With the world thrust into financial chaos during the COVID crisis, new survey research from European independent financial communications agency network Fincom Alliance seeks to better understand how PR and communications practices within the financial sector have changed due to the pandemic.
The survey polled 67 respondents at the end of 2020 from organizations representing more than £20trn of assets, including investment managers, FinTechs, insurers and service providers, as well as national regulators. Participants hailed from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom, Spain and Switzerland.
Increase in media influence and activity
The majority of respondents (75 percent) believed that the media gained influence during the pandemic because journalism and news reporting became more important.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the professionals surveyed (76 percent) confirmed they increased their own media activity, and at the same time experienced greater interest from reporters regarding their insights and products.
The results also show that there continues to be an important role to be played by PR agencies, with respondents highlighting three key characteristics of a top PR agency:
- Creativity & proactivity in terms of new content/storytelling,
- Ability to turn corporate content into media coverage,
- Being well connected in the industry.
As for the future, 66 percent of financial sector professionals surveyed expect that corporate media strategies will remain vital and recognize that media will play a bigger role for stakeholder communication.
“While in the past few years we have witnessed a gradual shift towards new communication channels, leading many to predict the death of the media, this survey shows that traditional news organizations are very much alive and kicking when it comes to the financial communications landscape. The pandemic has also highlighted the important role played by PR agencies, calling on them to be even more creative and proactive in building effective links between journalists and businesses at a time where newsrooms were saturated by constant and changing news flow,” said Julian Rea, Founder of Liminal, the Fincom Alliance agency in London.
Digitization of communication
But while traditional media channels demonstrated their value in the pandemic, digital channels continued to be popular. As lockdowns and social distancing were imposed, social media—with a clear preference for LinkedIn which saw increased use by 68 percent of respondents—and digital tools such as webinars and podcasts were deployed extensively during the crisis by professionals in the financial sector.
Eighty-four percent said that COVID-19 had caused them to increase the use of digital channels in their communications, and we expect their influence will continue to increase in the years ahead.
The respondents made clear that the COVID-19 pandemic posed a real challenge to financial companies on different levels, pushing professionals to redefine ways of working, management practices and relationships with clients. The main challenges identified were related to customer relations, with 42 percent of financial sector professionals reporting they had fewer meetings and airtime with their clients, and that they found it more difficult to acquire new ones due to ongoing uncertainty regarding business development.