Bill SmithThursday, April 5, 2018
With zero experience in either public relations or the financial sector, I started my career in the communications field working for a boutique public relations firm specializing in financial and professional services. While the general traits to succeed in a professional capacity fresh out of college are true across industries (good written communication skills, organization, and an ability to listen), there are a few additional bits of prep that will assist new professionals in the financial communications field.
This is especially true for communications practitioners in the finance world, given the regulatory environment, increasingly complex financial instruments being introduced to the marketplace, and industry jargon.
On a test I took prior to my first gig in PR, I identified Galleon Group as “a collection of European ships.”
Answer: The Galleon Group was one of the largest hedge fund management firms in the world before closing in October 2009 amid insider trading allegations.
You don’t need to know every single item, but you should have a general understanding of the headlines. What’s the latest activist investor fight? Who’s the most recent Wall Street villain (my subjective take: ’15 was Martin Shkreli, ’16 was John Stumpf, ‘17 was any Goldman Sachs alum in the current administration), who is the Fed chair, etc.?
Start by skimming the business section of your favorite news outlet (whether it be Huffington Post, or NPR.org).
If you’re not already reading them, you should also be aware of the key financial news outlets (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist, Forbes, Fortune, Reuters, Bloomberg, Financial Times, CNN Money, Money, etc.), as well as what folks are watching (CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business Network). Better yet, be able to name some of the relatively new outlets such as Business Insider, Buzzfeed Business and Cheddar TV.
If you’re going to be based in New York City, bonus points for identifying business reporters at the New York Post, Crain’s and following ZeroHedge.com. If you’re looking for some “fun” financial news, DealBreaker carries the latest industry gossip.
Even more bonus points for name dropping media-oriented blogs like Talking Biz News.
2. Know basic financial terms
Ever heard of Investopedia? This site should be bookmarked. I’m still learning financial terms (arbitrage…maybe someday), but even rookies should know the difference between a hedge fund and a private equity firm, retail and institutional investors, and when the market is open.
You should also understand the basics behind blockchain technology, active v. passive investment management and be able to spell out acronyms such as M&A, EBITDA, and REIT.
3. Follow influencers
Google top financial media/journalists and start following them on Twitter. The lists will differ, but should generally include Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jon Hilsenrath, Gretchen Morgenson, Paul Krugman, and Michael Lewis (the former financier who wrote the books behind Moneyball and The Big Short).
For non-media folks, definitely follow Josh Brown, Mohamed El-Erian,
4. Seek out a few up and coming reporters.
Unless you’re repping Jamie Dimon, chances are you’re more likely to interact with journalists that don’t have 1M+ Twitter followers. Find a few reporters with a writing style you enjoy, and keep an eye on their articles. Email them when a particular article resonates or you have a contrarian viewpoint to share (just be nice). Buzzfeed Business has reporters breaking scoops in the retail industry. Business Insider is widely read among a younger Wall Street crowd, and Axios has lured away several prize-winning reporters to cover the financial sector.
Unless you start in financial communications with a background in the finance sector, It will take some reading and research outside of work hours to get to get to the point of understanding your client’s business. In order to be successful, you’ll want to read the financial news, research unfamiliar terms, familiarize yourself with “financial celebrities,” and closely follow up and coming folks in the space.