From ETF Bootcamp to Morningstar ETF: Industry Has Eyes on What Makes a Successful ETF

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Last week, I attended the second annual ETF Boot Camp in New York City. The conference hosted the best and brightest in the ETF industry. Attendees included ETF start-ups, executives, media experts and index providers, among others. Also included in the bunch was our client, Kris Monaco, the head of ISE ETF Ventures.

The “boot camp” nomenclature underscored the organizers attempts to pack in significant learning in a shortened time frame. The conference compressed everything about ETFs from creation to launch to PR into a two-day event.

With over $2 trillion in assets and counting, competition in the ETF industry is fierce. The marketplace is in constant flux and ETF constituents need to evolve along with it to survive.

With that, we wanted to discuss a few of the top themes covered at the event, particularly from a media standpoint.

Timing: Time is of the essence, but not always.

Our client Kris Monaco said it right: “Timing can make a product, or it can break a product.” Oftentimes, ETF providers are sitting on launch-ready ETFs for months, waiting for the right timing. While you might be excited to push your ETF out the door as quickly as possible, before you do, take a step back and check out the happenings of the world scheduled over the next few months.

For example, if your fund’s holdings are highly correlated to the real estate market, consider having your launch coincide with the next report issued on housing starts to make a bigger splash. Another option is to coordinate your fund’s launch with well-known earning releases, if applicable. For instance, if Google is a top holding in your ETF, consider scheduling launch around Google’s next release.

Keep in mind, however, that there is a fine line between “news jacking” (a term coined at GFCA for taking advantage of the day’s news) and being first to market. Weigh the pros and cons with your team and resident PR gurus to decide the best time for blast off.

Messaging: Make your ETF part of the news stream.

Speaking of news jacking, this is something that we always advocate for our clients, and it was underscored at the conference as well. When it comes to the media, it is likely that your main objective is to get the word out about your ETF, as it should be. However, as counterintuitive as it may seem, you should not make the whole conversation about you or your fund. Rather, use creative messaging to loop your ETF into the conversation in other ways. For instance, instead of always talking about your ETF, discuss your ETF’s holdings instead. If your segment is too self-serving, you could risk your invitation back.

Now more than ever, it’s vitally important to understand the media ecosystem and where your ETF fits in. With social mediums making current news yesterday’s news in milliseconds, ETF players need to understand how they fit into reporters’ agendas, and not how reporters fit into theirs.

Broadcast: Think of everything you learned as a kid, and do the opposite.

Growing up, when you’re on a sports team you’re told to pass the ball to your teammates and be a team player, so to speak. Well, now is your chance to be the ball hog. Most times, when you’re on air, TV spots span a couple of seconds at best. Try to keep hold of the conversation for as long as you can, with 25 seconds or so as your benchmark.

You’re also told to be polite when you’re a kid. Yes, of course, you must be cordial and professional on air. However, when you’re speaking, make sure you get your time to shine. If you don’t speak up, someone else will.

A few things you should take from your childhood? Be early – leave yourself time to check out the green room ahead of your appearance – be gracious, and be courteous. Appreciate what the anchors are going through; they have limited time to learn about all of the news of the day let alone the inner workings of your ETF. Make it as easy as you can for them. You want to be asked back, after all!

Social Media: Content is king!

The social media landscape is constantly changing, but at the end of the day, the one constant is content. Use social avenues as content distribution vehicles and use them regularly. When it comes to ETFs, one of the most important things constituents can do is educate their target markets; social is the new-age way to do so.

Just as important as content is presence. Today, as networks vet their guests, they are starting to factor in the number of Twitter followers they have. If you want to be a regular, start building up your following. Also, be sure to connect with the anchors and network before and after your appearance via social mediums to show your enthusiasm and thank them.

Lastly, when it comes to social, stay on trend. For instance, when all eyes are on the Fed, it might not make sense to discuss your ETF’s rebalancing. Again, figure out ways to insert your ETF into the conversation and position yourself as a thought leader.

The ETF marketplace is evolving every day, but with change comes opportunity. Take advantage of the flux and be part of the movement!