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The Power Of Story In Asset Management, With Chris Sullivan
As asset managers raise increasing amounts of capital in the direct channel, the huge value of branding and communications can no longer by ignored.
Chris Sullivan, president at Craft & Capital, joins Andy Hagans to discuss the incredible power of storytelling, and how asset managers can stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Watch On YouTube
- Background on Craft & Capital, and how the firm created its new brand.
- How Chris views communications in the asset management industry, including how it aligns with marketing and other business processes.
- The first question to ask when evaluating an earned media strategy.
- The relative value of various media channels, including TV and podcast appearances.
- Why Craft & Capital emphases an omni-channel, holistic approach to communications.
- MacMillan Communications Is Now Craft & Capital (BusinessWire)
Today’s Guest: Chris Sullivan, Craft & Capital
About The Alternative Investment Podcast
The Alternative Investment Podcast is a leading voice in the alternatives industry, covering private equity, venture capital, and real estate. Host Andy Hagans interviews asset managers, family offices, and industry thought leaders, as they discuss the most effective strategies to grow generational wealth.
Andy: Welcome to the show. I’m Andy Hagans and today we’re talking about storytelling, a very underrated, maybe underappreciated concept in the world of asset management. And joining me today is Chris Sullivan, President at Craft & Capital. Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris: Thanks, Andy. Happy to be here.
Andy: And we have a lot to talk about today. You know, talking about marketing, capital raising, fund raising, all that stuff. But why don’t we start with your company because you recently did a rebrand as Craft & Capital. So, can you tell us about the old company as well as the new company?
Chris: Yeah, happy to. So, the firm over here was actually founded in 1996 as MacMillan Communications and we operated under that brand for 27 years. I actually took over the ownership and operation in 2018 and at that point rebranding was gonna be a 2020 project. 2020 happened so it got put on the back burner for a little while. But we got back into it at the midpoint of last year and really through a team effort involving our staff, our clients, contacts in the media, brainstormed quite a few different concepts, looks and names before landing on Craft & Capital which we’re really happy with the response. The feedback has been great. And the thinking behind is that what we do really is a craft. You know, we are not a blunt instrument here. There’s a lot of thought, a lot of creativity, a lot of strategy, a lot of hard work. And the capital…you know, we think of that in a few different ways. That can refer to the capital that we are bringing to the equation meaning our expertise and our relationships. And obviously as a finance only PR firm, having some kind of finance term helps in the name.
Andy: Totally, yeah. I have to congratulate you on that name. And it’s sort of on topic because Craft & Capital, when I hear that, the name, the brand name itself starts to tell a story and it also…it kinda piques my curiosity. Like, I heard it and… not to brag, Chris. Not to brag but I kinda got it right away. Like, I kinda get it.
Chris: No, brag. Please brag. That’s great.
Andy: No, I kinda got it right away but I’m like, “It tells a story.” But, you know, thinking of your old brand, MacMillan Communications, it’s like I kind of understand what that is but it’s very generic. Like, I don’t know what industry that’s in. You know, it’s not really leading me anywhere whereas I hear Craft & Capital, it’s like, “Well, now I have a question.” Like, in a good way. Like, you know, so it engages me.
And, you know, leading into our topic today, you know, when I say storytelling…I guess I have a confession to make. Even, you know, 10 years ago…like, I’m a marketing guy. I’m a marketing guy and a finance guy. I kinda live between these two worlds. And I really…in my 20s I worked with these startups and we exited four of them, my partners and I. We consecutively, you know, created, scaled and sold four different startups and three of them were in the direct marketing space, you know. Direct marketing. And I always kind of underrated the power of branding. And I think I had to, like, learn that lesson by trial and error, like, by my own stupidity. Like, kinda refusing to see, like, the short-term versus the long-term.
Andy: And now sitting here, you know, many years later, I kinda feel like…I think I’ve realized like, “Well, that’s where the real money is made, like, the real long-term money, the power of the brand.” Do you think that, you know, that my thesis I guess, that branding…and implicit in that storytelling…that’s where the real money is made. How many people in the asset management industry do you think agree with my thesis or my belief?
Chris: I would say it’s a growing number, especially over the last few years. I think, you know, we’re definitely talking with more people who realize the power of brand but I think for us brand is…that’s the starting point. And so, in our line of work which is kind of…I’d put it adjacent to marketing. You know, when we’re working with clients, we wanna make sure we’re very plugged into their marketing people, contributing thoughts on marketing, hearing about their marketing plans. But for public relations and communications, I think brand is leveraged in a much different way. And, you know, really at a high level, it’s to showcase expertise. It’s to showcase problem-solving. It’s to showcase solutions.
So having a strong brand that can really start to tell that story for you is great. But really, it’s kind of what do you build off of that brand. That really needs to be the next question and I know we’re gonna get into this but then who and how are you gonna be communicating with, for and through. Those are all really the next questions needed to ask once you have that brand in place so you can really get out there and start to leverage what you’re building.
Andy: Yeah, it’s interesting that you mention, you know, that bigger picture because obviously you work in communications, sort of adjacent to marketing. You know, from my standpoint, I mean, it’s…to me, it’s all the same thing in the sense that it’s strategic and it all ultimately needs to be aligned, right, with that top level strategy and at the end of the day, if you have a unique edge, like in asset management, you’re gonna need some sort of edge, you’re gonna need some sort of niche, like, thing that you’re best at. You’re gonna need to clearly communicate that and, like, tell that story over and over and get a lot of people to believe it. And that’s why they give you money. And if you wanna run a profitable business, you want their money, right. You wanna raise a ton of capital, deploy a ton of capital. If you’re running an ETF, you know, do you want 50 million in AUM or do you want a billion in AUM, right? Like, that’s a matter of, you know…do you have that unique niche? If you do, you know, are you the best at that segment? What’s that story and then how do you tell that story over and over?
And, you know, with marketing, you’re telling that story with paid media and communications. Maybe that’s more strategic where it’s…maybe it can inform some marketing and then there’s earned media. I guess how do those fit together, you know?
Chris: No, it’s a great question and it’s one that we talk about a lot with current clients, prospective clients. You know, how do you think about what it is you’re trying to communicate and all the different ways that you have through which to communicate? So, our primary focus over here has historically been on what we would call the earned media. So that is…at a high level…
Andy: That’s you right now, Chris. This is earned media, right? This is…you’re here on the this…
Chris: Yes. I am earning this media as we are speaking. But what it really refers to is getting out there and talking to people who have a third-party platform whether that’s a journalist, a blogger, a podcaster. Really, you know, the number and the definitions have gotten so large over the years. But finding those people who have an audience and who want to talk with you and who, through their platform, are gonna be…it’ll then amplify your message and get that in front of people that you are trying to reach.
So, for us over here, you know, that could involve arranging interviews with the “Wall Street Journal” and “Barron’s”. It could involve doing what we’re doing right now, finding a popular podcast, putting somebody on there, portfolio managers, CIO, whatever role they’re in. It can involve radio. It can involve events. But really at the end of the day, what it is, is something where the client is not cutting a check to participate in that conversation. That’s really the earned media side of things.
There are other aspects to PR where you can get into sponsored content. I have a relatively dim view on sponsored content which we can get into if you want. But then there are also the owned media channels and I think this is one that we’re really excited about and we’ve seen a ton of growth and attention being paid to this by asset managers, particularly over the last three to five years realizing that yes, your owned channels can be just as, if not more, impactful than what you’re out there earning through your thought leadership.
Andy: The money is in the list, right. I mean, that’s…
Chris: Exactly. Exactly. But the key thing with your owned channels is it has got to be interesting. It cannot just be your sales speak refreshed, rehashed 100 different ways. You have to bring something to the table that’s gonna keep people engaged and you often have to do it in a few different ways. And that’s why we’re seeing a lot of clients and others in the industry who are…you know, yes, they’ve been blogging. They’ve probably been blogging for a while. That’s table stakes at this point. But they’re launching really interesting podcasts. They’re doing a lot of creative things on social media. And they’re actually building their own voice. So, it’s not really being thought of as a sales mechanism where everything is, you know…here’s this piece of content. Ergo, buy this fund. There are educational aspects that they’re bringing to it. They’re connecting with people outside of their own organizations and interviewing them on their podcasts. They’re putting together educational whitepapers.
They’re really doing all they can to showcase the thought leadership that they possess with the marketing folks then also having some functions in place where you are driving people back to the solutions to the products. Because at the end of the day, that is still what it’s all about. But there are a lot of creative ways that you can combine all these different facets to build an overall communications plan.
Andy: Totally, yeah. I’m thinking of, like, Gary Vaynerchuk. I think his thing is, like, jab, jab, right hook which is…you know, the right hook is you know you…at the end of the day, you do wanna ask for money. You wanna make a sale. You wanna raise the capital or whatever. But the jab, jab, jab is building trust, telling the story over and over. And by the time you get to the ask or by the time you have relaunched our new fund, when you have this reservoir of trust and engagement and investors who already believe the story, then the right hook is almost, like, effortless, you know. I don’t know how far I can stretch this boxing metaphor but it’s…
Chris: Well, I actually…I like that one. I also have mixed opinions on Gary V. but we’ll leave that out just in case he ends up watching this.
Chris: So, I would actually say it’s very similar when you’re talking on the earned media side of the equation with how you’re interacting with a journalist. It can’t be a sales pitch. Journalists will…they just turn off to that immediately, you know. They’re not stenographers, right. They’re not there to write down your key talking points and turn around and then share them with the world with, you know, just glowing praise. They’re there to report. They’re there to find something interesting. They’re there to find information on trends. They’re there to teach people about something they don’t already know about or solve a problem that they, you know, are looking for solutions to. So ideally what happens in that case, you know…jab, jab, you know. I would say that is us and our clients providing them with those insights, answering those questions. Ideally, we never have to throw any hooks because it’s not a battle kinda situation.
They’ve built that trust and experience with our client. They’re calling them up then and saying, “Look, I’m putting together this round table or I need a guest for my podcast or I’m going on a TV show and I’d love to have you come on and speak with me.” So, you know, maybe we get out of the, you know, sort of adversarial kind of metaphors and we turn it into a more of…it’s a relationship.
Andy: Well, no. Within communications, totally. But all that I mean is, you know, if the sales team is collecting the harvest, you know, this communication, the storytelling, the, like, regular content production, the relationship building, the owned channels, the earned media, it’s all fertilizing the soil, making it very, very fertile. And it’s, like, then when comes time to harvest the crop, it’s just…it’s so much easier. Like, there ultimately is a sales team or a sale occurring but the point is that can be very tough and involved when it’s, like, that sales representative or that rep or…is it starting from zero with, like, no trust, no brand awareness, no knowledge of who your product or brand is in the marketplace or is it starting with…like, let me take Teucrium. We’ve had Teucrium on the show, right.
Andy: And it’s, like, anyone in the ETF world, you kinda know who Teucrium is. Like, “Oh, yeah. They’re the corn ETF guys.” You know, whatever. Like, you…and they’ve been around for a long time and, like, they have this niche and they, you know, they produce content. Like, that’s just an example of, you know, a brand, like, in an industry that people are gonna recognize. And so, you know, I guess that’s more what I’m…I’m not talking about the right hook in the context of communications, like, that you ever need to sell a journalist. I mean, I totally agree in this sense that within communications with the relationship building, you have to look at it from the other side. What is this journalist incentive? It’s not how they’re helping me. How am I helping them? Because if I help them, then next time they have a story, who are they gonna call first? They’re gonna call the people that helped them, right.
Chris: Exactly. And that’s, I mean, that’s a powerful lesson that we do have to teach quite a few people when we are starting with them. And I think, you know, part of it…and I know we talked about this as we were prepping for this conversation but you do see this mindset of, “Well, journalists are to be avoided,” really coming out of the alts space, right, because for years people who’ve been in hedge funds or private equity or VC, you know, there really wants much of an incentive to engage with the press given the way that their businesses were structured and the really kind of small pool of investors that they were trying to connect with.
Andy: It’s all downside, no upside.
Chris: There were regulatory…yeah, and there were regulatory concerns. I mean, some of that changed with the Jobs Act 10 years ago although not as much as I think people might have expected. But now there is this real, you know…we’re past the inflection point now of alternatives being everywhere. You know, they are very much a mainstream product at this point. And even calling them an alternative is probably something of a misnomer because these are mainstream approaches. But you do have people who are kind of coming from that mindset of, you know, “We need to either be super controlled in the environment and the questions and we wanna review the article before it publishes and we wanna check quotes,” and all these things that most journalists will never allow you to do. And you kinda have to guide them through this process and help them understand that…well, you know, no, the press isn’t your enemy. You know, they’re not your friend but they’re not necessarily your enemy and if you approach those kinds of relationships from an almost adversarial perspective, it’s gonna be really hard to build the relationship that you’re trying to build and you’re not even gonna be able to get to the point that we’re talking about here where you are able to tell that story and reenforce that narrative and put your positioning out there and have that shine through in the resulting coverage because you’re not gonna get past the starting line.
Andy: Right, yeah. Totally. And if you…I mean, to me, there’s really…I guess if I’m distilling it, there’s two pieces. Clarify your story, you know, understand it and know it yourself. And it needs to be something with product market fit, right. Like, so you might know your story but nobody cares or nobody wants it. So, you have a story that has product market fit and you’ve clarified it, you understand it. By the way, just that part is really hard. I’ll get back to that in a second. But then there’s the other part of then you go out and you consistently, you know, tell it over and over till…you know, maybe to the point where you’re bored to tears with it but that doesn’t mean that the marketplace is bored to tears with it. And, you know, the value of that…like, back to my example with, like, Teucrium. The fact that they stick out in my mind…like, I just remember them and who they are. That to me is enterprise value that, you know, the longer you stay in business, it just grows and grows and grows. That’s how you wake up one day and you’re like, “You know, we have a 9 figure or 10 figure enterprise value type company.”
But I actually wanna get back to the process of clarifying your brand story. I think this is so hard. Well, I’ll put it this way. You know, Chris, I have all these guests on my shows. I don’t know exactly what episode this is. I think I’m in the 130s. And I’ve had so many interesting, you know, financial leaders, titans on the show and they’re usually way smarter than I am but I view it as my job is almost, like, to tell a story. Like, I wanna find out what’s interesting about this product segment or this asset manager and tell that story. And I feel like for me it’s almost easier because, you know, I kinda have those objective outside eyes. I can kinda…you know, like, I can look at some press releases. I can look at the website. I can dig through the product and, like, I can usually kinda right away be like, “Well, that’s interesting and this is interesting and that’s the hook.”
It’s harder for them. And so, you know, it’s almost like, “Well, this is easy.” But then I think about if someone asked me, “Andy, what is it that you do? What makes you unique? What’s the story of your brand?” I’m like, “I guess I have, like, a podcast and a microphone.” You know, it’s like a cobbler’s children have no shoes problem. Like, it’s so hard to do it to yourself and to your own company. Do you find that that’s a repeating theme when you’re working with clients?
Chris: Yes. I think where we often encounter people who are challenged on exactly that front is because they’re operating in kind of a closed loop. And so, the feedback they’re getting is from people who already have heard the story or maybe they helped create the story or they’ve been a part of the story for a long time. You need to bring in some outside voices. And I’m not saying, like, you need to hire a PR firm although that’s a great idea. You should connect with people who are outside of your own organization and you should ask them…you know, I would go back to our own rebrand, you know. Remember at the start I said it wasn’t just an internal discussion here. We had clients, we had prospects, we had journalists…so, you know, people who are on that other side of the phone call that we’re trying to connect with and have them talk to people. You know, what do you think about this? When you encounter us, our team, our experts, what are your reactions?
You know, even down to, like, a visceral level. Like, if you see my phone number pop up with your called ID, are you like, “Oh, no. This guy.” Or, you know, are you like, “Okay. You know, I recognize that. I know Chris. He’s helped me out with some stuff. He’s connected with good people.” You know, really getting that kinda third party…but it’s gotta be honest feedback. That’s really where we try to help people start because we encounter people who are really…
Andy: And Chris, one theme there, one interesting theme, you know, I wanna pull out is, like, almost people without skin in the game.
Andy: Like, because when you have an idea internally and you thought of it and the idea objectively stinks, it’s just…it’s hard to really come around to that fact. You know, and, like, if you work with coworkers and they’re like, “Oh, I remember that was Andy’s idea.” They’re like, “Oh, I don’t wanna hurt Andy’s feelings, you know.” So that outsider, like, with almost no skin in the game, they can just be right away like, “Well, that idea’s garbage and that second thing, I just don’t even understand what the heck that means. And the third thing I love.” And you didn’t even know the third thing was even that important and they’re seizing on it and they’re like, “Yes, that’s the thing.”
Chris: Yeah. That kinda feedback is huge. And that’s really what you need because what I was saying was we really encounter groups that are at two different phases when we’re talking about what we’re talking about right now. Either they are a startup and they’re just getting ready to get out there and they’re trying to figure out who are we, what makes us different, what makes us unique, why are we doing this and why should anyone care. In a lot of ways, that’s the easier project because you have effectively a blank slate. You’ll have a lot to work with, you’ll have the people, their backgrounds, their ideas. All the building blocks will be there but you can kind of, in our role, step in as a bit of a guide and just help to bring some clarity to all of it and figure out some different themes and narratives and talking points.
Other instances you encounter people and teams that maybe they’ve been around for a little while. Maybe they’ve got a track record, they’ve got a family of funds or they’ve got some strategies that have been out there for a while. And they’re starting to ask the question, “You know, why aren’t we getting more attention? Why aren’t we getting more calls? Why aren’t we making more sales?” And so, they’ll start to look at these questions and here you can have a lot of just institutional memory that you have to push back against and you can have kind of internal politics that can sometimes slow things down but you do need those impartial third-party eyes to come in and say, “All right, look. When I see what you’re, you know, putting out there and when I hear you tell this story, this is what I hear and this is who it reminds me of or these are the questions that it leaves me with.”
That will often kinda get them out of their own bubble and get them thinking about things from a different angle and then you can really start to seize on, again, those narratives, those throughlines that you wanna make part of your ongoing narrative. And just going back to one of the things you said before about repetition and sometimes feeling like, “Oh, man. Like, I can’t say the same things over and over again.” Our advice and our coaching for people is always looking to be repetitive without being robotic. You know, you don’t want to just keep spouting the same three talking points over and over and over again. You’ll get bored, journalists will get bored, marketplace will get bored. You need some coaching, you need some practice, you need some work with people that will help tee you up with your communication skills so you can still seed those main points in all of your dialogue but you’re not saying it the exact same way every single time.
Andy: That’s so hard, Chris. I mean, I can tell you…I mean, here’s the interesting thing, you know. Talking about companies that, like, get it or don’t get it or…like, you mentioned, you know, compliance departments. I could go on my own story, you know, with dealing with that as a podcaster. Short answer to the question is no. But, you know, thinking about…I launched this podcast with Jimmy over a year and a half ago. My guests have all been fantastic. But for the first 50 to 75 episodes, I was rough. I mean, the guests…every guest I’ve had has shared very good information and has been interesting but took me, like…and I’m not even saying I’m great now but when I go back and listen to my first 50 episodes, I cringe, Chris. I cringe. So, it just…it takes time to get comfortable thinking on your feet, speaking on your feet. That’s really hard. I mean, so, you know, when you’re coaching clients, it’s, like, do they even have enough reps in, you know, or does that, like, just take years to kinda…to get the reps in.
Chris: Hopefully, it doesn’t take years but it’s rare to have somebody who’s a natural. I mean, to your point, I’m gonna watch this afterwards. I’m gonna cringe too. I’m sure. There are, like, more than a dozen different things I said or the way I said them. We’re very much in a those who can’t do, teach kind of moment here.
Andy: The cobbler’s children have no shoes, Chris. That’s my…it’s, like, one of the…
Chris: Me being on a podcast, I don’t quite know what happened here. But we’re here and we’ve gotta ride this out. But yeah. There are very few people out there who are naturals. They do exist. But most of the people that you’re going to see, encounter, you know, listen to, they have had a ton of coaching, a ton of training and a ton of practice. There is a lot of work that needs to go into getting someone ready to be out there telling these stories. You know, that is something that we also work on behind the scenes with people through media training. And some people are gonna need more than others. Also, as part of a broader kinda PR plan, what we will often bake in are some opportunities with…you know, call them friendlier audiences. You don’t wanna throw somebody to the wolves right away. You know, you wanna have them get their reps…
Andy: That’s why…Chris, that’s why PR reps love me. You know, I’m not, you know, I’m not a pushover. But I feel like I’m friendly media in the sense that I like alternatives, I like ETFs, I like alternative ETFs, I like private equity funds. I don’t think hedge funds are evil or the devil, you know. So, you know, programs like this one. You know, I gotta say I’m pretty friendly, right.
Chris: Yeah. It’s why we talk a lot, Andy. But there are others out there and it’s also good to just have some mock interviews. We do a ton of those with clients where we will…we’ll kind of recreate the environment that we’re in right now or we’ll have them come in and we’ll sit across the table from them. We’ve got some ex-journalists on the team here who…you know, they were in that role. They were playing that kinda skeptical, you know, interviewer. And so, we will put them through their paces. We’ll give them the chance to tell the story but we’ll throw some curveball questions their way. We’ll ask them some things that we know their compliance in no way, shape or form wants them to touch. So, we can teach them how to pivot, how to stay on message, how to answer a question without, you know, necessarily answering it but still making the reporter feel like they’re coming away with something and they’re not just being kinda steered in one direction.
But it is, you know, very true that the people…you know, you turn on CNBC, you turn on Bloomberg TV, you look at the guests, you’re like, “Oh, they’re so comfortable. Like, that person just…” They’ve been trained. They have been trained and trained and trained and when they go back to their office, there’s somebody who’s gonna sit down with them and watch that video and critique them and give them feedback so that next time they’re even more prepared than the time they were before.
It’s a lot of behind the scenes work but it pays off because there is…you know, there’s a few reasons you encounter a lot of people again and again in financial media. One of them is just being a good interview, being human, having a personality. Again, additive without robotic. But that takes practice. That takes time and it takes a lot of coaching.
Andy: Yeah, you have to be able to, you know, smile and, you know, have a human moment. Yeah, I mean, my point earlier about, you know, growing the podcast is that’s hard. It takes time to be comfortable, right. It’s just very natural for a human to be nervous the first 10, 20, 30, however many times they do something. So, but I mean, my advice for what it’s worth is kind of embrace it. Like, when I kinda realized, “Well, I think this podcast could be good but I need to get more comfortable.” I was like, “Well, why don’t I start doing more than one episode a week?” It’s just almost, like, exposure therapy. The other thing I realized was you can pick your channel. So, like, if I were an asset manager and, you know, you have all these channels, man, you kinda think you wanna do more than one and there’s some that you definitely want. Like, you wanna have an email list. I’ll tell everybody that. If you don’t have an email list, then do not pass go, you know.
But you can pick a media, a medium, excuse me, that you’re naturally attracted to. And, like, that’s okay. Like, it can even be a good thing because when you’re excited to be somewhere and you’re more comfortable, more passionate, I think that kinda shines through, right.
Chris: I would say so. I would say we generally counsel people, though, to be prepared to be on a lot of different types of media. You need to be kinda omnichannel when you’re thinking about financial communications these days. So, if you are most comfortable going on podcasts, great. Lean into that. There are a number of great podcasts out there and it’s a great chance to get into the longer form of your story. Not everybody listens to podcasts. So, you are also gonna need to explore the other channels that are out there whether that’s print, digital, streaming, TV, radio, all those things you were talking about before. The bigger question, though, I think before you even start thinking about what kind of media you’re gonna engage with is where is your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Because you can spend a ton of time doing media and really have it be the wrong kind of media.
You know, if your focus and your goal is to connect with the family office or the multifamily office community and you’re not in those channels where the family office folks are consuming news and learning about ideas, you’re missing your window. You’re talking to people who probably aren’t the right targets for what it is you’re trying to teach them about. There are people who are out there who could benefit from what it is you have to talk about, don’t know you’re there.
Andy: Right, so if you’re trying to reach a family office, you wanna be in “Barron’s”, you wanna be in “IREI Magazine”. You might wanna be on this show. It’s just gonna be very niche specific media that have much smaller reach numerically but it’s hitting the right people, right.
Chris: Yeah, exactly. You know, we often find you get more impact…like in the asset management world. Everyone reads “Ignites”. You know, outside of the asset management world, no one reads “Ignites”. They have no idea what “Ignites” is. They probably think it’s, like, an electrician magazine or something like that. But in this business, everyone reads it. So, for a lot of our clients, coverage in “Ignites” can be just as, if not more impactful than a “Wall Street Journal” piece. I would never say no to positive “Wall Street Journal” coverage. It’s still extremely important. But these niche trades can carry so much weight because as we like to say, like, nobody’s ever reading that by accident. Nobody’s ever just, you know, going to that site to flip through it. They get their newsletter every morning. They look at those headlines. They see what’s being covered. And it sparks a debate.
So, making sure you understand who your audience is and how to reach them is probably an even more important starting point than figuring out what kind of media you’re gonna be most comfortable with. I think comfort level’s definitely important but ideally with some practice and with that understanding of your audience, you know, the spokespeople can develop a comfort level across all different kinds of environments where they can be comfortable on the phone, in person, recording, TV, you name it. They’ve been, you know, practiced and coached so they can really succeed in any one of those environments.
Andy: Yeah. I mean, that’s…I can’t argue with that point, Chris. I think you basically just told me, “Andy, go fishing where the fish are.” And I’m like, “Well, yeah.”
Chris: It helps.
Andy: That’s probably a good tip. That’s a good point. I wanna ask about specific mediums. Media? Mediums. Shoot, I don’t know. But just because here’s my thesis. There are certain medium…mediums? That are very prestigious. They have, like, at least in the near term, almost no effect. Like, let me give an example. You know, you could be on national radio. Like, we’ve been on national radio. We’ve been on national television. You could mention like, “Oh, we’re having an event. You know, go to this web page.” And, like, literally it’s zero or, like, one or two and it’s like, “Wow.” That was Bloomberg or that was NPR National. Like, a zero? Really? Or, like, maybe it’s just, like, a trickle.
And then conversely, you could be mentioned in some, like, little email newsletter. Maybe I’m kinda showing my hand here with these examples but you could be shown in some, you know, linked to in some little email newsletter that you’ve never even heard of and it’s, like, boom, 20 conversions or 10 new clients or 20 new investors. And so, it’s like, “Wow.” The perceived value of the TV is huge but yet it had almost no effect and then email, you know, people, like, roll their eyes. I’m like, “Well, that actually, you know, drives sales.” But maybe it’s also, again, kind of a horses for courses thing because I think when your brand is on national TV from a brand people recognize, that builds authority and trust or when you’re in the “Wall Street Journal”, I mean, to me, that’s just, like, a stamp of approval or stamp of trust and authority.
So, you know, how do you…you know, let me start with TV. You know, you think TV is overrated, underrated? National TV, cable TV.
Chris: I don’t think it’s overrated. I think there can be overemphasis on it in some people’s minds. We have definitely talked to people who were like, “All I want is TV. That’s all I wanna do. I just wanna be on CNBC. All this other stuff doesn’t matter to me.” And, you know, we’ll generally not work with someone for whom that’s the mindset because CNBC is great. We do a ton with CNBC. We have people on CNBC, you know, every day, people on their weekly ETF show, on all the other shows. Because you do get that stamp of approval being part of their coverage even more so when you can become a regular part of their coverage. Because what’s often challenging with TV is when TV is a one-off because you don’t know who actually caught it. You know, sometimes…and there’s a broader question that we should probably touch on too. Like, what do you do with your coverage once you’ve gotten your coverage? You know, how do you leverage it? So, if you…
Andy: Brag about it. Show it off.
Chris: Well, I mean, that’s the simple answer. Not everybody’s gonna be tuned in at the right time to catch you live. So, you know, A, if you know you’re gonna be on, you should promote it. Get the word out through all your channels, you know, “Catch me at 2:00 p.m. on this show talking about this.” As soon as you’re done and can get the link, you know, send that out to people, “Hey, in case you missed it, I was on doing this.” Put it on your social. Get it on your LinkedIn. Get it on your Twitter.
Andy: And see now, Chris, that’s so interesting because that’s more leveraging the third-party authority of the TV channel and the, you know, the prestige that that reflects onto your brand back to your existing audience. And I mean, maybe you pick up some…like, that’s…the value of that is huge but, like, that’s probably a misperception that people have about TV. They’re like, “Oh, millions of new people will hear about my brand and my website will crash because we’ll get so much traffic.”
Chris: Not usually. No. And I think really at the heart of this is people need to understand this is a long game. There is no one magic media appearance that is going to open the floodgates, solve all your problems, have you hit your AUM targets. It needs to be part of a longer-term plan that really does hit on all these different aspects that we’ve been talking about. But, you know, I love TV. We emphasize TV. TV is great for, you know, branding purposes. And frankly, TV’s…it’s a great ego boost when you get…
Andy: I was just gonna say, Chris, I wanna be on TV because I want my ego to be rubbed, you know.
Chris: Exactly. And it’s, you know…it can’t just be an ego play, you know. And that’s one of the things too that we always tell people is. “You can’t just do PR for PR’s sake because you’re just gonna waste everybody’s time. There’s gotta be a business reason why you’re doing this.” But, you know, I’m a big fan of TV. We continue to emphasize it. But I’m also…to some of our earlier points, we’re really focused, though, on where is the audience. Yes, they might have CNBC on but more likely you’re gonna catch them with “Ignites”. You’re gonna catch them with, like, a super, you know, hyper focused newsletter like “Mutual Fund Wire” that goes out every morning and afternoon. You’re gonna catch them on “With Intelligence” or ETF.com or “ETF Express” or, you know, other places where people do go for news and they go there because they work in the space or they follow the space and they’re gonna be more inclined to spend the time to read about what it is you’re trying to tell them.
But I think for us, you know, we will weigh different types of media based on client needs and client wants. But it really does come back to where’s the audience but also that larger question of what can we do with this once we’ve made it happen. Once that TV interview’s out there, once that podcast is posted, that round table is written, what comes next?
Andy: I see. Business. The business case. How’s this fitting into the bigger picture, the big lever. Yeah, no, I totally get it because you’re right. The ego strokes are fun but ultimately, you know, it needs to be more than that. Okay. We don’t have a ton of time. I wanna go through a few more different mediums if we could. And Chris, I want you to be blunt. You’re not gonna hurt my feelings. How about podcasts? How do those compare to, you know, TV? Give it to me straight.
Chris: It depends on the podcast. And I think that’s, you know, I think that’s really true because there are so many podcasts and we are honestly…
Andy: Too many? Are there too many?
Andy: Yeah, there are. Yeah, there are. Yeah.
Chris: It’s late in the afternoon. I haven’t had enough coffee today. I’m just gonna be blunt. Yeah, there are too many podcasts. There are too many podcasts. And I think the issue with podcasts…and this is another area where a firm like ours can help different types of clients. You’ve gotta figure out which ones matter, which ones are impactful. Because you could…if you work in investment management, you could literally spend every working hour on a podcast. To say nothing about the amount of time you could spend listening to all the different podcasts. So, you’ve gotta figure out which ones are, again, going to reach the right audience. So, it’s not just an ego boost to say, “I was on this podcast.” You know, you’ve gotta understand, you know, who have they had on, what is the host’s style, what is their distribution approach. Data around, you know, listeners and views is often really hard to come by but what can you figure out and suss out? And if you know someone who’s been on, ask them, “What feedback did you get? Did you hear from people afterwards? When you guys put this on your social channels, did you get a lot of, you know, clicks, listens, likes, reposts?” You know, whatever metric you wanna use.
Try to really figure out what the value is gonna be because, you know, at the end of the day for all of our clients, time is really in short supply. So, we’ve gotta make sure whether it’s a podcast or anything else if we’re gonna put it in front of them and say, “We want you to do this,” we’ve gotta make the case to them because, you know, doing media, doing podcasts is just one small part of their job. They’re running portfolios, they’re doing roadshows, they’re at conferences, they’re all over the place. We’ve gotta make sure we’re justifying the time that we’re gonna ask of them when we put something in front of them so…
Andy: Reading through the lines, I’m hearing the right podcast with the right audience, absolutely. But you have to sort through, you know…find…I don’t know if it’s needles in a haystack but…because, I mean, the nature of podcast scene or YouTube or social media is that, you know, you give me a microphone and I can…give me a camera…I have a nice camera now but there’s no gatekeeping whereas with cable TV, ultimately, there’s only, whatever, 5 or 10 channels that really cover financial and investing type stuff. So, you know, it’s more, like, any TV opportunity is gonna be perceived probably as a good opportunity whereas with podcasts, I get it. You’re gonna be way more, you know, discriminating like you need to be.
Chris: For podcasts, the gatekeeper is the marketplace and are people engaging with that podcast. If they are, it’s worth a closer look. If they’re not, it’s probably not. And, you know, you need to look at their history. How many shows have they done. Has it been nine months since they did the last one? It’s probably not what you wanna spend time on.
Chris: But yeah. It really…it involves that kinda research. And again, I feel like I’m a broken record at this point but will they help you reach your audience. Do they have that kind of reach into the community you’re trying to connect with? If it looks like they do, generally we’ll say, “Give it a closer look.”
Andy: Got it. Okay. And we’re short on time but I wanna ask…I wanna give you the opportunity, you know…if there’s one channel…we talked about TV. We’ve talked about podcasts. I mean, I love email. I don’t need to ask about it. I’ll just tell everybody right now email newsletters are the bee’s knees. But are there any channels that you’re very bullish on that you think, like, this channel punches above its weight in terms of, you know, how the value is perceived versus what we see with the results it gets?
Chris: You know, it’s a great question. And, you know, I keep coming back to the fact that just philosophically we are very omnichannel here. So, I almost wouldn’t want to wed myself to one particular type of media and say this is it if you were to pick one because I really wouldn’t recommend people just pick one. You know, I think it really does…you know, with the way that people are these days with the short attention spans, with so many different places and ways that they’re being bombarded with messaging, it’s really in firm’s best interests to start by casting a bit of a broader net. And then you kinda test. You test and see what’s working. You look and see, “Okay, we did this podcast. We got these kinds of results, this kind of feedback. We were in “Barron’s”. We saw this kind of increase to our web traffic. We did, you know, TD Ameritrade’s network streaming show. We saw this. We were on, you know, public.com’s live drop-ins talking to the retail audience.”
And you try different things, you work with a firm that understands what some of these options are and how they might benefit you or which ones to avoid. And you just build and you constantly enhance a broader plan. So, I know that’s a copout, 100% non-answer to your question but did you see how I did that? Because I pivoted from a question I didn’t really…
Andy: You stayed on message. You stayed…
Chris: I stayed on message. So, there’s a nice callback for you for about 20, 25 minutes ago in our conversation.
Andy: I love it. I love it, Chris, and I love the self-awareness to call yourself out. But you know what? I think this is a story within a story, right. You’re staying on message. Craft & Capital, who are you, how do you think, what’s your unique way of doing things? Returning to that. I mean, I can hardly argue with that. And if you had to…if anybody here gave you the hot tip…I guess it was me. From my standpoint, I’m not a communications professional but email. Email, email, email. I always love email. You can take email from my cold, dead hands because I think it’s the perennial channel that I just can’t quit. Chris, this has been, you know, for me, really enlightening just to hear about your process and your strategy. I can tell you’re a very strategic thinker which I love. You know, I love strategy. And I know we have a lot of financial professionals and asset managers who listen to the show. So where can our audience go to learn more about Craft & Capital?
Chris: They can go to our still relatively brand-new website which is craftandcapital.com, all spelled out, one word. And yeah, we’re always happy to connect with people and share our thoughts on what they’re doing and how we might be able to help. And happy to connect with people because we really like what we do and we really like finding interesting people who we think that we can help take to the next level. So, I very much appreciate the time today. This was great. I feel like we just scratched the surface but I think we covered a lot of good ground.
Andy: Absolutely, Chris. Thanks again for joining the show today.
Chris: Thank you. I appreciate it.