February 26, 2014

The ABC’s of Dealing with Financial Journalists in a Rapidly Changing Media Environment

Who do you think you’re talking to?

Financial-Rules-Twenties

No, this isn’t a rhetorical scolding; it’s a serious question. Whether you’re a PR professional or a company spokesperson, you need to have a good understanding of the reporter you’re working with and his or her readership.

While having your fund or company featured in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal may be the ultimate status symbol, you should be careful what you wish for. In an increasingly competitive news industry, the gloves are off in the race for eyeballs and clicks. Just this year, the NYT- referred by some as The Grey Lady, due to its lack of images – gave the Buzzfeed slideshow treatment to a story on the black market of olive oil.

On top of that, news desks are leaner and editors are more demanding. Last year, the NYT banned its employees from granting quote checks to sources, and the WSJ increased pressure on its employees to land more scoops.

These new dynamics require extra caution when dealing with the press, so let’s review our media ABC’s – Always Be Cautious:

A.  Financial journalists are people too, which means they’re guided by their own investing biases. By building a relationship with a reporter, you get a better understanding of what drives her column. (NOTE: This is especially true for personal finance writers. Even within newsrooms you hear the arguments of passive vs. active management, and some folks will always be Bogleheads.)

B.  A profile is not your friend. While it can be an excellent opportunity that provides an in-depth look into your company, you should be aware of the potential risks. A serious reporter will do his or her due diligence to find contrasting opinions and review performance history. Be prepared to approach such opportunities with a certain element of vulnerability.

C.  News beats are specific, especially at the more top-tier outlets. Just because a reporter wrote a story about “2013 changes to the personal tax code” doesn’t mean she’ll want to discuss the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which specifically applies to institutional asset managers. At a recent roundtable discussion with four Forbes journalists, their unanimous pet peeve was people who don’t really understand their beat. Bug them one too many times and they may just leave their comfort zone, but not in your favor.

The world of financial reporting can be a jungle, and it takes a good public relations strategy to navigate the landscape. Rather than diving in head first, you’d be wise to do your homework and protect your brand’s image.

By: Hod Klein

Hod Klein is a Senior Account Executive at Dukas Public Relations.