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Last year, COVID-19 accelerated how consumers and businesses conducted commerce, transferred money, interacted with their banks and much more. As a result, FinTech marketers had to quickly shift their marketing strategies to stay in front of not only buyers but the media as well.
For a deeper dive into the FinTech media relations landscape, including how it’s changed and how to get the most out of your tech pr firm, we sat down with Michael Parker, director of content marketing at Sovos, the leading provider of global tax software. Here’s what he had to say.
QUESTION: What drew you to your role at Sovos?
ANSWER: The director of content marketing role at Sovos was appealing to me on multiple levels. First, it was an opportunity to work in a market that is undergoing seismic changes. The digitization of tax, the number of new laws and the pace of change have created a situation where the solutions you provide are no longer nice to have, but essential business tools for organizations to ensure they are in compliance and avoid costly penalties. Next, the role provided me an opportunity to focus on what I enjoy most, and what I believe to be my strongest skill set, which is delivering complex content in ways that are easily consumable for the masses. I’m lucky to work for a company that encourages creativity and trying new things without the fear of failure.
QUESTION: Previously in your career, you worked on the agency side and now you’re in-house. Having experienced both sides, what are 1-2 pieces of advice you’d give tech companies looking to get the most value out of a tech PR firm?
ANSWER: Treat your tech pr firm as a strategic partner and not as a vendor. If your relationship is strictly transactional, you are not getting the full value from the engagement. During my time on the agency side I was often frustrated when clients would direct every aspect of the media relations and content creation process, without tapping into the years or even decades of experience our team brought to the table. One of the most beneficial aspects of working with an agency is that they see the successes and failures of multiple companies and can apply lessons learned and expedite the road to success.
QUESTION: You’ve been in communications for more than 25 years - in your opinion, what is the single biggest factor driving change in the media relations field?
ANSWER: To sum it up in one word, it’s revenue. Back when I started in agency life, there were several robust media companies with experienced staff that would spend the time to get to know companies and industries at a finite level. Today, the ad revenue doesn’t support these publications or media sites and most are just trying to survive. The mantra used to be “relationships matter.” Today, just having a good working relationship with a reporter or publication isn’t enough. You need to be able to bring them something that nobody else can, be it information or access to companies they otherwise wouldn’t have.
QUESTION: Previously in your career and more recently in your partnership with ARPR, you’ve observed a lot of media training. In your opinion, why is media training so important for subject matter experts to receive before diving into today’s press landscape?
ANSWER: By nature subject matter experts are programmed to over-explain topics. To ensure that people understand every aspect of the content they are explaining. This doesn’t work with the media. To get included in a story, you need to be comfortable talking in soundbites. You need to deliver those couple of juicy lines that the reporter feels compelled to include. This is where media training is invaluable. I have experienced many situations where a reporter would speak with my client for 45 minutes or more and it was a great call. However, when the story is published, we aren’t included. That’s because while the information was great for background, it lacked those soundbites that give the story the juice they are looking for. I would also add that media training is important in teaching subject matter experts how to deal with media and understanding that when speaking with media, you are always on the record.
QUESTION: Sovos has secured both national and trade publication coverage during its 5-year partnership with ARPR. Can you explain the differences and benefits of both Tier 1 and Tier 2 press for marketers who aren’t as familiar?
ANSWER: Both Tier 1 and Tier 2 press play an important role in your communications strategy. Tier 1 press is great for the overarching business story and the readerships are higher with more of an executive and investor level audience. However, you can’t ignore the Tier 2, or trade publications, because these provide you with the opportunity to go deep on the details that are important to your primary buyers. In any selling experience, there are purchasers and purchase influencers. By ensuring that you have a two-pronged strategy in play, you are hitting both which can help expedite the sales process.
QUESTION: For high-growth tech brands (especially FinTechs), anything can go wrong. For global brands like Sovos, how imperative is it to have a crisis communications plan in place?
ANSWER: I am a firm believer in the adage that you hope for the best and plan for the worst. The process of developing a crisis plan and having it in place will force you to think about things you would not have otherwise. When a crisis does hit, things happen fast. Knowing in advance who needs to be informed and when having the framework of a statement ready and having a process in place to implement can save a lot of time and avoid a lot of mistakes that can happen under the pressure of a crisis situation. When I was on the agency side of the house and drafting crisis communications plans, I would always include a quote from former General and President Eisenhower, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”
Ready to garner more press for your FinTech brand? Download ARPR’s playbook, Getting the Most Out of Your FinTech Content Marketing, for actionable tips on turning owned content into earned media.