There are a number of important misconceptions when it comes to marketing and PR for new and small ETF issuers. Thankfully, one panel in particular at the 2015 ETF Bootcamp sought to boost awareness of what it takes to successfully gain mindshare in today’s competitive media landscape: “Getting Your Message Across: Branding, Messaging, and Increasing ETF Assets.” The panelists covered a wide range of topics, including TV interviews, PR strategies, and—of course—social media.
And so we’re happy to present to you the dos and don’ts of Marketing and PR for new or small ETF issuers. Enjoy!
Don’t: wait until after the fund launches to form a marketing and PR strategy
The best marketing and PR strategies are faithful representations of an ETF issuer’s value proposition, brand, and fund. It takes a significant amount of time and thought to distill a firm’s vision down to its essence, to develop effective collateral, as well as viable PR angles. Alexandra Levis, CEO of Arro Financial Communications, observed that she likes to “get in on the ground floor” with new or small issuers, creating foundational messaging documents in advance of launch so that there is no last minute scramble to create quality materials or PR campaigns.
Do: focus on digital advertising
Media has always been “the numbers group” within an advertising team. Now media has further evolved, from the art to the science of advertising. Digital advertising makes it possible to test the effectiveness of a variety of ads, while offering deep insights into click-through rates, engagement, and views.
Print ads can be effective if sufficiently targeted, but cannot compete with digital advertising in terms of data gathering and campaign monitoring. Unfortunately, beyond readership or subscriber numbers there is effectively no way to measure engagement in print ads as compared to digital ones.
Don’t: Expect to focus on your own fund when on TV
TV appearances can be tough to nail down. If your PR team can secure a spot for your fund manager on television, it is unlikely to be a feature piece regarding your fund’s launch. As much as a new issuer may be itching to get their firm and its product(s) into the spotlight, it is far more constructive to insert your firm’s products into the existing financial markets conversation, perhaps by discussing an underlying holding or the implications of the sectors that are making news. A TV producer is far more likely to invite you back to their show if you provide valuable, informative commentary, perhaps at most making oblique references to your fund.
Don’t: expect social media alone to grow AUM
One of the first aspects of marketing that fledgling ETF issuers tend to ask about a buzzword they’ve heard time and time again: social media. While the panelists were quick to point out the potential benefits of a robust social media strategy in the context of a larger marketing push, chief among them being direct connections with potential investors and an efficient channel of pushing out relevant content, there are often more drawbacks to this approach than issuers first realize.
For starters, social media is at its best when content is timely, spontaneous, and ideally coming directly from the purported source (i.e. a fund manager, CEO, or spokesperson). This can prove problematic in the finance world, where even the most mild of assertions must be accompanied by legal disclosures, and where all communications with investors must be cleared by a compliance team before being published.