June 05, 2019
/ by Alister Houghton
David Butcher, managing director of Communications and Content, talks about giving his consultancy a simple name, how financial firms communicate and why more businesses in the sector should aim to stand for something.
What made you decide to start your own consultancy?
I didn’t see a lot of consultancies offering a package of strategic advice, good content and media relations in financial services – because it’s such a fragmented market – so bringing it together in one place felt like an opportunity to deliver what clients need today.
It’s the blend of support I wanted when I was on the client side – and I designed the business in that image.
Plus, my wife started as a style blogger around the same time – and I’m a bit competitive….
Communications and Content is a very clear name, is the consultancy a case of you offering “exactly what is says on the tin”?
Yes! I wanted a simple brand – that didn’t need explaining – because it quickly moves the conversation to how I can help clients, and that’s what interests me.
Your offering is focused on investment firms, how can they communicate better?
Over time, they’ve consistently talked about what they think is important. But the world doesn’t really work like that – you don’t want to stand next to someone in the pub who drones on about themselves.
So I try and help companies in any sector think about what their audience cares about – and that means more asking, listening and responding.
Is there a reason why financial firms don’t communicate in a more “human” way?
I see it like this: there are two types of clever people. The ones who let you know they’re the smartest in the room – and those who make you feel like the smartest in the room. My job is to deliver the latter.
I think it’s because of culture (“we have to use jargon and complexity to show we’re clever”) and risk-aversion (“let’s have more compliance and less creativity to show we’re safe”). But we’re working to change that, and helping clients communicate with more empathy.
Businesses are under more pressure to stand for something; does that extend to investment businesses? And should it?
Absolutely. Finance is really interesting because it touches on everything important: climate, demography, populism, migration and the births, marriages and deaths of companies.
Some companies see their purpose as making rich people richer, and that works for them. But a far larger, and growing, bloc see their role as diverting capital towards things that support decarbonisation and create sustainable growth.
Intellectually, both categories fascinate me – but emotionally, I’m more attracted to the latter.
How do you measure the effectiveness of your work?
It varies because we do quite a few things – advising clients on tricky things creates a live feedback loop, because you can just see what’s happening in front of you.
Creating content gives you access to really useful empirical data, but you always want more qualitative feedback, which tends to be a rarer thing in storytelling.
And in media engagement, we prefer to think about landing messages and creating the right perception.
Finally, what are the big challenges facing the investment sector?
So they’ve never really cracked the “what are we for?” question. A lot of people think a fund manager is a type of banker. And that’s unhelpful. So there’s a huge opportunity to create more resonance with society and policymakers more broadly.
It’s also an undisrupted sector. If you get one of the tech giants stepping in, you’ll see a whole cohort of younger people giving money to a brand they trust rather than a stuffy one that never bothered to engage. That’ll be really interesting.
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