If you’ve never heard of the term fintech then you are probably in the minority. It’s been in the media spotlight for several years now, sparked by a wave of innovative new businesses offering slick financial services to consumers, or enabling technologies to banks and retailers to enable them to operate more effectively.
The movement wasn’t self-conscious enough to describe itself as ‘fintech’ in the beginning - that tag came from the media. A portmanteau of the words ‘financial’ and ‘technology’, it describes any digital service or platform that supports or enables banking or financial services.
The fintech industry in the UK is booming, thanks largely to being the home to the world’s financial capital - London - and innovation-friendly regulations. Of course, the spectre of Brexit looms heavily over London and could lead a number of large banks leaving the city. If this happens, it is inevitable that fintech companies could follow - some, such as former Clarity client Azimo, are already putting contingency plans in place.
However, fintech is bigger than just one city. European fintech is also on the rise, with Q1 2017 a record for VC investment in the sector. And with new regulations in the shape of PSD2 set to completely shake up retail banking in Europe, it’s an exciting time to be a fintech company here - whether B2C, B2B, or B2B2C. There’s also a burgeoning fintech scene in New York, while other global centres of fintech also exist in locations as diverse as Berlin, Singapore and Hong Kong.
But with all the activity and hype, it can be hard for fintech companies to stand out from competitors. Early stage fintech companies need all the help they can get to connect with their audience, so many of them choose to engage with PR as soon as possible. Companies such as TransferWise gained themselves a great deal of attention through PR and marketing campaigns in their early days.
So how can PR help fintech companies get an edge?
Not all fintech companies have quite as straightforward a proposition as TransferWise - lower fees and fairer exchange rates on overseas money transfers - and this means they need to think hard about how they position themselves.
PR agencies specialise in creating distinctive messaging that resonates with audiences on behalf of their clients. Unless you can communicate what it is you do and the value and benefits it brings quickly and succinctly, you’ve no chance of getting people to take you seriously, so get some help from the experts.
Who is the audience?
The first step is to define who exactly the audience is. While you might be wanting to sell your service to a certain type of company, you need to think about who precisely it is within that company you should be targeting. Is it the CEO? The CIO or CFO? The IT department? Or do you need a multi-stranded approach where you can target multiple potential advocates and decision makers within the business?
By identifying the primary, secondary and even tertiary audiences, you can then work on which messages will work best with each and figure out how best to distribute these messages. Again, PR is the place to look for help with this.
Given that your company is in a crowded space, you need to define what exactly it is that makes you stand out from the others. Again, this needs to be communicated in a succinct way, but even more importantly, you need to be able to back up what you are saying.
It’s all very well to say that you are the first to do this or your technology is better than anyone else's. But when talking to the media, if you don’t have robust proof of these claims, you’ll be dismissed. Concentrate on the tangible, evidence-backed parts of your proposition and let the superlatives come only from your satisfied customers.
Being interesting and useful to journalists is the end goal, and a good PR agency will help you to cut through the noise.
Understanding how the media work
If you think that a journalist will make time to talk to you just because you are a fintech company then you have another think coming. As we’ve already mentioned, you are one of many and you need to show that you have a unique proposition and viewpoint.
Journalists need to be treated carefully. One mis-step could ruin your relationship with that individual - and their publication - for a lifetime. So, let your PR agency manage the relationship for you - they’ll tell you exactly how to conduct yourself and what to say when you meet them in person.
What do you want to achieve?
Fintech companies need to work with PR agencies for a number of reasons. It isn’t necessarily just about getting media coverage - although this will likely be the main pillar of any engagement. But it could be about building profiles of your key spokespeople through thought leadership content, driving engagement with your audience through social media channels, or even a direct lead generation exercise.
These approaches will require different tactics, and your agency will be able to best advise you on which ones to use, as well as help you execute them. You’ll also need the help of PR experts to come up with some longer-term plans to ensure your time in the media spotlight isn’t over in the blink of an eye.
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