5 PR Lessons for Financial Firms in the Face of Market Turmoil

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When advisers worry about quelling investors’ fight-or-flight response in times of financial turbulence, their instincts might tell them to become more insular in the way they operate – a “batten down the hatches” approach during stormy times. But, as we’ve witnessed many times before, a calm voice of reason in an otherwise noisy stew of negativity can help counter any pain an adviser’s business might face during periods of market mayhem.

Here are five of our go-to tips for meeting bad headlines head on, whether it’s related to a significant market correction or a more specific failure of a preferred market instrument (remember the “break the buck” moment money markets faced?):

  1. Conduct due diligence. Learn everything you can about the issue (in this case, market volatility and its impact on investments – What factors led to the downtrend? Who does it affect? What’s being done about it? What are other experts saying?). Gauge public perception by listening to clients, reading articles and sifting through comments, and scouring social media to better understand how investors feel. Once you know their concerns, you can craft a response to address them.
  1. Develop strategic messaging. Envision your ideal end result – here, perhaps your objective is to keep investors calm and reduce a mass exodus from the market or from investing altogether. Then, think about what you learned during your research and how it affects your goal. Assess potential threats, identify opportunities and map out thoughtful, informative talking points containing your key messages. Brainstorm possible questions from investors and the media and incorporate those responses into your messages. Make sure each person on your team is informed of your collective stance and designate key contacts to disseminate information publicly.
  1. Refine your media skills. Again, trust comes into play here – you must project confidence to reassure investors that you know what you’re talking about. A nervous spokesperson in a shaky market adds to investors’ fears and detracts from the messaging you so carefully crafted. Convey competence, concern and candor in all conversations with the media. For TV appearances, own your talking points, maintain eye contact, steady your voice and perfect your posture – staying poised speaks volumes.
  1. Remind your audience why they trust you. Sure, investors are scared, but market volatility is natural. Acknowledge their fears and provide reassurance that this, too, shall pass. Position yourself as a thought leader and subject matter expert through blogs, social media and targeted media relations efforts. Discuss past market volatility, the current situation, your plan of attack and why your strategy is an effective one.
  1. Monitor ongoing chatter. Remember our first tip – conduct due diligence? Repeat as necessary, for as long as necessary. Continue to monitor the evolution of the issue at hand and the public’s reactions, tweak your talking points as needed and respond to investors’ and the media’s inquiries in a timely fashion.

If all else fails, remember these takeaways: be informed, be transparent, and be timely. Know the subject matter; commit to factual, uniform messaging; and be quick to communicate with your stakeholders.

Crises notwithstanding, credibility and trust – the foundation of any successful adviser-investor relationship – are the key ingredients for a successful approach to public relations. Building and maintaining those key components of your business requires unique skills, especially during periods of market turbulence when investors’ confidence is upended.

We counsel clients on best practices and help financial services professionals navigate difficult situations to maintain client relationships, polish images, and protect businesses regardless of (or in response to) any roadblocks. Preparation is key, and arming yourself with an effective crisis communications plan can help ensure you are able to weather the storm of the next turbulent market.