The PHA Group’s Ben Cossor: How to PR fintech start-ups
Picture credit: Sam Pearce
Ben Cossor, account director at The PHA Group, presents his tips on how fintech start-ups can grow their profile.
Venture capital and private equity investment in British fintech rose to an all-time high of £2.6bn in 2018, up 18% from 2017. This rapidly growing industry, which has sky-rocketed since the 2007 financial crisis, is now, unsurprisingly, saturated by start-ups all competing for the media spotlight.
To stand out, your company needs a comprehensive communications strategy to cut through the noise and navigate the media landscape, which itself is evolving all the time.
So, how can you get your fintech business noticed and sustain ongoing awareness in the mainstream media?
Know your target audience
Depending on whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, you’ll have a specific audience you’re trying to reach and influence. Financial technology companies, by their very nature, often tick both boxes – they want to on-board corporate partners (to buy or implement the technology) while at the same time appeal to consumers to grow their user base.
Your target audience, and the stage your business is at, should be the first thing which determines your PR strategy. If you need to sign up corporate partners – be it a bank or a retailer for example – before consumers are able to use your service themselves, then you need to generate awareness of your brand in the business and industry media to reach decision makers at these corporates. Getting consumer press coverage too soon could backfire if your product isn’t ready for use, and could be hard to recover from.
Put simply, consider which audience you need to appeal to first, before choosing your target media.
Nail your brand positioning
To cut through the noise and have true media impact, you want to avoid being seen as “just another fintech start-up”. How do you avoid this? By being crystal clear with a) a clear brand message for each market you operate in, b) having clearly defined USPs and c) a value proposition that appeals to key stakeholders.
Too many start-ups rush to market and try to emulate the tech unicorns in terms of PR and brand awareness, but slow and steady will always win the race when it comes to taking time to fine-tune your brand position and key messages. Even your tone of voice needs to be nailed down before you break into the media – this needs to remain consistent over time, and shouldn’t change, so getting it right first time is crucial.
PR agencies can help with this process, even before a media relations strategy begins, with the creation of messaging houses and tone of voice documents common practice at the start of any campaign.
Become an expert commentator
To be considered a market leader, you need credibility and authority. A great way of building both is to become an expert commentator in the media. Breaking news emerges from the fintech sector on a daily basis, and every respected top tier media outlet wants to lead the national coverage of each issue.
One way they achieve this is to extend their coverage of these stories by featuring informed opinions from industry experts, whether that’s a CEO or CTO interview on Sky News, or a written commentary piece in City A.M.
You can get ahead of the competition by securing commentary opportunities for your in-house experts – the key: a well-informed, educated and interesting opinion that ensures your brand owns the conversation.
You won’t get coverage unless you can add something new to the debate, so consider your stance and how it will positively impact your reputation among stakeholders. If you can provide the opinion, your PR agency can secure you top tier media coverage while at the same time developing your media relations for future commentary opportunities.
Educate your audience
As above, content is key here. Your fintech company might be challenging a traditional industry (most of the best ones are), such as banking, payments, or mortgages. In which case, one of your most challenging tasks might be to win over potential corporate partners (e.g. a bank or a mortgage broker).
Avoiding the hard sell, a more tactical approach would be to begin to educate this specific audience about, for example, how their industry is changing for the better, or how they can embrace technology to make themselves more efficient and win new customers.
This can be achieved through educational thought leadership, again by-lined to your CEO or another in-house expert. By securing press coverage for your thought leadership across a range of vertical media, you can educate your audience over time while building brand (and individual) credibility.
Above all, make sure you have a story to tell
You’ve identified your target audience(s), you’ve nailed your brand positioning, you’ve educated your audience and you’re now an expert media commentator.
You are now in a position to tell your own story, and the best way of doing this is via interviews in the business, tech and finance press to establish a base in the mainstream media. A credible success story about an entrepreneur that has overcome the odds, or a start-up that was born out of a sudden lightbulb moment or epiphany, are typical examples of stories that do well.
But, just as there are thousands of start-ups, journalists receive hundreds of pitches each day from companies vying for attention.
Crucially, you need a stand-out story in order for a journalist to write about you. You need to be clear on the problem you’re solving, a timeline for how you got where you are, some interesting anecdotes and clear growth potential (and don’t hold back on the nitty gritty details like financials and investment).
Do your research – read up on the journalist you’d like to speak to, know the type of businesses they are interested in judging by what they’ve written about before. There’s nothing that turns off a journalist more than an ill-informed pitch about something irrelevant.
The great thing about an interesting interview is they appeal to a range of readers – from consumers who may be potential customers, to corporate partners and future investors. If you are fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to a well-respected fintech journalist, be sure to make the most of it!
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