It’s a Wrap – Honner’s Quarterly Media Roundup (3Q20)

Welcome to the latest edition of Honner’s Quarterly Media Roundup, where we update you on all the news, insights and industry moves in the sector. A notable trend emerging is the launch of a number of new niche finance publications, as publishers respond in part to the phenomenon of Robinhood investors – the surge of new investors becoming participants in the share market for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s news?

New AFR newsletter targets young investors

Noting the rush of new investors trading in financial markets during the COVID-19 pandemic and experiencing a surge in younger subscribers, the Australian Financial Review launched Wealth Generation, a new weekly newsletter.

Bloomberg launches wealth vertical

Bloomberg launched a new content vertical Bloomberg Wealth to help readers make smarter decisions about their personal finances. Bloomberg Wealth will include six pillars: Investing; Savings & Retirement; Taxes; Living (where to live, renting vs. buying, divorce, etc.), Reinvention (education, careers, networking, starting a business); and Opinion and Advice.

New fixed income publication launches

RGC Media & Mktng launched Fixed Income News Australia, a digital portal dedicated to news and insights about Australia’s fixed income sector.  It is the second major news portal published by RGC following the launch of MBA News Australia in 2015.

Radio’s Money program expands into TV

Nine announced that Money with Brooke Corte, currently a radio program across 2GB, 3AW and 4BC, will become a multi-platform brand including TV, newspapers and digital. The program focuses on personal finance and investment.

Instagram launches rival to Tiktok

Instagram launched Reels, a challenger to Tiktok. Appearing as another content creation function within the Instagram app, Reels gives users the ability to create short-form, edited videos with audio and music. The launch comes amid rising global concerns that Tiktok and its Chinese parent company Byte Dance are feeding users’ data to the Chinese Government.

AAP turns to crowdfunding

Despite being saved from imminent closure by a team of 35 investors and philanthropists in June, AAP wasn’t out of the woods. The newswire turned to crowdfunding a few months later after finding itself under financial pressure, and then received a $5 million lifeline from the government.

Sky News posts best half-year result on record

Sky News posted its best half-yearly result on record. Its average all day audience is up 31% year on year, ranking as Foxtel’s number one channel for 22 consecutive weeks. Sky News said the first half results were “driven by its global coronavirus crisis coverage, top performing primetime line-up, exclusive interviews, investigative specials and documentary programming”.

Bauer Media closes magazines

Bauer Media closed the eight titles it paused during the COVID-19 pandemic — Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Instyle, Men’s Health, NW and OK — in another major blow for the media industry. The closures  impact about 40 jobs and are the first to take place under new owners Mercury Capital, which formerly acquired the business in July.

World first plan to make Facebook, Google pay

In a world first, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released a proposal to force Facebook and Google to pay for news. The draft code allows commercial news businesses to bargain – individually or collectively – with Facebook and Google, in order to be paid for the news the tech giants publish on their services. Facebook responded by threatening to block Australians from sharing news across its platforms – warning the code would have a negative impact on the publishers who are calling for the change, as well as the tech platforms.

Insights & Opinion

Journalists are leaving the noisy internet for your email inbox, according to Marc Tracy at The New York Times.

It’s not ‘fair’ and it won’t work, writes Damien Story in The Conversation in an article about the ACCC’s plan to force Google and Facebook to pay for news.

Instagram is the home of pretty pictures. Why are people flocking to it for news? Dr Laura Glitsos addresses this question in The Conversation.

All of Australia’s national news directors are white men, with lack of TV diversity starting at the top, writes Brittney Rigby in Mumbrella.

And last but not least, Honner’s own survey reveals what COVID-19 has meant for the way financial journalists work.

Quotable Quotes

“It’s probably fair to say that things have been a lot tougher than we thought,” AAP’s chief executive, Emma Cowdroy, ahead of the launch of the newswire’s crowd funding appeal.

“Australia is drafting a new regulation that misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect.” – Will Easton, managing director for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand.

“It doesn’t take a Boston consultant to see that it’s been increasingly difficult to turn a profit in magazine land…” – Kirstie Clements, former features director of Harper’s Bazaar, after Bauer Media announced it was shuttering the magazine and seven other titles.

Movers & Shakers

Gay Alcorn has been appointed Editor of The Age. Alcorn worked for The Age for nearly 20 years before leaving seven years ago to return to writing and join Guardian Australia as its Melbourne editor. She replaces Michelle Griffin who has been standing in since the departure of Alex Lavelle in June, and who will continue at The Age as World Editor. Meanwhile Stephen Brook, former media editor at The Australian, has joined The Age as a CBD columnist.

Kathy Skantzos, former managing editor at CEO Magazine, was appointed Finance Editor at news.com.au. Skantzos replaces Alexis Carey, who moved to a Senior Reporter role, covering general news.

There have been two senior appointments at The Australian Financial ReviewFiona Buffini has moved into the role of Deputy Editor (Digital) and Jessica Gardner has been appointed News Director. Meanwhile, Finbar O’Mallon also started as a reporter at the AFR in Sydney.

Tony Yoo started as a Senior Journalist at The Motley Fool, covering business and investment news. He formerly wrote for Yahoo Finance, Business Insider and Guardian Australia.

Christa Nicola was appointed as Ticker TV’s new Sydney reporter. Nicola joins Holly Stearnes who started as Melbourne reporter. Both are providing live reports across the Ticker News programs.

Adam Creighton is now a Co-Host at Sky News Live’s Business Weekend programme. He will appear on the programme each week between 11am and midday. This is in addition to his role as Economics Editor at The Australian.

David Donaldson finished as a journalist at The Mandarin, moving into communications.

Rachel Williamson wrapped up at Stockhead after three years to pursue her own freelance journalism projects.

Colin Brinsden returned to AAP as Economics and Business Correspondent, based in the Federal Parliament’s press gallery.

Finance Reporter Derek Rose departed the newswire and is now a journalist at Stockhead covering tech and biotech.

Annabelle Dickson started a new role as a journalist at Financial Standard, covering all aspects of wealth management. She previously worked at The Inside Investor and The Inside Adviser.

Elissa Ratliff has returned to Mamamia as head of podcasts after leaving last year to join Pacific Magazines.

Justin Hendry has been promoted from journalist to Deputy Editor at iTnews. He joined iTnews in 2017 after writing for public sector research house Intermedium.

Will Jolly has been appointed Senior Finance Journalist at Savings.com.au.

Roads and Infrastructure Assistant Editor Lauren Jones has been promoted to Editor of the publication.

Harnessing the Superpower of Visual Storytelling — Q&A with Our Video Partner Theo Fatseas

“Seeing is believing” is more than just a cliché. Humans are highly visual creatures. That makes video a powerful tool to engage an audience and communicate ideas. Research from Brightcove found more than half of all consumers and 66% of millennials reported engaging with a brand after viewing a video on social media. As businesses catch on to the medium’s potential, video has become the most commonly used format in content marketing, overtaking blogs and infographics.

During COVID-19, this trend is accelerating. The amount of time people spend online is surging and much of what they are consuming is video. A Nielsen study reveals a 60% increase in the video content watched globally. During these challenging times, the power of video to forge emotional connections makes it a valuable tool for building trust, strengthening relationships, and providing guidance to customers and investors – who are hungry for information, analysis, and reassurance.

At Honner, we partner with videographer Theo Fatseas to produce highly effective videos for our clients. The Honner team will help with the planning and scripting of your video and make sure you get your messaging right. Our experienced hosts can showcase the expertise of your spokespeople in on-screen interviews. And because we know appearing onscreen can be daunting, we offer digital media training, so you always look and sound your best. The filming and editing are handled by Theo, who delivers high production values and employs sophisticated film-making techniques to engage and connect with your target audience.

Theo is a former documentary maker who now produces corporate videos, including for the Livewire Markets platform, and is therefore a great fit for our financial services clients who want to reach out to their customers and investors with high quality visual content.  In this Q&A with Honner, Theo shares some insights on making compelling videos that resonate with audiences.

What elements of documentary making do you bring to your videos?

My experience as a documentary maker has given me an appreciation of the importance of authenticity and realism. When I look down the lens, I can tell if a person needs more direction, or if we need a second take. I can put myself in the shoes of the audience.

Another big part of it is understanding story structure. Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. When I’m filming, and when I’m piecing the video together during the editing phase, I’m keenly aware of the need to create a hook at the start to capture the audience and give people a taste of what they are about to see. Then you have the main body of the story, your Act 2, where you flesh out the concepts you introduced at the start. Act 3 is the closing – now that I’ve told you all this, what does it mean for the audience?

After a lifetime of conditioning from watching films and TV, people expect to be engaged. They want and expect the hook. They want to be invested in a video. If those boxes are not ticked, then you are making them do extra work.

Do you have any tips on what speakers can do to ensure a good onscreen performance?

Your performance on camera can mean the difference between being engaged and genuine or being boring and contrived. It’s a good idea to get some media training if you’re not experienced. You want to present as if you are talking to a person in a natural conversation.  While filming, actively imagine you are talking to a person one-on-one.

Is shorter always better?                         
                                                                  

When we started doing videos for LiveWire, the target length was 2-3 minutes. Now some go to 18 minutes. It depends on the content and how engaging it is. Mobile devices mean people can watch anytime so keeping it short isn’t as important anymore.

Longer videos don’t get watched during work hours – people will watch them during personal time. This suits videos that are made for a general audience.

A long video can be engaging if it has stock footage and attention to story structure, and a great, succinct presenter. An 18-minute video we made for Livewire Markets during the GFC went viral because it was very dramatic and talked about financial markets being on the brink of collapse.

How long does it take to produce a video?

It depends on the video. For an “About Us” style video, production would take a few weeks from the time of filming. A straight interview can be turned over in 24 hours. Something super urgent can be shot and edited on the premises, which is sometimes necessary with crisis management videos such as during COVID-19.

How are you operating during COVID?

I have been doing a lot of shooting in people’s homes. Some people are supplying me with video shot on iPhone or Zoom and asking me to edit it, but in terms of quality, you can’t beat old school camera and microphone. I’m now starting to return to shooting on location in the city.

If you’d like more information on using video to engage and communicate with your customers and enhance your brand, contact us at honner@honner.com.au

Honner survey: what COVID-19 has meant for the way financial journalists work

It’s not an easy time to be a journalist.

On the one hand, newsrooms are busier than ever, with reporters working frantically to cover the developing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on people, the economy and markets.

At the same time, the lockdown has not only forced them to rethink the way they work but also continued to put more pressure on an industry that was already being dramatically impacted by digital disruption. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our society at large, it is challenging media outlets both big and small and resulting in the loss of more journalist jobs as ad revenues continue to fall.

At Honner, we wanted to get a clear idea of how the lockdown has impacted Australia’s financial journalists, in particular, as they face the pressure of keeping up with the escalating pace of economic, market and corporate news from their loungerooms.
We wanted to know how journalists are coping, where they need help, and what their priorities are during this exceptional time.
 
So, we asked. In May, Honner surveyed a national database of active reporters from across the trade and mainstream financial press. Here’s what we found:

The news cycle is speeding up
 
More than 80% of respondents said they have been busier and working harder since the impacts of COVID-19 took hold in Australia in March.

A key pressure has been filing stories quickly as financial markets reel from daily COVID-19 news—made more difficult by the fact journalists are working in isolation.

People are worried about their jobs

Journalists also reported growing concerns around job security, with 60% saying they were much more concerned, or more concerned, about the security of their role.
 
Over the past three months, several newsrooms have closed permanently, and dozens of other mastheads have suspended operations, resulting in hundreds of staff being laid off or stood down.

Other journalists are feeling the brunt of cutbacks, including pay cuts, forced leave and reduced hours as the pandemic causes a sharp fall in advertising revenue in an already fractured media landscape.

They want insights – and it’s not all about COVID-19
 
When asked about the most important assistance market commentators could provide right now, journalists ranked news insights as number one, followed by research data to support story angles and ‘getting back to me quickly’.
 
Nearly 80% of respondents said they are not under pressure to deliver a COVID-19 angle for every story, but rather are looking for a more diverse range of stories.
 
The top areas of interest for financial reporters included investment strategies to navigate markets, the impact of COVID-19 on sectors such as superannuation, property and financial advice, and Australia’s economic environment.
 
Virtual story-gathering – from home
 
While working in isolation presented some difficulties, such as not being in a newsroom environment and not being able to interview people face to face, many respondents said working from home had proved less stressful. Thirty per cent of respondents said they didn’t miss the commute to work and 25% liked being able to work at their own pace and time of day.
 
A substantial 70% of respondents said they would prefer to continue working more days from home as social distancing measures eased.
 
In terms of changed work practices, the majority of journalists have embraced virtual news gathering as a new reality under lockdown. More than three quarters of respondents (78%) said they would like to attend more virtual briefings and nearly half (48%) said they would like to connect virtually with more offshore spokespeople to discuss events across global markets.
 
Virtual briefings should be short and snappy however, with nearly 4 in 5 respondents (79%) suggesting 30 minutes as the right timeframe for a briefing, and 21% suggesting 60 minutes. Twenty per cent of respondents said they would look to use video interview footage from briefings for broadcast purposes.
 
When asked about various ways they’d like to virtually connect for media interviews the humble telephone call remained the preferred method for an interview (68%), while 55% of journalists also chose written email comments as an option and 41% were happy to interview via Zoom.
 
Audiences are up
 
One of the positive factors that came out of our survey was that audiences are up. Nearly 50% of respondents said their audience numbers were up by greater than 20%. Twenty per cent of respondents said audiences were up more than 50%.
 
The whipsawing of financial markets in recent months has added to the financial worries of investors and savers across the country, and they have been thirsty for information.
 
With ongoing economic uncertainty, the pressure remains on financial journalists to deliver news and explain the impacts to everyday Australians, as well as those working across Australia’s substantial financial sector.
 
What this means for financial services brands
 
COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way brands engage and communicate – with media, but also with other stakeholders such as employees, customers and the industry at large.
 
In times of uncertainty, effective and timely communications is more important than ever. And with social distancing in place, we now need to do that differently.
 
To help clients cut through, Honner has partnered with a number of leading providers to help our firms deliver their message through visual digital platforms: engagement that is efficient, cuts through and is personable.
 
For a copy of our Business as (un)usual during COVID-19 – Engaging in a time of uncertainty deck or further insight from our journalist survey, please contact me on paul@honner.com.au or 0427 755 296.

Media in the new normal of COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis has changed every aspect of our lives, and this has been especially true for the media, who have been working round the clock like any other front-line essential worker.

With everything else around the world practically coming to a standstill, the news cycle has picked up pace, buzzing with demand for trusted, timely and relevant information like never seen before.

Journalists have rapidly pivoted to remote guests, phone interviews and socially distanced press conferences. The speed and intensity of the crisis has also created wall-to-wall COVID-19 coverage, as every sector of the economy has been impacted.

This also created a shift in the working relationships of journalists and PR professionals as everyone was effectively adapting to the new normal.

I was fortunate enough to hear from Erin Bouda (Supervising Producer at Weekend Today), Michelle Stephenson (National News Director at Nova) and Aleks Vickovich (Wealth Editor at the AFR) as they discussed the media landscape in the new normal of COVID-19 in a recent PRIA webinar.

Below are my key take outs from this insightful session to help friends in the PR industry (and brands) understand the new best practice in working with print, broadcast and radio journalists, as well as what the future looks like for journalism after the crisis passes.

“Change is the only constant”

Greek philosopher Heraclitus couldn’t be more accurate when he said this. As the situation escalated in Australia and WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, news changed, plans changed, narratives changed, graphics changed, work and travel arrangements changed. Everything changed.

News bulletins were renamed as COVID bulletins, breaking news was scheduled for every 15 minutes instead of twice a day, and newsrooms were transformed to ‘home sweet newsroom’.

As the journalists in the webinar said, “who knew we can pull together a full newspaper or co-host a national breakfast show from home?”

Recognising that people are spending so much time in their homes due to social distancing restrictions, radio adapted quickly and started promoting their content available via smart devices such as Apple podcasts, Spotify etc.

In addition to the public health coverage, the economic reporting became equally important as a 10-year bull run in the stock markets came to a halt and various stimulus packages from the Government started to roll over, including the early release of super.

Opportunity for PR: Adapt or leave

All journalists in the webinar were unanimous in their opinion that the PR agencies and consultants who were agile enough to adapt quickly to this crisis, came off very well for their clients.

“It’s all about gauging the shifting appetite and the relationships you can tap into,” they said.

My understanding of the media’s expectation of PRs is to go through two self-assessment filters before pitching their clients or stories during this crisis.

#1: Is this what people want to watch / read / wake up to / care about today?

While the journalists admitted to their COVID-19 reporting fatigue, they also confirmed COVID-19 stories continue to attract the highest traffic and engagement from their audiences. So your pitch still needs to be relevant and pivot back to the pandemic.

Perhaps not so much on what has already happened, but more about planning life on the other side of this crisis.

#2: Is my spokesperson equipped to talk about this topic?

A one-size-fits-all approach may not be appropriate, as all companies and spokespersons are not thought leaders on a crisis. Experts that are reliable, and have relevant data and projections, or have made positive changes to their business should be unleashed as it’s their time to shine. If they don’t’ fit any of these criteria, don’t encourage them to speak outside their area of expertise.

Another evergreen best practice that is particularly relevant now is to present your pitch in the format that makes sense and saves time for the journalists who are already time-poor. For example, when pitching to radio, attach ready-to-use audio grabs to make it easier for the journalist and avoid all the back and forth in a rapidly evolving news environment. For television, if your client has previously spoken on TV or YouTube, feel free to share those clips to give the producer a sense of their talent.  

Broadcast journalists also admitted that due to virtual systems, expectations of quality have dropped in some cases. While this holds true for video interviews (mostly held over Zoom or Skype), audio grabs still need to have top sound quality.

In print media, however, readership has doubled for leading publications as they have attracted new digital subscribers. There is no question of compromise on the news quality to ensure new readers are engaged.

Lastly, while it’s easy to assume that since journalists are working from home, they’re more open to interviews, you might want to reconsider. They are under a lot of pressure and anything you can do to ease that pressure will go a long way in building a long-term relationship of trust.

“It is heartening to see people re-engaging with media sources again, and transparent reporting of how this crisis is affecting everyone, including us, has generated goodwill for the media,” the webinar ended on a warm and fuzzy note.

Honner will soon release a survey of Australian journalists looking at their experience of working during COVID-19.

Favourable news coverage is not a ‘great outcome’ – so let’s stop calling it that

I’ve decided to start this blogpost with a cranky headline. Much like Dr Bruce Banner before turning into The Hulk in the first Avengers movie, I will also let you in on my secret: despite not showing it, I am always angry… whenever I hear someone call news coverage “a great outcome”. It’s not… And calling it that can cause us to drift away from our objectives.

Don’t get me wrong, favourable news coverage does make me happy, especially whenever my team and I have been working hard to attain this. My point is the outcome of our PR strategy and activities – the actual communication outcome – is something that can’t be seen in any news coverage analysis. Positive coverage does not automatically mean positive reputation. That is a far-fetched assumption, especially if we’re only looking at earned media to asses reputation. To understand the outcomes of our campaigns, we must look beyond.

To begin with, communication happens not when news is published or advertising is displayed, but when our target market reads or listens to what we say or is said about us, and when they understand, accept or respond to the stories that involve us. Likewise, it also happens when we listen, understand, accept or respond to the messages from our target audience – that is, if we accept the notion of stakeholder capitalism. 

But even if we are still passionately attached to the old paradigm of shareholder capitalism, where the sole role of PR is to persuade a target market to think or act in a desired way about a brand or product, the real communication outcome can mostly be observed through market research, using techniques such as surveys, focus groups and in-depth interviews, among others, not by running news coverage analyses and making fancy-looking graphs with the clips achieved.

This approach to measurement and evaluation has been proposed by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) since the publication of the Barcelona Principles in 2010 (updated in 2015), and more recently, with the appearance in 2016 of the Integrated Communications Measurement Framework. The framework distinguishes between Objectives (SMART ones), Output (our story and messages communicated to our target audience), Out-takes (immediate reaction of our audience and information recall of a story, organisation or product) and Outcomes (effects in the attitudes, opinion and behaviour of our audience towards a story, organisation or product). At least a version of this is worth considering for structuring an integrated communications program or campaign.



Let’s go back for a minute to the fancy-looking graphs. To clarify, these graphs with news coverage segmented by prominence, favourability, audience, reach, themes, message cut-through, visual impact, etc. do have a role, an important one even. They help us to stir a program in different directions if needed, and they might even be useful for generating KPIs. But if we’re aiming to have in place a sound strategy across all media with measurable communication objectives that can aid the organisation’s business goals, it’s critical to consider news coverage for what it is – which is, output, not outcome.

It’s also important to note for anyone that made it this far down in this cranky blogpost that a clear taxonomy of concepts is not an end in itself. The ultimate benefit of referring to news coverage for what it is is that it allows us to look at the big picture, which is first and foremost, our communication objectives. What is it that we’re trying to do? Is it increasing brand awareness among a specified segment of the market from 10% to 15% in the next 12 months? Is it to replace A for B as the most associated brand attribute, assuming A will help the organisation to increase leads or conversions? Is it to decrease from 20% to 15% the percentage of people who are currently not considering buying our products in the near future? Is it to lower from 60% to 20% in three years the amount of people with a specific misperception about our organisation and its services? All these are examples of the right questions to ask whenever communicational objectives are discussed and agreed on in writing.

Only once these communication objectives have been achieved, can we truly say that our integrated program across all media teams has jointly achieved a “very good outcome”.

Communication strategies to support nervous investors: a guide for fund managers

While we can’t predict the future, Honner has more than 20 years of experience in building communication strategies and supporting asset management firms, financial advisers and individual investors during volatile times. This included the GFC, September 11 attacks and dot com bubble. 

Today we are facing a new crisis. The coronavirus is currently spreading, bringing with it panic and anxiety for investors of all types around the globe. At the time of publishing this article, the weekly fall in the Dow Jones Industrial Average ranks within the top 15 in its 124-year history and it was the worst week for stocks since the global financial crisis.

In an industry where it is difficult to differentiate your offering, quality, timely communications and the way you deliver it can clearly distinguish your brand. Here we’ve identified some key communication strategies that can make your brand stand out during this period of uncertainty:

1. Be visible, open and honest: One of the key aspects we’ve learnt from periods like this is that people understand and accept that markets can be volatile but they won’t forgive a lack of support, a lack of transparency, and slick cliché messages that aren’t helpful (similar to the lesson Scott Morrison learnt during the recent bushfire crisis). In difficult moments such as this, companies need to prioritise timely communications that are transparent and provide valuable insight to employees, financial advisers, investors and the media.

2. Consider building a communication response team: If the crisis moves from days to weeks, fund managers should consider creating a core communication team that has responsibility for managing the communication process. This should be a small nimble team that includes representation from across the business (from your marketing, client service, sales, and investment teams and also your communication agency). The team should be empowered to mobilise and respond quickly, and to act as a contact point for the entire firm, while also being responsible for building and maintaining a long term communication plan that evolves with the unfolding situation. 

3. Pick a spokesperson: Consider picking a spokesperson to be the voice of the firm during the crisis—to show consistency for the brand. This should be someone who can connect with people easily, is sincere and transparent during interviews, and has experienced extensive media training.

4. Support financial advisers to do their jobs: When a market correction hits, the first place many investors turn is to their financial advisor. This can be a stressful time for a financial adviser. It is also the ideal time for a fund manager to step up to support financial advisers with valuable content these advisers can use en masse with their own clients—to help calm their clients and provide emotional support.  

5. Create content that adds value, is visual and uses historical data to tell the story: Try and avoid long copy articles. Focus on visual content that ideally draws on historical data and supports your key supporting messages. Don’t focus on what has occurred with the market. Rather, try to highlight your current portfolio positioning. Some examples of key content pieces doing this well include:

  1. The cycle of market emotions image from Russell Investments is a powerful snapshot of how investors typically make the wrong decisions at the wrong time. Russell Investments’ downside management toolkit on their website is also a good example for other fund managers to follow.
  2. The market volatility section of Franklin Templeton website. 
  3. Fidelity has created strategies for uncertain times, a guide for investors on “What to consider when the market gets volatile”. Most of the largest asset managers in the world have still to reflect the market correction on their public facing sites, which is disappointing.
  4. Vanguard has an interactive chart that allows you to build your own customised version of the index chart with 30 years of investment performance of major asset classes. (They just need to update it to reflect recent correction.)
  5. Capital Group created an illustration using historical data highlighting the dangers of investors sitting on the sidelines and the benefits of investing – even by selecting the worst day each year to invest.
  6. Schroders has produced a strong piece: coronavirus: the investment impact in seven charts.
  7. Investors Mutual have produced a piece that details how does this impact iml’s portfolios and what are we doing about it?

6. Create a coronavirus content hub for investors: Too much content can become overwhelming and become quickly out of date during such a dynamic period. Consider creating a specialist area on your website that houses all content related to the coronavirus market event. Too often firms distribute a lot of communications and content pieces—but as the situation unfolds and changes it can become confusing for your clients. The hub can also be a great resource for employees to ensure they are accessing the latest information. See the examples above of fund managers that are nimble and have websites that reflect the market correction.

7. Repurpose old content: Look at some of your previous material on investor tips and see what can be quickly updated and repurposed for this situation. You may not need to start all communication from scratch.

8. Don’t repeat known information: In the current situation it isn’t helpful to bulk your communication strategy out with content discussing what the coronavirus is, how it is transmitted, infection rates and treatment. This is not the role of a fund manager or financial adviser—it just clouds your core messages. 

9. An opportunity to amplify your message in the media: Honner is currently receiving inquiries from media looking for support from fund managers to provide commentary and insight on the situation. There is an opportunity for fund managers to proactively provide their insights to the media, particularly if you respond in a timely way to key market events. The media are hungry for your perspective. Don’t be shy—write down a few points and work with your communication consultant to get them in front of key journalists.

10. Leverage the power of your employees’ social networks: When you push out content, encourage your employees to share this content via their own personal LinkedIn profiles to further amplify your message and content. To retain control of the message we recommend providing employees with a compliance approved key message to introduce the content pieces. 

Investment Management in Australia: Where are the women?

Over the past 25 years working in Australia’s investment and super industry, I’ve come across a lot of skilled investors. It’s been a privilege to work with a wide spectrum of investment teams from across Australia and the world’s leading asset managers.  

But in that 25 years of interviewing or providing communications for asset managers—and supporting the media programs for literally hundreds of local and global investment executives—I can count on two hands the number of women in senior investment roles I’ve encountered. 

Last year Honner joined a growing movement to tackle the lack of diversity in Australia’s substantial investment industry by providing pro-bono support to diversity initiative Future IM/Pact

Recently I spoke with diversity champion and former Honner teammate Yolanda Beattie. Yolanda founded and leads Future IM/Pact, which is starting from the grass roots: building a passion for investing among young women, and matching those women with potential employers in the industry. The goal is to achieve an equal number of women and men in junior analyst roles by 2023. 

Yolanda, how did this great initiative come about?

About four years ago, when I was leading Mercer’s diversity and inclusion consulting practice, I led a research project in partnership with funds managers and super funds investigating why there are so few women in investment roles. At the time it was a really obvious problem that had CIOs and CEOs scratching their head in wonder and throwing their hands up in frustration. If they had 100 applicants for an analyst role, they were lucky if 10 women applied. They were desperate to get more women into their teams but just couldn’t find the talent. I was determined to solve the puzzle.

We surveyed and interviewed hundreds of women and men in the industry and at university to figure out what was going on and we boiled it down to five big issues. 

The first problem to solve was a lack of awareness about the profession. Uni students didn’t know about investment management and, if they did, they were tainted by Hollywood stereotypes and high-profile scandals. Worse still, female finance students were almost 50% less likely than their male counterparts to consider a career in investment management. Not knowing enough about the industry and opportunities, and a sense they wouldn’t fit in, were among the top reasons cited. 

So a group of the original industry partners and a few extras joined forces to build a campaign to help young women learn about the impact they can have as an investor.

You’re building a future pipeline of talented women for the investment industry. Tell us a bit more about how you do that.

Our strategy is to inspire super smart, critical and creative thinkers to learn more about investment management, and then provide them with the experience, networks and career pathways to get a foot in the door. We do that with social media campaigns, networking events, investment competitions and paid intern opportunities. This year we’re also launching a virtual intern program and mentoring circles to give students an inside view of what it’s like to work in an investments team.

Why is it important to have more diverse investment teams?

In a world where there’s more to know about everything, bringing different perspectives to the decision-making table is essential for overcoming unavoidable blind spots and biases. Investment management is one of those professions where this matters hugely to outcomes. Women tend to bring a different perspective than men for reasons that are biological and socially conditioned.

Bringing women, and other visible diversity like cultural diversity, into white, male dominated teams also has a massive impact on behaviours. Research shows diversity prompts more thoughtful decision making: fewer assumptions are made, more points are considered and there’s more turn taking around the table.

I could rattle off stats about the correlation between gender diversity and investment returns or total shareholder returns but the truth is a sceptical mind can unpick those stats because most studies don’t adequately control for other factors. And when you do tighten those controls, you find other factors matter more—namely educational and experience diversity and team behaviours.

But when you speak to any investment leader who has worked in nearly all male teams and those that have more gender diverse teams, they will tell you it feels different. Egos are more in check and discussions are more considered.

What it takes to attract and keep great women investors are the same attitudes and behaviours known to improve group dynamics and team performance. Alliance Bernstein did an excellent meta study on this, which I boil down to four factors that inhibit effective problem solving within groups: excessive hierarchy; dominant majority and its impact on group polarisation; conflict avoidance; and emotional insensitivity. Get that stuff right and you not only retain minority talent but you make better decisions.

The project is now in its second year, what success have you had so far?

We’re killing it! Thanks to our amazing partners, supportive university societies and my excellent team, we beat our key performance indicators for last year and are on track for an even bigger 2020.

The best measure of success so far is our investment competition where gender-balanced university teams of four competed to win a paid summer internship. Close to 130 women registered for the competition and an all-female team ended up winning. Each member of this team hadn’t heard of investment management before Future IM/Pact and they met at a Future IM/Pact event.

Our industry partners like Cbus, Nikko Asset Management and Yarra Capital Management have been thrilled with their interns who are delivering more value than they’re taking.

What are some of the other barriers to diversity you found in your original research? What are the other opportunities for the industry?

Arguably the biggest issue is keeping the great women already in investment teams. We found women were 30% less likely than men to be promoted and 50% more likely to leave at the senior analyst level. Culture, bias and a lack of flexible working are the main reasons for this disparity.

But the opportunity is way bigger than gender. Ultimately this is a very human story. The best investors are excellent at marshalling diverse perspectives and creating an environment where people can do their best work. The factors I mention above from the Alliance Bernstein research boil down to self-awareness and strong interpersonal relationships. And when you get under the hood of that you find many other juicy topics—knowing how we get triggered, managing negative thought patterns, gratitude and compassion, the power of mental models for improving decision making, to name a few.
In a game where teamwork and decision-making drives tangible performance outcomes, doubling down on what we need as humans to thrive is the next big opportunity.

***

About Future IM/Pact 

Future IM/Pact is an industry initiative aimed at attracting more diverse talent into the investment teams of fund managers, super funds and industry participants. The project was launched in July 2018 with founding partners Mercer, AustralianSuper, HESTA, QIC, Cbus Super, NAB Asset Management, Pendal, Magellan and Wavestone. Since then, Nikko Asset Management, Fidelity International, Yarra Capital Management, Challenger Limited, Macquarie Securities, Vinva Investment Management, Schroders, Cooper Investments and Perpetual have joined the project. More information can be found at www.future-impact.com.au
If you would like to be a part of Future IM/Pact contact Yolanda Beattie at yolanda@yoandco.com.au

Insights from Canada (2019 Exchange) – The changing face of communications

Communications is a rapidly changing field and one that’s increasingly globalized. Honner’s global network of partner communications firms ensures we keep abreast of the latest thinking and techniques so that we can implement them for our clients.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I was recently privileged to experience an exchange program working at Argyle Public Relationships – one of Canada’s largest management-owned communications firms and recently named by the Globe and Mail as one of the country’s fastest growing companies.
 
The exchange with Argyle was a chance for me to step back from Australian financial services communications, a world I have been working in for over three years, and to learn what is best practice in the PR industry in Canada with an agency whose clients range from Facebook to the Ontario Science Centre.

It was also particularly a good time for me to take this trip while we’re continuing to expand our service lines at Honner, into influencer marketing, investor relations and more, and to see how other agencies have also built more integrated campaigns, an area that Argyle specialises in.

In this blog, I explore Argyle’s approach to communications – featuring some powerful and unique tactics that have led them to this success. 

Media is only part of the solution     

At Argyle, PR and communications are highly integrated, with media only being a part of the solution. PR is a lot more than media relations and Argyle clients do not see their PR consultants as ‘one trick ponies’.  

A typical Argyle strategy would include a wide range of tactics such as: media; social and digital; strategic partnerships with researchers or think tanks; association and community engagement; influencers; media buying; creative advertising (banners, display ads storyboards, infographics, videos), content marketing; events; and websites. 

In Australia, Honner too has been on a journey in recent years to expand our offering, building on our strong background in financial services PR to now utilise a much broader range of tools to achieve our clients’ strategic goals, including investor relations, marketing solutions, digital communications, and content marketing. 

So, it was great to have first-hand experience of working with an agency that’s pushing the boundaries of communications, including utilising new technologies to shake up campaigns, especially in the consumer space.

Particularly in digital, Argyle are doing some cool things such as touch screen engagements using kiosks, digital billboards, virtual / augmented reality pop ups, sensory images, interactive charts, Snapchat filters and Instagram stickers for their clients.  

Influencer engagement is mainstream 

Argyle helps clients garner unconditional support from influencers. Similar to Honner’s media roundtable events, Argyle launches the products and services of their consumer clients directly to influencers. 

The success mantra is to work around their timings (most influencers have full-time jobs), select an ‘Insta-friendly’ venue, use custom hashtags and pitch it right: What’s in it for them? How can they engage their followers better through this content? 

Often, Argyle also encourages including the influencer voice in client media releases or media engagements, where appropriate, to add an extra layer of third-party credibility. It works. 

At Honner, we are exploring how we more effectively engage influencers and opinion leaders across the financial services sector to help clients tell their story in different ways to new audiences. 

In-depth audience analysis comes first 

Audience analysis is sacrosanct for any strategy build, and Argyle’s approach is very impressive. 

A typical audience mapping includes identifying who is most critical in directly helping clients achieve their top three objectives and what their sweet spots are: What keeps them up at night? Who influences them? Who belongs in their circle of trust? What are the best ways of reaching them?

Argyle does this by developing detailed illustrative personas listing their risk tolerance, motivation, pain points, influencers and media habits. This exercise helps them to answering the above questions and hit the bull’s eye when it comes to understanding the psyche of their audience. 

An audience intelligence and social listening platform, Pulsar, is what they swear by. 

Secondment in client offices

Argyle has dedicated consultants working on their single largest client, Facebook Canada, which also involves spending a couple of days working out of client offices each week. 

This is a common concept at the agency and very well received by clients. It is a classic example of how Argyle consultants work as an extension of their clients’ marketing and PR teams and are able to work seamlessly towards achieving their clients’ business and communication goals. 

Overall, it was a fantastic experience to be able to spend some time with the exceptional team at Argyle, learn more about Canadian culture and also share my insights on the Australian business and media landscape with the team. 

Lastly, my highlight: amid a fully packed week, I managed to pay a sneaky visit to Niagara Falls for my Instagram. A major tick off the bucket list!

Insights from Canada (2019 Exchange) – Far flung markets with much in common

When you become deeply involved in one industry, sometimes it pays to take a step back. It can be beneficial to look into a new market, or another industry, and adopt the insights into your own world. 

That’s exactly what I did during my agency exchange to Argyle Public Relationships in Toronto late last year, and I will be grateful to Honner for giving me this opportunity, and to Argyle for their hospitality.

The opportunity to work with this award-winning agency was possible due to the strong relationships that Honner has formed around the globe. 

These relationships allow Honner to deliver cross-border programs, create highly integrated programs for clients, and offer international experience to its staff. By participating in international exchange programs, employees of Honner play a role in bringing insights back on the latest communications techniques from around the world.

Firstly, let’s briefly compare the financial services markets of the two countries, then in my next blog I’ll share some insights from the Argyle approach to communications.

Same-same but different 

Despite being located in two distant corners of the world, there are remarkable similarities between the Canadian and Australian markets. 

Banks 

The Canadian banking industry follows a typical oligopolistic structure like the Australian banks. ‘Big Five’ is the name colloquially given to the five largest banks that dominate more than 75% of the nation’s banking assets: Bank of Montreal (BMO), Scotiabank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CBIC), Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD). 

When considering how Canadians feel about their banks, one phrase comes to mind: love-hate (Rings a bell?). Canadians love owning bank stocks (some also hold 100% of their portfolio in banks!) as they are among the most powerful institutions in the country paying attractive yields, but hate them for their aggressive sales tactics, annoying ATM charges and petty fees – all of which indicate the staggering amount of money they make. 

However, the Royal Commission into Banking and Currency in Canada happened in 1933 and there are no signs of it happening again. Why? Research shows that Canadians banks are better with corporate governance. Boards of Canadian banks are larger, more experienced, paid 40% less than Australian directors and are more diverse. In short, Canadian banks’ governance practices are more “mature” so despite a few scandals, they’re well shielded from any potential scrutiny.  

Despite this regulatory inertia, there is pressure on the banks from increased competition as fintech adoption picks up and innovative products catering to specific consumer needs hit the market. 

Pension industry 

There are also a number of similarities between our pension systems. Both countries are focused on a pension policy of compulsory savings and their asset pools are comparable in size. Australia’s $2.1 trillion superannuation system edged ahead of the Canadian pension scheme to rank as the world’s fourth-largest pool of retirement savings not too long ago. 

However, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is compulsory for all Canadians (minus Quebec residents), unlike Australia where you can either choose your super fund or must invest in the default fund of the industry you work in. 

Media

On the media front, there are fewer trade publications in Canada than in Australia after a period of consolidation in the industry. Among the major newspapers, Globe and Mail, Financial Post and Toronto Star are the holy grail for all business brands, similar to the dominance of the Australian Financial Review, The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald this side. With media desks shrinking, pre-briefs are preferred over press release distribution, and the demand for exclusive stories is on the rise. 

It would be unfair to conclude one is better than the other. But there is great opportunity for both countries to spend more time comparing notes, given the commonalities. One thing that really stood out to me is that Canadian financial companies are constantly connecting and getting involved with local communities whether through PR / marketing campaigns or through direct sponsorships and partnerships. 

Thanks to the relationship we have cultivated with Argyle PR through this exchange, we are well positioned to embed the Canadian best practice into ours, to help our clients communicate their messages more effectively in the new decade. 

Look out for my next blog on communications strategy insights from Toronto and the ‘Argyle way’ of doing things.

Why diverse voices build better brands

It is a well-known fact that women hold crucial purchasing power in their households, with research showing women drive 70-80% of all consumer spending decisions, through a combination of their buying power and influence. Globally, female consumer spending is estimated at around US$40 trillion.

In the media, however, women are decidedly under-represented. According to United for News, a multi-stakeholder coalition led by international non-profit Internews, only 19% of experts quoted in the news are women – a figure that has changed very little in the past two decades.

Even in the influencer landscape, the numbers are not much better. Of the most followed YouTube channels, all of the top 10 are fronted by men and only 23 of the top 100 are led by women. This shows that the digital space is currently mirroring trends we see offline.

Both women and men want to identify with the faces being used in media and advertising and it is clear that those businesses that do not adequately represent their customer base risk alienating them and hurting the bottom line. 

Amplifying female voices 

Positively, there are currently a number of initiatives underway to amplify female voices in the media. 

United for News is currently working to increase both demand and supply of female voices in news. On the demand side, it is providing best practices and assistance for newsrooms to source more female subject matter experts, and on the supply side, it is providing women with the support and resources to step forward.

In 2019, United for News ran a pilot program in Canada, Ukraine and Iraq, with a view to rolling out its program more broadly in the coming years.

News outlets are also seizing on the opportunity to broaden the range of voices being heard in the media today. 

One of these is Bloomberg, which is seeking to build a definitive global database of women newsmakers in business and finance through its New Voices initiative. The program includes media training for women and other diverse executives who are under-represented on its broadcast airwaves. 

In the UK, for more than two years journalists and producers across the BBC have been tackling the gender representation issue by targeting a goal of 50:50 representation every month. 

The broadcaster’s nightly prime time news program ‘Outside Source’ started the effort in 2017 and took its representation of on-air contributors from 39% women to 50% within four months. Today more than 500 BBC shows have joined the project, highlighting the difference a sustained effort can make.

Takeouts for businesses

While the efforts of news outlets to increase the representation of women in the media is making some inroads, there is still more work to do on the corporate side.

According to Kantar’s What Women Want research, despite an increased focus on equality driven by movements like #MeToo, major brands are still not effectively acknowledging women’s priorities, or communicating with women in an empowering manner.

However, those that do successfully promote gender-balanced marketing are 4% healthier than male-skewed brands and 6% healthier than strongly male-skewed brands.

The female demographic offers huge opportunity for marketers, and brands that understand what women want are in a better position to capitalise.

Businesses should therefore avoid using stereotypes and instead use data and analytics to tap into the needs of their audiences.

Women are also more likely to respond to media spokespeople they feel are like them. All businesses should therefore take steps to ensure diversity in the voices they are offering to the media. For executives who are still building their media interview skills, Honner offers tailored media training to build confidence and know-how about the process.

There is no one-size-fits-all for connecting with female audiences. However, for businesses that want to truly understand their target market, one of the best places to start is to acknowledge that there are differences between men and women, and shape PR and marketing efforts on that basis.