Looking to boost its visibility in the media and among potential new clients, British Columbia-based financial institution, BlueShore Financial partnered with Magnolia Marketing Communications in 2017. A provider of personal and business banking, wealth management, insurance and commercial lending solutions, BlueShore wanted to increase its brand awareness and fuel growth. The objectives of the campaign included:
- Positioning BlueShore as a corporate thought leader in personal finance.
- Demonstrating financial expertise of BlueShore advisors.
- Reaching Millennials aspiring towards financial independence and security, affluent investors, and SMEs.
- Attracting top talent by telling the BlueShore story of being a great place to work with a distinct startegy and highly engaged employees.
Read on to see why Magnolia Marketing Communications and its client, BlueShore Financial won a Bronze Award in the “Best Financial Services Campaign” category of the 2018 Bulldog PR Awards.
The team developed an integrated PR strategy that included:
- Positioning spokespeople as thought leaders and subject matter experts to increase brand awareness among target audiences.
- Leveraging seasonal topics of conversation for spokespeople e.g. tax season, RRSP season, and charitable donations, back to school.
- Newsjacking trending news stories for personal finance stories e.g. Trump’s presidential election, NAFTA, Vancouver housing market.
- Incorporating BlueShore’s market surveys into angles on media stories.
- Compiling multimedia assets as part of pitch stories e.g. photographs, employee engagement stats, videos.
- Maximizing use of Infomart to track financial news in the media to find relevant personal finance trends.
In order to measure the success of their efforts, the team at Magnolia compared success metrics for every quarter and every year, including media outlet reach, comparative ad value, and number of earned media placements.
One key strategic move for the campaign was sourcing local citizens. “For a lot of the daily papers, they wanted everyday citizens to speak, so we got millennials and moms and daughters to speak on-camera about financial literacy,” Phoebe Yong, President at Magnolia Marketing Communications relates. “We ensured to make it as easy for local broadcasters to do their story.”
A major barrier to the campaign’s success was that BlueShore did not always have “new” news to share with the media. Relying on seasonal topics and occasional corporate news, Magnolia collaborated with BlueShore’s communication team in connecting spokespeople to the right reporter and producer contacts. This entailed timely pitching for the right trending news stories.
“We had to stand out from the crowd of personal finance spokespeople, bloggers and others. Our PR objective was to tell this story and share financial knowledge with Canadians through various media, local and national, often relying on our company’s differentiator, of building deep and long-lasting relationships with our clients and providing personalized and proactive financial planning tailored to each client in a luxury banking environment,” says Armita Seyedalikhani, Director, Communications and Corporate Affairs at BlueShore Financial.
One of Magnolia’s specialties is differentiating its pitch efforts from the pack by packaging broadcast and print stories, similar to how talent agencies would package deals to studios. For example, to secure a retirement-focused story for the Vancouver Sun, the team provided the angle, interviewees (a BlueShore spokesperson and a local citizen) and a location for filming, making it easy for a reporter to pick up the story. As such, this story secured print and online coverage, with the web piece containing a video element.
Another obstacle the team faced was in relation to media. While BlueShore’s financial advisors had been media trained previously, the financial advisors needed a refresh session in conveying warmth and charisma on screen. There were also new advisors that had joined the organization that would benefit from the training, as they were identified as potential spokespeople. Magnolia’s Senior Communications Director, a former CTV anchor, Jina You, provided a full-day training session; which contributed to , the financial advisors gaining further skills to become effective thought leaders for the brand-awareness campaign.
Another challenge in conducting media outreach for this campaign was the time difference. “Both Magnolia and BlueShore are based on the west coast, and many of the national business broadcast opportunities are in the east,” Yong relates.
In terms of tactics for ongoing PR execution, they relied on a live PR roadmap containing industry dates, consumer calendar dates and pitch topics to provide a strategic overview of their work at a glance. Regular reporting helped keep all parties on track.
From October 2017 to October 2018, the team secured print, online, radio and television placements that consistently got positive feedback from BlueShore clients who saw the coverage, confirming that the team was targeting the right opportunities. The top spokespeople included financial advisors, who offered advice and insight on the housing market, financial literacy, financial planning for small businesses and families, taxes, investor trends, women and personal finance, and estate planning.
The campaign team positioned BlueShore’s Chief Executive Officer and President, Chris Catliff as a financial and business thought leader with consistent contributions to Globe and Mail’s Leadership Lab, providing executive advice and practical tips. BlueShore’s Senior Vice President of HR and Corporate Affairs, Marni Johnson was positioned as an HR thought leader with regular placements in business, executive and HR trade publications, including the Globe and Mail, HR Matters and Women of Influence, among others. Marni discussed employee experience and tips for women advancing their careers in the corporate sector. They also pitched a story to the Globe and Mail about BlueShore Financial as a great place to bank and work for the Property Report.
“We are particularly proud of some of the corporate wins, especially considering the Globe and Mail had previously covered the corporate story of the Financial Spa concept for the future of bank branches, but we placed it in print and online for their Property Report section,” offers Yong. “[The new coverage was] bigger and better—an updated story that now focused on how the Financial Spa impacted employees. We earned consistent coverage for the brand by building solid media relationships.”
Campaign Innovation & Creativity
Yong identified three strategic elements that had the most impact on this campaign’s success:
- Thinking outside of the box, paired with strong research skills.
- Persistence and tenacity to find each angle; the right angle.
- Responsiveness to the client and to the media, coordination execution.
The team had to be creative at every step of the process to deliver the high-quality earned media interviews and contributed articles needed to achieve the campaign’s objectives. Magnolia fostered a transparent and collaborative spirit of teamwork with BlueShore’s Communications team that included bi-weekly meetings for teams to brainstorm ideas, discuss upcoming corporate news, new market research and campaigns. Thanks to this approach, Magnolia had the buy-in to secure coveted press opportunities with the tireless support of BlueShore who provided research, pitch ideas and spokespeople for interviews, often within the same 24-hour time frame.
The synergy between Magnolia and BlueShore’s Communications team provided BlueShore with earned media opportunities in unconventional ways that went above and beyond traditional tried-and-true methods. This involved packaging stories, from securing the availability of all interviewees to filming locations, for reporters or producers to easily pick up and utilizing BlueShore’s and other industry market research to turn high engagement scores into a larger story about them being a leading-edge credit union with a differentiated customer service experience, for example. Magnolia, in close collaboration withBlueShore’s Communications team, secured national coverage time and time again by finding newsy angles and offering provocative pitches to carefully targeted media sources.
Secrets to Success
Yong offers these key takeaways from the campaign that could help your firm with its next financial services campaign—and illustrates why Magnolia and its client won a Bronze in the 2018 Bulldog PR Awards:
- It’s about the story: The strength of the pitch is based on your knowledge of the media landscape and the client, and your creative ability to tap into trends. There is no pitch template. If you do it well, people will come to you.
- Nothing beats persistence: Next comes persistence. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Aiming to get media to cover your clients in a very crowded space, so it may take time, but if you have a good story well matched with reporters’ beats, you will prevail.
- Be agile in your approach: Status quo can only work for so long. Be flexible in your approach to review strategies, approach and storylines. This encourages creativity among all teams and pushes them to pivot if needed.