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The quest for effective communications: 5 points to consider

By: Duncan Simmons


With a plethora of undifferentiated information filling up people’s emails and LinkedIn feeds, it is difficult for investment firms’ communications to stand out and be recognised.

The word “insight” has a bigger R number than the current pandemic, but you click on to the accompanying piece and quickly realise it is either unoriginal, or jargon filled.

Scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, I am sometimes suckered into reading what I thought would be an interesting five minute read summarising the title of the article. Instead, I am finding myself googling definitions for terms I have either never heard of or have just never fully understood. It is my job to understand the investment industry as best as possible, but it is also the industry’s job to create accessible, engaging communications for professional and private investors alike.

To this end, Research in Finance is providing clients with solutions on how to produce well thought-out, productive communications across all segments of the investment sector. We have conducted a range of studies to understand what creates good investment-related communications. One of the key qualitative research methodologies we have at our disposal is our online communities, in which we get a mix of our in-house panel to comment via an online platform about investment-related communications.

Previous research has focused on PDF document analyses, ranging from fund factsheets and ESG concept-related material, to annual reports. We have also run video sentiment analyses, understanding what creates thoughtful and engaging stock videos. And finally, we have analysed podcasts, garnering insight (yes, I’ve just used that word) on what constitutes a good podcast: is it the topic? Is it length? Is it the speaker format?

For each of these specific types of communication, there are different solutions. But what we are beginning to see is common themes on what firms should be considering. In our most recent RiF webinar seminar, ‘Covid 19 – the changing investment strategies of DFMs, Investment Advisers and Private Investors’, we considered five main points for sound communications:

  • Is the communication original?
  • Is it really succinct and simple enough that even the most time-poor DFM/IA can get value?
  • What purpose does it serve for the end user – is this important enough?
  • Does the communication play to our company strengths?
  • Will the communication work on any format and device?

Originality of communication proved an important factor in our UK Responsible Investment Study (UKRIS). For example, it is vital that you are not just posturing or ‘greenwashing’ – firms that received praise for their communications do not use overly complicated wording and platitudinal phrases to highlight how exceptional they are. Instead, they were able to demonstrate the tangible outcomes that comes from responsible investing for the investor.

Also, what I have learned through both our retail and institutional community research is that retails ads receive scorn from pensions schemes and consultants, while DFMs quickly become unimpressed by material which is more aimed at a private investor audience. By making content original and tailored, it will naturally serve a purpose and become important.

And lastly, communications must adapt to circumstance. The current pandemic may give off a mirage of a workforce that can make use of the current Disney+ trial during the day, but some people within the industry are busier than ever. Childcare has been thrusted upon them from out of the blue and we are now using most of our time in online meetings, wondering how to make proper eye contact through a camera lens. The already time-poor are becoming even more time-poor – all this means that communications must be as succinct as possible to even stand a chance of grabbing people’s attention.

Before PDFs, articles, videos, or podcasts hit someone’s already barraged inbox and LinkedIn feed, the quest for successful communication must consider the points raised, then firms may stand a chance at being “insightful”.
For more information on our communications related research, please contact Richard Ley or Toby Finden-Crofts.


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