Five Public Relations Steps to a Successful ETF Launch

You’ve decided to launch an exchange-traded fund (ETF). You believe it’s a revolutionary product that will capture investors’ attention and outperform benchmarks.

But you’re launching into a very crowded space. There were more than 1,800 ETFs in the U.S. as of last November, according to the Investment Company Institute, with 275 new funds added since January 2017 — nearly one per day, counting weekends and holidays.

Here are five steps to make your fund stand out from the crowd.

1. Focus Your Message

During the “quiet period” before the fund begins trading, put your investor cap on. What type of diligent investor would find your fund appealing? Dig into the fund fact sheet and compare it with the your fund’s soon-to-be competitors.

2. Differentiate the Your Fund

What makes your ETF different? What hurdles could it face? How has the press covered rivals? Is there any compelling independent research?

If your fund is similar to others, the fund manager should have a few succinct proof points about how her fund is different and why investors will peel away from other funds to hers. Nobody launches a fund expecting it to fail.

Other factors that can help a new ETF to stand out include: the index it tracks, its asset allocations, regional and factor exposures, and the expense ratio, if it’s lower than the average of similar funds.

If the people behind the ETF have successfully launched others, highlight their track record.

Are there any interesting facts or pithy comments you can quote from news stories about these people or their previous funds?

3. Respond to Investors’ Needs

Think about the type of investor your fund will appeal to and why. Review recent news coverage of these types of investors and related investment trends to unearth potential news hooks for your fund launch.

If you’re launching a Mexican stock ETF, take a look at recent news about Mexico. Reporters who cover the country’s finances, politics, economy and markets might mention a new fund investing in the country’s stock market as a supporting detail in a larger story.

Research other Mexican stock funds to see how much money has flowed in, how long they’ve been around and how your fund is different.

4. Target a Broad Audience

Succinctly summarize the best selling points of your fund in your press release, and shoot for keeping it no longer than a page. Journalists are more likely to read shorter releases than longer ones.

You also need to create a list of journalists who might be interested in covering your fund because issuing a press release isn’t usually enough to garner attention on its own. Think beyond the usual suspects among the media that cover ETFs and consider journalists who, in this example, cover Mexican business, financial and political stories.

Your pitches should be tailored to each journalist. The pitch you send to the reporter at ETF Trends better not be the same as the one going to the Mexican stock market reporter.

5. Keep Communications Concise and Compelling

Your pitch should be no more than three or four concise paragraphs with hyperlinks to supporting materials. If you want to provide additional background material, put it below your signature with a note about it in the body of your pitch. You want to make it easy for reporters with little time to quickly find the most compelling information about your ETF.

Jerry had Dorothy at “hello” in Jerry Maguire but you can turn off a reporter with your “hello”: the subject line of your pitch. If it’s not catchy, relevant and informative, at once, your pitch is getting deleted.

Don’t write: Company X launches ETF Y to invest in Mexican stocks.

Do write: ETF Y launched to meet growing investor demand for Mexican stocks.

And then make sure to back up that assertion with some data on this growing demand.

Thanks to so many ETF launches, journalists who cover the sector are even warier of exaggerated claims. A successful fund manager may not need to aggressively promote a new fund to garner positive media coverage. However the risk to reward ratio for a more enthusiastic pitch may be different for a newer entrant with a shorter track record.

Finally, don’t forget to take a victory lap six months after your fund launch after it’s proved skeptics wrong and is attracting tens of millions of dollars in new investments.

By Frank Taylor & Tom Vogel


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