Media relations 101: Lessons in financial PR from the Olympics

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Every four years, the Summer Olympics captivate, awe and inspire audiences around the world. This year, all eyes are on Rio de Janeiro, as athletes compete for gold and glory. While they’re certainly stars in their own right, several attract the media’s attention for reasons unrelated to athletic performance.

There are plenty of lessons Olympic athletes – and anyone engaging with the media – must learn before diving into interviews. So, how can we learn from these athletes’ experiences and apply them to our work at a top financial services PR firm?

  1. Seize the golden opportunities. Michael Phelps wasn’t going to come back after the London 2012 Olympics. But after his loss to South African swimmer Chad le Clos in his signature event, the 200 meter butterfly, he decided he wasn’t ready to give up just yet. Phelps came out of retirement to seize the opportunity for redemption in these Olympic Games and he did not disappoint, earning the gold medal by just three one-hundredths of a second.

    In the financial services arena, it’s essential to recognize opportunities that will lead to a home-run article or killer television segment. Beyond that, knowing when your brand has a story to tell and how to capitalize on it at the most opportune moment can make all the difference. For instance, Gregory FCA has helped clients launch numerous ETFs. A crucial element of a successful launch is maximizing media attention at the get-go by identifying the product’s originality and making sure marketing, sales and PR efforts synchronize harmoniously. A unique product launch is a golden opportunity to seize top-tier media coverage.

  1. There’s nothing the media loves more than a good story. Athlete profiles provide a window into their inspirational life stories. There’s something compelling about feeling as if you know the competitors personally and better understand where they’re coming from. It’s easy to put athletes on a pedestal, but the media loves to make them relatable. This should be no different for financial executives and the companies they represent.

    Humanize your financial brand with good storytelling. Digging deep to uncover your brand’s unique story and telling it in a way that resonates with audiences is key to attracting the attention of journalists and producers, not to mention prospective clients.

  1. Body language speaks louder than words. Swimmer Lilly King wagging her finger at Russian competitor Yulia Efimova while in the ready-room told viewers all they needed to know about her feelings toward the Russian doping scandal. Likewise, the ever-viral #PhelpsFace says more about his determination than any interview possibly could.

    Showing interest and being engaged while on TV or during face-to-face interviews shows reporters and anchors that you’re energetic and excited to be there. This not only helps getting an invitation back on the air, but also to build relationships. In fact, your energy level in front of a camera should suggest you just downed 10 cups of coffee. This is where media training becomes a vital component of any successful PR campaign.

  1. The golden rule of media relations: Nothing is ever off the record. That goes for social media, too. Knowing your audience and how they will receive your message is key to any media relations campaign. U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo certainly learned her lesson after tweeting about her hesitance to travel to Brazil because of the Zika virus. Her reluctance to go to Rio was not welcomed by the Brazilians, as was evidenced by the taunts she received during the opening match.

    In financial services, think about how your message will be received before releasing a statement or posting on social media. If it’s even the slightest bit controversial, you can be sure it will attract attention and potentially portray you – and your firm – in a negative light. The golden rule always applies: If you don’t want to see it in print, don’t say it.

As PR professionals, there’s always lessons to be learned about how the media functions during major world events. There’s plenty we can take away from the Olympics – in addition to medals for Team USA!