Financial practices highlight their value in crisis

Agencies have been watching the financial markets for months, and corporate practices kicked into high gear in response to the upheaval on Wall Street.

Agencies have been watching the financial markets for months, and corporate practices kicked into high gear in response to the upheaval on Wall Street.

“The crisis has created a major opportunity for smart financial pros to get into the story and provide insight and commentary,” notes Richard Dukas, president and CEO of Dukas Public Relations. The firm represents a number of financial clients, including hedge funds, investment banks, advisory firms, brokers, and economists.

He notes that it's vital for clients to communicate confidence and conviction in the media, even during this crisis. For example, Dukas notes that getting hedge fund managers into a variety of outlets, such as CNBC or The Wall Street Journal, has helped calm nervous investors.

“It's critical for our clients to do that because their clients are nervous,” he adds.

Andy Goldberg, head of Burson-Marsteller's US corporate and financial practice, says the agency is counseling “a wider variety” of financial services firms, including investment banks, diversified financial services companies, insurance companies, and consumer banks. He says Burson has recently won new business with insurance companies and regional banks, but declined to name them.

“There's a wide number of financial firms whose image and share price have been beaten down because the sector overall has been hurt, not because they're in particular jeopardy,” he adds. “We're trying to help them proactively get out in front of reputation problems, rather than wait for disaster.”

Goldberg says Burson is also “helping shape the communication independent financial advisers stress to their customers,” which includes “reassuring and realistic” messages that help “people recognize it's a tough period, but they're in good hands.” He adds that the firm is also helping train financial advisers and other staff who interface with the public.

Peter Harris, SVP and director of the New York corporate practice at MS&L, also reports increased demand for internal communications from both financial services clients and clients “on the periphery,” such as those in pharma and tech.

“More clients understand that traditional media is... one of many channels that needs to be leveraged,” he says. “Some are using podcasts to communicate thought leadership to key vertical industries. Trade and social media channels are important.”

Scott Tangney, EVP and head of the financial and professional services practice at Makovsky & Company, reports that many clients, including asset-management firms and banks, seek “more intensive” monitoring for reputation issues.

“There's a lot of confusion [about] what's going to happen with the financial services industry going forward,” he says. “The focus is on day-to-day communications. Many companies are waiting to see how the credit crisis will affect them overall. I think we'll see a readjustment in how companies position and brand themselves.”

Key points:
  • Financial services clients must show thought leadership across diverse media channels
  • Financial advisers and public-facing staff need counsel on shaping reassuring, realistic messages
  • Clear, consistent internal comms is key for companies that are even indirectly impacted by the crisis

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