Mutual funds realize PR lends credibility

NEW YORK: As the bear market continues to sack the revenues of many money managers, and investors are putting a premium on trusting those who manage their investments, many small- and mid-size asset managers say building brand recognition and credibility through PR has become a no-brainer.

NEW YORK: As the bear market continues to sack the revenues of many money managers, and investors are putting a premium on trusting those who manage their investments, many small- and mid-size asset managers say building brand recognition and credibility through PR has become a no-brainer.

"Some fund companies that have been quiet for years are waking up to the idea that a little PR can go a long way, said Tom Gariepy, VP of corporate communications at Delaware Investments. "They are seeing that it's relatively inexpensive, and not all that difficult."

While many of the large asset managers - such as Fidelity, Janus, and Vanguard - can support national advertising campaigns, smaller firms say they do not have the revenues to finance such large-scale ad campaigns.

"We don't have the ad budgets of some of the larger players, said Ken Christensen, SVP of marketing for Wells Real Estate Funds. "But we've been very successful at using PR to get our story out there. PR is very well-suited for some things, and our industry is one them."

Mutual fund marketing pros say that they find their ROI on PR can easily outstrip that of advertising. They say that since their client relationships are built so squarely on trust, PR is good brand-building tool. In addition, using the press as a conduit to potential clients lends a level of credibility that traditional advertising lacks.

Delaware's Gariepy said he frequently reprints articles that mention his firm's fund, and sends them to the financial advisers and brokers, who offer them to investors. "Our firm is not a household name, said Gariepy. "But if an investment adviser can show an investor who hasn't heard of us an article where our funds are mentioned, it gives us credibility."

Some marketing pros say the results are quick and quantifiable, even in cases when investment specialists are simply featured as expert market commentators, and the firm's funds are not specifically mentioned.

"After our chief investment officer appears on CNBC, we see a definite increase in volume at both our website and call center, said Victoria Morrison, director of marketing at Johnson Family Funds. "The correlation is easy to track."

One PR pro who advises money managers said the ROI in PR can be measured both outside and inside a firm.

"It's a real morale boost for employees of a small firm to see their fund listed somewhere like Barron's, where perhaps the same article might mention a Fidelity Fund, said Dan Sondhelm, partner at SunStar, a PR firm that serves asset managers. "It lets employees know they are on the same level with the big names. It tells your people, 'We're just as good as them.'"

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