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Three mistakes financial firms make when doing media interviews
March 21, 2023

As the leading specialist Media Training provider for financial services firms, we discuss with our course participants what those working in finance, asset management, wealth management and insurance, among other sectors, should and shouldn’t do when talking to journalists.

During these media coaching sessions for financial firms, we look at these three mistakes that those working in the financial services sector often make when being interviewed by journalists.

1. They assume that the journalist knows as much as they do.

Many of those doing our Media Training for financial services firms are surprised by how little journalists know about an issue they’re covering. Even though working in finance specialist media, they will likely have less knowledge than the people they’re interviewing. These days, with reporters having to do more with less, the journalist that you speak to might be covering four or five stories in a day and will therefore have had little time to do much in-depth research.

The risk here is that you, as the finance expert, fall victim to what is known as the “Curse of Knowledge.” Originally demonstrated by Elizabeth Newton, a researcher at Stanford University, this is a cognitive bias that means that we tend to assume that others will know what we know.

However, ignorance on the part of the journalist can actually work to the advantage of finance professionals doing media interviews. In our media training workshops, we suggest you start the interview by casually asking the journalist how much research they’ve done. This often allows them to be honest and invite you to give them a general briefing on current trends and developments and the background before you start the interview.

2. They see the issue from the industry point of view

Although we will probably want you to explain what’s going on in your world, the chances are that our audience will not be finance people. It might be that you’re talking to retail investors or businesspeople. They won’t want you to go into as much detail as a specialist finance outlet – for the broadcast media; it’s almost certain that we’ll have a general audience in mind.

As we explain in our media training courses for financial services companies, we’re probably not interested in great detail. Instead, what we really want to know is the overall effect on the reader, viewer or listener and how they can mitigate any risks or exploit any opportunities. What should they be thinking and doing?

You probably have the same experience when talking to your clients – they want to know that you have detailed knowledge of markets, asset classes and financial instruments, but they don’t necessarily want to know about these things themselves. They want to know how it will affect their audience. For instance, you won’t find many journalists simply reporting that interest rates have increased that day. Instead, they’ll talk about how savers have been dealt a lifeline or mortgage holders have suffered a blow as the Bank of England raises rates – reverse it for a cut.

As part of this mindset, interviewees from the world of finance often use jargon and industry talk.

There’s certainly a place for technical terms and formal language. But, as we explain in our media training courses for finance companies, the media, even with serious, upmarket outlets, like punchy, everyday language. Just look at a story with quotations from bankers, investment managers or anyone else in the profession, and you’ll find that the ones getting the most prominence use natural language, short sentences and memorable metaphors.

A phrase such as: “It’s a bit like…”, which goes on to introduce an analogy – especially some familiar and visual – will work well for journalists. A clear, concise and direct comment also works well in the media. Think about warnings, advice or valuable insights you can offer your audience.

One of the reasons why we love working with finance people and specialise in Media Training for financial services firms is that their world is so different to ours as journalists. But we enjoy that they pick up quickly on the tips and techniques for doing media interviews that we provide, and they appreciate how using them can improve their chances of getting more and better media coverage.

3. They don’t use stories and anecdotes.

Because all of our media trainers are working journalists (bound by NDA), they can tell you that reporters, even those who cover business and high finance, live by stories. Whatever the subject we’re writing about, we’re looking for examples, case studies and even simple human anecdotes to illustrate the points that we’re making and to prove what we’re saying.

We point out that you can’t talk about a trend in business, for instance, without an example or two to prove what you’re saying. In the media, we refer to a report as “a story”. The best storytellers are those who get the best coverage in the media and to whom journalists will return time after time for comment.

Asset managers, wealth managers and private offices must be cautious about client confidentiality. So, in our Media Training courses for private offices and wealth managers, we look at how they can tell stories by introducing case studies, examples and even simple human anecdotes without revealing confidential client details.

The media offers those working in financial services great opportunities to raise their profile, lead a fundamental and current debate – and complement their marketing activities. However, journalists are inundated with stories from the sector and opportunities to interview people from it. Many don’t make the cut because they fall into the abovementioned traps. That’s why we work closely with PR companies and in-house communications teams to provide intensive, practical media training for financial services firms.

Media Training Course

At Communicate Media, we offer media training within various industries, including financial services firms, legal firms, architects and luxury brands. To book your course today, please call 07958 239892 or email gareth@communicatemedia.com today.

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