Although digital PR isn’t straightforward in the finance, it shouldn’t be avoided. There are plenty of ways to make generating ad landing strong campaigns much easier.

 

Business

HOW CAN BUSINESSES BREAK INTO MARKETS BEYOND THE EU?

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HOW CAN BUSINESSES BREAK INTO MARKETS BEYOND THE EU?

Atul Bhakta, CEO of One World Express

 

The build-up and aftermath of Brexit impeded the long-term plans of businesses both in the UK, and of EU businesses trading to the UK. The heavily protracted negotiations induced a culture of uncertainty in business, with few able to adequately prepare for all the future trading landscapes left on the table.

Once a deal was struck, with just one week before the Brexit deadline of 31st January 2020, organisations were then left scrambling to improvise new processes to translate their operations to the new systems and avoid spiralling costs, shipping delays, and various other disruptions.

As a result, businesses both here and in the EU saw a substantial trading slowdown in the months following Brexit, with new rules on customs checks, lengthy tailbacks at ports, denser and knottier administrative rules and new limitations on visas for the workforce all contributing to a tense trading relationship.

Indeed, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed a precipitous drop in trading immediately after Brexit, with UK exports to the continent plummeting 40.7% year on year to January 2021.

This is a striking decline, given the historically close economic and cultural ties between the UK and EU. Inevitably, this caused a lull in long-term confidence amongst UK businesses. Indeed, a previous study conducted by One World Express in January 2021 found that 25% of UK companies doubted that they would last until the end of the year.

Atul Bhakta

Of course, Brexit is even now not a finalised issue – it will shift and evolve in significance and relevance as time passes and economies reshape; but the loss of confidence for businesses in UK-EU trade has been a tangible impact within the first year.

Accordingly, some organisations have begun exploring the scope for expansion into territories beyond the EU.

 

New opportunities attracting attention

As noted, the UK’s trade with the EU saw a sharp decline immediately following the formalisation of Brexit. While this decline has recovered steadily over the year, there has been an equally impressive parallel forming, as non-EU trade has remained mostly stable throughout.

Of course, UK imports from global markets have always remained at high levels, and when considering business growth and the economy as a whole, outward trade holds a heightened significance. On the export side of matters, ONS figures suggest that UK exports outside of the EU increased by 1.7% year-on-year to January 2021.

While a very modest increase, such figures indicate that international expansion could carry promise for business leaders, and hint at potentially lucrative opportunities within non-EU markets.

As 2021 progressed, it became evident that UK businesses’ appetite to explore opportunities further afield had grown. To take in the views of decision-makers, One World Express commissioned an independent survey of 752 business leaders in the UK, finding that 61% were either already operating abroad in some capacity, or had plans to expand into new territories over the coming year. More than six in ten (62%) reported Brexit as a key motivator in their decision to diversify beyond trading with the EU.

There was also some evidence that these plans were not solely in pursuit of the gains of modest uplifts in trade with non-EU countries. The survey found that more than two thirds (68%) of exporters had observed increased overseas demand for their products in the previous year, while 63% felt that markets outside of the EU were more willing to pay a premium for British-made goods.

The role of ‘Brand UK’ is significant here. For many years, products made in the UK have benefitted from the country’s reputation for high quality production and excellent service, which has driven a consistent rise in demand as emerging markets with high levels of consumer spending, such as India or China. In turn, UK businesses have found it easier than most to gain a foothold in new markets. Indeed, the majority (67%) of exporters reported their British brand had enhanced the reputation and demand for their goods and services when targeting international consumers.

Despite this innate – and highly welcome – competitive advantage, there are a number of factors UK firms must consider before diving in to unfamiliar markets.

 

The importance of planning

Many would be surprised to learn that a large number of businesses look to enter new markets with minimal planning in place. Notably, almost one third (32%) of exporters do not have such a strategy in place, which is likely to hamper the growth of British businesses abroad if left unaddressed. A crucial starting point for any international expansion plan lies in the research and relationship building.

Ascertaining the consumer preferences and audience behaviours in target markets, and forging appropriate connections with distributors, vendors, and ecommerce platforms, will allow firms to access consumers more easily, and in greater numbers, than marketing from scratch in unfamiliar territory. Encouragingly, according to One World Express’ research, 72% of exporters already include this in their plans.

UK organisations must also recognise the value of a robust and flexible logistics strategy. When products are being shipped to the furthest corners of the globe, there is a degree of risk if the finer details are not handled correctly. Delayed, missing, or damaged deliveries will erode consumer trust, and diminish the prospects of companies before they get off the ground. Accordingly, companies should ensure they have a transparent tracking system and efficient and user-friendly returns process. Investment in adopting the right software solutions to manage the shipping will create a streamlined and cost-effective process, affording firms the best chance at success.

Naturally, the EU will always be one of the UK’s most critical trading partners. However, as the dust settles on Brexit and the pandemic recedes into memory, the next few years present an interesting crossroads for the international prospects of UK businesses. With a tranche of new free trade agreements arriving in the near future, and international demand for Brand UK going from strength to strength, the scope for expansion into unfamiliar markets is growing apace. Provided business leaders get the finer details right, the rewards for bold investment in expansion could help charge a boom in the UK exports sector.

 

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WHAT FIREFIGHTERS CAN TEACH FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS ABOUT DATA COLLABORATION

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Gabriele Albarosa, CEO, LiveDataset

 

Digital transformation can be difficult for any business, but in the financial services industry it can prove especially tricky. Replacing manual data processes is a big step, but in an industry so heavily regulated and audited, cohesive and comprehensive transformation is crucial.

Today, the challenge is no longer in convincing financial services organisations that they need to transform their processes and tasks; the vast majority understand the benefits of automating and streamlining their financial processes.

Instead, it’s about instilling the message that there is more to transformation than ripping out and replacing outdated technologies. A good financial transformation strategy must also take into account how these technologies are implemented, ensuring they integrate into an organisation’s culture, connect data and guarantee compliance, without completely demolishing the custom processes that employees want to use.

 

Little Fires Everywhere

While business transformation offers long-term benefits throughout an organisation, individual departments are often loathe to abandon the bespoke processes that facilitate day-to-day operations. Many organisations feel under pressure to transform quickly, and subsequently focus on how to get their employees onboard with a new solution rather than integrating every minute component of the old.

As a result, digital transformation efforts tend to bypass these disparate components, leaving small, potentially non-compliant hazards smouldering like little fires across an organisation.

These “little fires” don’t immediately represent a threat to business operations, but the lack of quality control, integration, and visibility of these manual workflows, means they’re inherently high-risk.

When a pressure situation hits the organisation, like a surprise audit, legal proceedings or new reporting demands, these processes become a highly combustible cocktail for non-compliance, lost data and human error.

 

Tackling the flames

Organisations need to tackle these little fires early on, rather than sitting back and hoping they will burn themselves out. But how can they be dealt with?

If you think of these small, unregistered processes as little fires, then your team needs to think like a firefighter — being fast, agile, flexible, and well-prepared for potential risks.

So how can CFOs, CXOs and Chief Transformation Officers bring this strategy to life?

 

  1. Be fast — don’t wait around for largescale digital transformation

There’s a common misconception amongst financial service organisations that before facing the issue, you need to wait until an overhaul of department processes or an in-depth audit. This could leave you waiting years for a solution that needs to be implemented in weeks, putting your department at risk.

Organisations must act with speed and address the issue head-on as soon as it has been spotted. Businesses don’t need to wait for largescale transformation; temporary or even permanent solutions do exist and can be tailored and installed immediately — targeting the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.

In my own business, we recommend a three 3-step approach to tackle these issue quickly: First, listening to an organisation’s business challenges to locate the most pressing fire. Second, build a working example for business leaders and decision-makers to evaluate. Finally, follow up with real-time collaboration to ensure that wider company processes don’t cause similar problems in future.

 

  1. Be agile and flexible — look for customisable solution that evolve over time

Organisations are ever-evolving, and so are the problems they face. However, some financial services organisations see the answer to these problems as a one-time, short-term fix. Working to put out these fires at speed shouldn’t stop organisations from considering how to prevent and deal with future ones. That’s why businesses run fire drills!

Financial organisations need forward-thinking systems that will work now and in the future, whenever they face their next data collaboration crisis. The ability to act in an agile way is fundamental to this sort of futureproofing.

Agile, flexible solutions will enable organisations to fight multiple fires, with the same systems, as time goes on. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work here. Putting one fire to rest won’t prevent more from happening, and not all fires are the same (just try throwing water on a chip pan fire!) Every organisation has distinct needs and that means customised solutions.

 

  1. Be prepared — implement solutions before disruption occurs

To understand their weakness and subsequently prevent fires, financial service organisations must encourage employees across departments to hold an ethos of self-improvement. Preparation is key to success.

That means establishing a comprehensive understanding of the day-to-day routines of employees at all levels. It’s in habit and routine (one-off processes, keeping data on email, spreadsheets as systems, etc) where financial fire hazards thrive.

If new, more compliant technologies are to be installed, they cannot dismantle these existing routines. Flexible data collaboration solutions are needed that perfectly match the existing way of working. Achieving the goals of transformation without any of the disruption.

 

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