CHICAGO: Morningstar, an investment information company, is planning a major PR campaign to promote its web site and broaden awareness of the company in the investment community.
The company expects to spend in the high-six-figure range this year on the PR program, said Stephanie Kerch, Morningstar's director of PR.
Kerch has sent RFPs to Neale-May & Partners, Brodeur Porter Novelli, Connors Communications, and Schwartz Public Relations Associates asking for presentations by mid-July. Morning-star expects to make a decision shortly after hearing the proposals.
The program itself will start almost immediately after a winner is selected.
'What we're looking for is someone as plugged into online technology as we are in the financial industry,' Kerch said.
Morningstar's in-house PR staff includes Kerch, two account executives, and three researchers who handle media requests for research on various funds and stocks. The department handles about 500 calls per month for information from financial reporters.
Morningstar is well-known among serious investors, but is anticipating that the PR push will expose it before a broader audience. The company is also planning a dollars 15 to dollars 20 million ad campaign.
Kerch, who has PR agency experience, opted against contacting the biggest firms because she covets 'the attention of a medium to smaller-size agency.' She narrowed down her choices to firms with proven Internet track records.
Morningstar began as a mutual fund rating company but has expanded into equities research. While the company produces a variety of newsletters and books, Morningstar has recently 'started getting serious about moving almost everything we do to the Net,' Kerch said. Its ultimate goal is to be a premier site for investment information. Readers of Worth recently rated the site third behind Yahoo! and The Wall Street Journal online.
In addition to hiring a PR firm for Morningstar.com, Kerch is talking with two Chicago agencies about a possible business-to-business, product-specific PR program.