Public Relations can become an invaluable tool in building your financial services brand because it allows you to:
  • Enhance and shape your firm's story and make sure that your spokespeople are equipped to deliver that story to the media.
  • Leverage third party endorsed news coverage that can add credibility to your sales and marketing efforts such as your website or reprints.
  • Provide confidence to your existing clients.
  • Speed up your sales process as prospects may have been exposed to your financial services brand and products on TV or in a print article.
  • Differentiate your firm in an otherwise cluttered market place.
  • Attract new hires as buzz spreads about your firm.

Launching a new mutual fund is a daunting task and PR can help make it more successful. By promoting your new product to the media, you can get the word out about the fund and its strategy, attracting a wider variety of investors. Also, by talking about your mutual fund from its earliest stages, you firm will gain traction in the media. You will develop media contacts that will trust you for opinions on the markets, giving you even greater leverage to promote your mutual fund in the future.

PR has many components, so it is difficult to say whether it works or not without defining "PR". In this instance, let's assume that you are asking whether good news stories will help you attract clients or investors.

When your current associates and friends find out about your product, whether it's a mutual fund or a company developing community projects, do they want to invest in it? Is your product superior to its peers? Does it have a proven track record? If the answers to these questions are yes, then news media coverage will probably attract investors or customers.

The people who already know about your company or investment opportunity are all consumers of the news, so they can act as a small sample of the wider public. If they are interested in your product, then it is more than likely that others will be, too.

News media takes the news of your superior product or investment opportunity and tells the world about it....or at least a lot of people who have never heard of you.

PR and marketing is not a single action, but a process with many elements that contribute to its success (or lack thereof). The first step in a successful mutual fund marketing campaign is knowing your audience. Are you promoting your firm to the right group? What about your product messaging? Even if you're targeting the right people, you may not be engaging them with the right story. There are countless ways to communicate with your audience and it's important to engage them on various levels. Public relations and marketing is a process and you must give it time to work.

Once you've committed your time and dollars to a PR program, you will naturally want to be sure you're getting your money's worth. But too often, clients only consider public relations efforts successful when it translates into sales or an uptick in phone calls. It's essential that clients understand that the impact good PR has isn't always directly quantifiable.

For starters, every article written about you and every positive mention is earned credibility. Simply having your name in the news brings your name to the attention of viewers and readers, each of whom adds another impression to your brand and status as thought leader. Remember what PR stands for…public relations. Part of the process is establishing relationships with the media and a reputation of reliability. You want journalists to feel comfortable calling you for your take on their story.

So before you try to measure your campaign's success in dollars, ask yourself—has your name been in the media? Have reporters come seeking your opinion? If you answer yes to these questions, it's safe to say your PR program is on the right track.

The outcome of your mutual fund public relations program will depend heavily upon your participation and availability, but there are a few things you can expect. There should be a big increase in the number of media mentions your firm receives in the first three months, particularly in the articles and broadcast interviews that have been identified as being relevant to your target audiences. Depending upon how your program develops, you may be considered one of the premier thought leaders in your asset class or investment style within a year.

While this is hard to quantify, most of SunStar Strategic's clients would agree that public relations programs (when combined with other sales and marketing initiatives) have had a big impact on their sales and retention.

Public relations helps with sales in a number of ways including increased brand visibility, brand awareness, and establishing or increasing your credibility, thought leadership and third party endorsements. Think of PR as a form of advertising or marketing, but instead of you thumping your own chest, it's often someone else doing it for you. PR can also help you get some much needed recognition for your great product or service in a cost effective manner on a national level. You may have the best mutual fund or SMA strategy in the country, but who will invest in it if nobody knows about it? PR helps you get the word out.

The costs of a PR program can range from $25,000 to $200,000, depending upon what you want to accomplish and what elements are included in the program. Media relations, message development, and website development all come at a cost that varies based on the scope of the project.

What are your goals? A PR program can be much more cost effective than an advertising program that depends upon one campaign. Many public relations programs plan on at least 6-12 months of promotion that builds over the course of time. For example, some magazines can have lead time of several months for article placements. Likewise, relationships with highly influential media usually take time to develop. Knowing the end goals for your PR plan will help you determine a realistic cost estimate.

In terms of total budgetary outlay, PR is a relatively low-cost investment with the potential for high return. The total cost of your PR program will depend upon your goals. In order to get the most out of your PR budget, be sure to align your goals with the investment you are willing to make. When done right, an effective PR plan doesn't have to add undue burden to your budget. Just like hiring the right salespeople, an impactful PR program is an investment worth making.

Ultimately, you can measure the return on investment of a PR effort similarly to any other investment. The increase in branding, awareness and thought leadership should translate to increased sales, assets and/or number of shareholders by providing you more leads, openings more doors for your sales people, and expediting the sales process.

Employing a PR strategy is one of the best ways to help your business grow. But what does "grow" really mean? It's important to understand that growth can occur in more ways than revenue.

By getting your name in the media, you're taking an important first step by creating brand awareness for your company. After all, how can you get new clients if nobody's heard of you? Being viewed as a credible source establishes an aura of authority around your brand and positions you as a thought leader. And once people see you as credible, they are more likely to work with you.

But not everyone who sees you in the news is going to do business with you, right? That would be unrealistic. But by being a reliable source for journalists, you will continually improve your reputation among your competition. Little by little, you may grow your own following, and you are more likely to gain new clients among this pool. The bottom line? You'll grow as a thought leader, which is, in most cases, a precursor for new business.

A well-executed PR strategy will boost your credibility, strengthen your brand, increase your visibility and establish you as a leader in your industry. All of these things work together to earn new business, with the added bonus of raising your profile.

A strategic PR program consists of many pieces, beginning with message development and proceeding through media tours, interviews, and potentially even writing articles for industry publications. Each of these opportunities takes a different amount of time depending upon your particular goals and circumstances.

Let's use a hypothetical example to illustrate how much time a PR program might take. An established financial services company is launching a new mutual fund but already has an established relationship with a PR firm. This company will want to spend time with the PR firm to fine tune product messaging and practice delivering that message to the media. They also want to heavily promote their new product to the media and decide to travel to New York monthly for media tours. This PR program would take 3-4 days per quarter, plus additional travel time. The amount of time your PR program will take, though, will depend upon your needs and goals.

Appearing on CNBC is a goal for many asset managers, but most won't be invited for an on air interview. How can you be one of those chosen? Let's start with your broadcast media experience. Have you ever been on TV? If you haven't, the first time might be the most difficult to make happen. Producers do not want to take a chance with a guest who might flop. If you have not been on TV but have evidence of your success on camera, such as a video on your website, that may help you convince producers that you should appear on their segment.

The topics that you feel comfortable discussing may also determine your ability to be interviewed on a major broadcast. Are you willing to talk about what's moving the financial markets generally or do you want to only discuss a narrow niche topic? Of course you want to talk about what makes your mutual fund tick, but producers need people to talk intelligently about broader topics.

Equally important is your availability to appear on camera. This is important because many broadcast segments are planned late in the news cycle, and only shortly before air time. Making yourself available when a producer is scrambling to find a guest will earn you appreciation, particularly when many potential guests turn down interviews because of conflicting schedules.

Finally, your assets under management might be the most peripheral element to affect your opportunity to get on CNBC. Generally, producers want their guests to have a minimum of $500 million in AUM if they are to be featured on a broadcast.

Big publications like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, or Barron's are inundated with mutual fund press releases every week, so the chances of your story being picked from the masses is small. You will have a much better chance of being mentioned in the media if you send out your release via a wire service. These services reach a wide variety of industry publications including leading national media outlets. Not only do wire services increase the chances of your product or firm being mentioned on your first try, it also allows your story to build momentum as it is picked up around the country, making it more likely that a publication like the Wall Street Journal will cover you as well.

For more information on press releases, please click here.

The term "platform" is often used to refer to a specific financial services firm within various mutual fund distribution channels, which can include wirehouses, broker dealers, RIAs, DC/Retirement, Bank and Trust. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to these firms and channels and your strategy should be tailored to where you can get the best traction and return on your investment. Just because one asset manager has had success at Merrill Lynch and UBS, doesn't mean that your firm and strategy will garner similar interest.

First, you should determine who is most likely to invest in your financial products and services? Is it geared more for the retail investor? Will advisors be able to sell your funds to their clients? Do you have load shares where brokers might be interested?

Also, utilize any industry contacts that you may have. Do you have friends or former colleagues who might be able to get you into the door at a major Broker Dealer or Bank's Trust and Custody?

After determining some of these building blocks, you should analyze the cost associated with being on these platforms. It can get quite expensive to be available to every investor, advisor, broker and institution and you may never be able to recover some of those costs if you can't generate sales from those channels. Start with the firms where you think you will get the most bang for the buck but don't be too frugal. Think of these firms as grocery stores. If your products aren't available on the shelf when people are shopping, they won't be able to buy.

Some of the largest platforms in terms of assets and new flows include Charles Schwab, NFS (National Financial Services), Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan, Edward Jones, Pershing, Morgan Stanley, Fidelity, Wells Fargo, UBS Financial, Northern Trust, Wells Fargo, Ameriprise, LPL, Raymond James, BNY Mellon and TD Ameritrade. However, being available on some or all of these platforms does not guarantee that you will generate assets. In addition to being available, you will need to get noticed.

Like many other elements of a financial services PR and marketing plan, deciding what industry conference to attend depends upon your goals and audience. Are you targeting institutional investors or the retail sector? Are you launching a new mutual fund or growing an established one? Using this information, you will be able to develop a conference strategy and decide whether your money is best spent at large industry conferences like Morningstar or SCHWAB Impact, or at smaller regional or firm-specific conferences.

When submitting a press release to a wire service, you should include a finalized, proofread copy of your release as well as an email explaining the following:

  • What type of distribution you want for your release (national or regional)
  • Who the contact person is for the release
  • What day and time the release should go out
  • Contact information in case the wire service has any questions about the content or attachments

The newswire will then respond, confirming receipt of your press release and asking any questions they may have.

For more information on press releases, please click here.

Social media is a great way to communicate with your investors and industry colleagues. Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn provide appropriate spaces for you to distribute marketing materials and thought leadership while communicating directly with those involved in the financial services industry. It is important, though, to manage and maintain your social media spaces carefully. An empty LinkedIn or Twitter page with no interactions from your mutual fund firm will misrepresent your engagement and commitment to service. By monitoring your social media platforms carefully and using them to post fresh content on a regular basis, social media can become an effective part of your mutual fund marketing strategy.

The most important thing your website can accomplish is providing a reason for visitors to return. If your website currently looks like a brochure, then it's not built for mutual fund distribution. Fill your website with timely content and information that market your financial services and can become a resource for your current and prospective clients. A news page is a great way to enhance your website as you update it with fresh media coverage or information that is timely. You should also be sure to integrate language and media that are optimized for inclusion in search engine results. Including target keywords can make a difference in where your website appears in a list of search results and how easy it is for viewers to find it.

For more information on building a website, including how much it might cost, click here.

You know it is time to hire a wholesaler if:

  • You have reached the point where you want to grow your firm, but your team is already working at full capacity. If it seems like every sales proposal requires all hands on deck, and your portfolio managers are doing as much selling as they are managing assets, then you should consider a wholesaler.


  • Your performance is down and you realize you need to be selling your funds more proactively and just don't have enough time in the day.

The idea in hiring a wholesaler is to employ individual(s) who will specifically focus all of their efforts on selling your fund to various channels such as advisors, and broker dealers.

I think of PR and marketing as I do a jigsaw puzzle: no one piece will make it whole. There are a number of factors that can make a measurable difference to your mutual fund company's success, but each of these will work best in conjunction with the others. Although you could pick just one thing to do, it's most likely not going to achieve the outcome you want on its own. The most effective thing you can do to promote your firm is assess your goals and develop a cohesive PR and marketing plan to meet those objectives.

There are many examples of financial services firms of various sizes and styles that have experienced moderate to explosive growth through public relations and marketing. While the public relations process is not a cut-and-dry process, it works extremely well for firms that have a good product or service with a unique or interesting story.

Whether your goal is to go from $20 million to $50 million, $500 million to $2 billion or $250 billion to $500 billion. At SunStar Strategic, we can and have helped.

We can also help in establishing, or enhancing credibility, increasing brand awareness, or positioning your key spokespeople as industry thought leaders.

Please feel free to browse our case studies pages or contact us to get a more specific case study of a firm that more closely matches the profile of yours.

Yes and no. There are eight senior account executives at SunStar Strategic, each of whom is assigned clients based on multiple factors, including their current client mix. We normally do not give directly competing clients (for example, two MLP funds) to the same account executive or client services team. While we avoid this "conflict", it's often more of a benefit to work with many financial services companies, many of which have similar expertise. Our media contacts view us as financial services experts and often come to us as a one-stop-shop for sources. We also have many opportunities that go unfilled, but that could be very beneficial for an up-and-comer client who may otherwise struggle to get quality media mentions.

These briefings give up to eight fund managers the opportunity to tell dozens of reporters about your top-performing name-brand or lesser-known fund. You can tell journalists how the management team achieved outstanding performance and thoughts on sectors, stocks, and the market going forward. This event is a good way to build and strengthen relationships with reporters and earn positive news coverage.

You can expect 25-40 reporters from the following types of publications to attend our events: Financial advisor publications (Financial Planning, Investment News), Institutional publications (Pension's and Investments and Institutional Investor), Mainstream business publications (The Wall Street Journal, Business Week), Consumer publications (Money, Smart Money), Broadcast news (CNBC), and freelance writers.

It is typical for clients to be part of several stories within a few weeks following the event. It is possible, however, you won't get any press coverage. The quality and quantity of press coverage depends on the quality of your presentation, the timeliness of the information, and the needs of the journalists in the room. In addition to press coverage, another major benefit to participation in our events is relationship building with key journalists. This way you can earn press coverage over time.

We want to make sure reporters have access to fund managers who are considered undiscovered as well as high-profile managers. As a result, we limit participation to one time per year for a specific fund and two times per year for a specific fund family.

Our events feature a brunch and/or lunch at high-end locations. The typical agenda includes: networking (15 minutes), formal presentations kept to 6 minutes each (60 minutes), Q&A (15 minutes) and additional networking (15-60 minutes).

Reporters need to develop fresh and interesting angles every day, so the portfolio managers who speak to current conditions, as opposed to a canned presentation that could have been given a year ago, should earn more press coverage. Focus on the following issues: your investment philosophy, what good decisions you made that helped performance, current themes in your portfolio, your thoughts on the markets and the economy over the next few months, and stock picks and reasons why you like them.

Yes. We will set up a coaching call with your portfolio manager to answer any questions, prepare him for what to expect, and help him determine which issues he should focus on. We will also offer to listen to a dry-run of the presentation several days prior to the event.