Cognito has just published a research report that analyses media communications for ESG investment. We looked at how asset managers have been communicating about ESG investing over the past couple of years, how this has changed and what are some of the learnings that can be applied to communications managers at asset managers and other firms operating in the ESG landscape to maximise their impact.
The whole report is available here but in this piece I would like to focus on a single finding: the rapid rise in media coverage in ESG. In this crowded, noisy market, it’s harder than ever to stand out.
To get traction and make communications efforts go further in this communications and marketing cacophony, here are 5 learnings from our research that that can be actioned right away:
Build your story around the news agenda
Smart pitching matters. If you have good recent insights to hand, re-market the content to reporters on key dates when they will be looking for broader ESG comments – the led up to COP26 (from 1st November), World Earth Day (22nd April) and Climate Action Day (date TBC) are all good examples. Also make sure you piggyback on industry body news and views from EFAMA and Investment Association research.
Do your research to find the stories
We found that since it’s a relatively newer topic, reporters broadcast what they are looking for. Actively monitor reporters on social media to see when they are looking for ESG comment. Also think laterally about who to target, not just those with ESG or sustainability in their job titles. This is quickly becoming a sector-driven story.
ESG is also a people story
Make sure that people news, especially new appointments, beat the “so what” test. Why are they actually a good hire? Too many are heavily CV-driven and offered without context. And in a role that can lead (in times pre-Covid) to people travelling to varied places and visiting interesting companies and projects, try to show better, and more diverse pictures of fund managers and experts out and about, ideally moving away from tired head and shoulders shots.
Make it an easy decision
While virtually all reporters want interviews, increasingly some want ready-to-use quotes, given limited time to file stories. Make sure that any output includes a ready-to-use spokesperson quote. Some reporters prefer this because speaking to an expert often involves the extra stage of getting “quote checks” and checking often complicated themes and topics. Be realistic about how much reporters will come to your website, and how much time they will have to digest an impact report – make the story that they need to focus on really clear.
Data is king
Journalists have differing attitudes to how they like to receive data. In general, many
larger titles want to manipulate data and use it (with citation) in their own charts,
while smaller trade titles often want clarity on what they can simply use “as is”. We suggest a data-driven approach is key, but give reporters an option of using data in different ways.
As a media topic we expect ESG to keep maturing and evolving this year, creating both opportunities and challenges when communicating.
The advent of regulations such as SFDR on 10th March, the further development of ESG strategies as a product area, and large climate events such as COP26, set a backdrop that will give savvy asset managers the perfect backdrop to achieve more recognition and brand differentiation in the months ahead.
Charlie Morrow is a director in the London office