PR lessons from the presidential campaign

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Leading evening cable newscasts and standing at the top of Twitter’s trending topics are the names, pronouncements, shining moments and fumbles of the U.S. presidential hopefuls that are already in full campaign mode 14 months ahead of Election Day.  While there certainly is plenty of water cooler talk and Saturday Night Live fodder to glean from the campaign, the reality is that those in the trust business – like politicians – can learn something from the campaign.

At the epicenter of the trust business are those people we entrust to handle our retirement savings and financial plans: our financial planners and investment advisors.  Truth be told, the average registered investment advisor (RIA) can learn a lot from studying the presidential campaign, and the triumphs and stumbles that occur along the way.

  1. Always be fully equipped with a proper plan in place. Making moves without a plan is the perfect recipe for disaster. At this year’s VMA’s, Kanye West made a surprise declaration that came at the end of a long acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award. To wrap up his speech, Kanye stated “As you probably could’ve guessed by this moment, I have decided, in 2020, to run for president.” While this is farther down the line, it certainly turned heads and got the rumor mill churning.Lesson: Advisors should plan for any financial turbulence that may come their way, rather than showing up unprepared or empty handed. Just last month, investors experienced rocky terrain as the stock market closed in negative territory. In the event of a market volatility, RIAs should have a set plan in place to quell any fears clients may have. The key is to gauge how any volatility may impact investments and to be direct in informing clients your stance and future market moves. It’s essential to counsel your clients on best practices, whether that is through one-on-one meetings or a public forum.
  1. Be mindful of your message and always manage your reputation. There’s no argument that business mogul Donald Trump has taken the presidential campaign by storm. (The aforementioned SNL has already announced  they have dedicated a cast member to spoofing him for the fall season.) Over the last few weeks, his controversial viewpoints and comments have dominated media headlines and been a discussion point for many Americans.Lesson: Trump demonstrates that soundbites are memorable pieces of information. While he’s straightforward and blunt, Trump is often criticized and remembered for his tendency to make inappropriate, garish remarks. RIAs should hone in on their messaging by taking ample time to avoid veering from their intended messaging in a media interview or appearance. In media interviews, any direct quote or soundbite is fair game for the reporter, so be sure to be direct with your messaging. You don’t want to be construed in a negative or convoluted way, so be sure to speak clearly and directly in order to effectively build your credibility.
  1. Abide by compliance rules and regulations. The Hillary Clinton email controversy arose in March 2015, and has been an adverse factor in her campaign ever since. Whether a regulation breach occurs on a national scale or a smaller one, the outcome has the potential to resonate with individuals (and clients) for some time.Lesson: When it comes to social media, the rules are ever-changing. RIAs with a PR plan in place must be well-informed of the compliance guidelines and rules that apply. Social media is an effective way for advisors to grow their business, leverage their referral network, enhance client relationships, and connect with peers. While advisors shouldn’t shy away from social media because of compliance concerns, they should be fully aware of the firm’s policies and follow them closely.

As the public keeps a close eye on the campaign, you should follow suite – it may be more beneficial to your practice than you think.