We’re quoted in today’s People Feature in the Financial Times online service Ignites Europe.
The internet is littered with examples of top executives making ill-advised public remarks. Gerald Ratner once described his own jewellery as “crap”, while former Barclaycard head Matt Barrett admitted that he told his own children not to use credit cards to avoid getting into debt.
While saying the wrong thing can have damaging effects on a person’s career and public reputation, the media can also be a powerful tool for those professionals looking to boost their profile and improve their career prospects.
Being quoted in an article or appearing on TV can be one of the best ways for an individual to accelerate their career and grow their reputation.
Here is Ignites Europe’s top five tips to boost your media profile and make your voice heard.
1. Use simple language
Tom Maddocks, course director at Media Training Associates, says many fund professionals struggle to explain clearly and succinctly what it is they do.
Mr Maddocks, who counts a number of asset managers among his clients, says “there is so much dull, generic corporate language and horrible jargon being used” in the industry.
“The biggest reason why people get misquoted is they use convoluted language that is difficult to understand,” he says.
One communication challenge fund professionals face is that many institutions build up their own institutional language, which becomes widely used within the company but may be impenetrable to outsiders.
Paul Murricane, founder of Media Mentor, which provides broadcast and presentation training to companies, says fund professionals should have a clear understanding of what they want to say before speaking to the media and consider how understandable it will be.
“The best communicators can describe what they can do in one or two sentences,” he says.
2. Do not be afraid to express an opinion
Mr Murricane says many professionals are reluctant to express an opinion as they fear doing so could cause controversy and get them into trouble with their company.
However, having an opinion and expressing it is most likely to lead to repeat requests from media outlets and can build your profile.
“The trick is to be quotable,” says Lindsay Williams, managing director at the Media Coach, who has given media training to staff from the likes of the Financial Conduct Authority, Lloyds Banks and the Bank of England.
Ms Williams says “it is essential” that fund professionals “get out of the corporate mindset” and speak in a “more colloquial and fun way” by not being afraid to express an opinion.
Andrew Caesar-Gordon, managing director at media training agency Electric Airwaves, adds that fund professionals should be selective about the information they reveal and think beforehand about what they want to convey.
“If you just vomit everything you know and say the same as the person before and after you, you are unlikely to get the call [to participate] again,” he says.
Yet Ms Williams cautions that care must be taken to stay “on track” and avoid saying something that could later cause regret.
3. Get over the fear factor
For some, the fear of negative repercussions means speaking to the media is a risk they would rather not take.
Ms Williams says: “People overstate the risks and underestimate the benefits of speaking to the media.
“Financial services is all about managing risk and speaking to the media appears to be a risk you can avoid.”
However, being overly cautious can hinder career progression as those professionals that make successful media appearances can “receive kudos” from colleagues and clients, as well as boost their chances of securing an exciting job opportunity.
Ms Williams says she has often received complaints from communications staff at financial firms that “their rock stars” have been headhunted after “being quoted everywhere”.
“It is recognised that if you become high profile you will receive interest from recruiters,” she says.
4. Make an emotional connection with your audience
Mr Murricane says fund professionals need to bear in mind that they are “characters in a story” when giving quotes for an article or making a broadcast appearance.
Just as a good novelist uses the characters to play on a reader’s emotions, so a good communicator should aim to build a lasting connection with the audience.
Mr Murricane adds that building an emotional bond is particularly important for media representatives from fund managers that may be suffering heavy outflows and losing money and to avoid coming across as defensive.
“Being defensive is a killer when you are trying to build trust,” he says.
Mr Maddocks adds that fund professionals should drop the mindset that “the media is out to get them” and instead see it as “the most powerful tool” they have to communicate their information.
5. Be available to speak
Ms Williams says every industry has its “media tarts” – those figures that appear to be ubiquitous and appear in almost every story about a topic important to that industry.
“The trick to getting on that list of media tarts is to be available to speak,” she says.
Ms Williams says this is because many media organisations face tight deadlines, meaning they require people to be able to speak at short notice, which can be “tough” for those professionals that “do not have the appetite” to do so.
Mr Murricane agrees that boosting one’s media profile does require professionals to be proactive.
He adds that canny operators will be able to spot news stories where they will be able to utilise their expertise and offer comment to media outlets.
“Take advantage of the news agenda and look out for opportunities where you can add something,” he says.