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Financial Communications

More Clients Want You to Help Them Avoid Paying Taxes

shutterstock_140263030This weekend, The New York Times told us that Europe is moving to close many of the tax loopholes that have attracted so many corporations to The Netherlands even when they have no interest in hemp or socialism.

This is bad news for Starbucks…and great news for financially-focused PR firms.

NYT notes that both the coffee behemoth and the notoriously regulation-averse Apple have signed with RLM Finsbury and its lobbying affiliates in recent years to help more effectively minimize their total tax bills.

The real product being sold here is expertise on international tax policies and those ever-shifting loopholes; one year you establish a tax shelter in Ireland, but next year who knows?

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Mediabistro Course

Mediabistro Job Fair

Mediabistro Job FairLand your next big gig! Join us on January 27 at the Altman Building in New York City for an incredible opportunity to meet with hiring managers from the top New York media companies, network with other professionals and industry leaders, and land your next job. Register now!

TD Bank’s Social Media Balancing Act

TD Bank ATM Machine Cropped“TD Bank has a subtle approach as a consumer-facing bank. In July we turned ATM’s into “thanking machines” to reward customers. We also offer coin changers, lollipops and dog treats”, said Albert Raymond, TD’s head of U.S. privacy and social media compliance. But as part of the regulated financial industry, TD Bank takes serious measures with social media.

Raymond discussed TD’s social media programs and the tradeoffs involved at a recent BDI Summit on the future of financial communications in New York. “Compliance and social media are now higher profile topics, but financial companies take an inherently conservative approach to the use of technology and social media since there’s a strong trust factor involved”, he said.

“FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) offers guidance on social media, though there haven’t been major changes from the offline world”, Raymond said. “We still must monitor and retain customer communications. Financial orgs have a playbook with 7 areas serving as a social media reference point so financial companies don’t need to create programs from scratch.”

Other selected comments from Raymond provide clues regarding how TD Bank handles social:

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Q&A: On the New Hedge Fund Communications Model

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Hedge funds: everyone has heard of them and knows that they play a very powerful role in the global economy. But very few people know what they actually do — and opinions vary wildly.

Everyone in business and communications also knows about the JOBS or Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, the law designed to encourage investment in new companies that also seems to have influenced today’s “IPO boom market.

Our friends at Peppercomm recently released a study about the ways in which the comms strategies driving these funds and the firms representing them have changed since JOBS was signed into law one year ago. In short, they’re trying to be more transparent with the public via social and other types of media as interest in their industry hits new highs and related scandals make headlines around the world. (Note today’s top story about investor Carl Ichan’s “open letter” to Apple CEO Tim Cook.)

We spoke to Tom Walek, President of WalekPeppercomm and author of the study, to find out what that means for the industry. (His firm received a “Best North American PR Firm” award from Hedgeweek back in May.)

Q&A and infographic after the jump.

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SEC Charges Investor Relations Exec with Insider Trading

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In news that points toward the darker side of financial PR, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced this morning that it would charge an executive at a top Manhattan investor relations firm with crimes related to insider trading.

The charge is surprisingly simple: Michael Anthony Dupre Lucarelli, director at Manhattan’s Lippert/Heilshorn Investor Relations, allegedly used clients’ unpublished press releases to guide his own investments — and made more than half a million dollars in the process.

The case is notable in that it differs from the common narrative regarding automated trades made with the help of robotic press releases that may run afoul of the law by giving certain traders an advantage that ultimately adds up to fractions of a second.

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To Turn Things Around, Maybe Crocs Should Just Admit Their Shoes Are Ugly

crocsAfter a boom in which it seemed everyone and their grandmother owned a pair of the wide, colorful Croslite Crocs, the company is in trouble. To turn things around, the company introduced different styles, including ballet flats and heels. Still, the company reports that net income fell 44 percent for the second quarter, it’s going to need to close as many as 100 of its 624 stores around the world and 183 people will have to be laid off.

“The company is now planning to cut back on its range of styles by 30% to 40%, as a result,” says Business Insider.

Now might be the time for Crocs to take a lesson from Birkenstocks: You can’t be successful if you can’t face the cold hard truth that the shoes you sell are ugly.

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Makovsky Study: Reputation Problems Continue to Plague Wall Street

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The latest Wall Street Reputation study from Makovsky Integrated Communications is in, and its results won’t surprise many.

In short, the financial industry still suffers from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis–and 81% of communications executives at Wall Street firms believe that this fact continues to damage businesses’ reputations as well as their bottom lines.

This isn’t just about political populism, either: it affects shareholder perceptions.

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Ketchum Partners with Zito to Launch Financial Communications Service

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New Jersey’s Zito Partners has partnered with Ketchum to create a “strategic alliance” offering specifically targeted at financial institutions and other organizations looking for help on related communications fronts.

Ketchum Zito Financial will combine Zito’s collective expertise with that of the Ketchum financial communications practice to offer very specific services related to:

  • Board issues (composition, investigations, share prices)
  • Transactions (mergers, IPOs, etc.)
  • Earnings Reports (and related messaging strategies)
  • Research (studies/surveys relevant to investors)
  • Media Relations

Founder Bob Zito brings a history to the role: before starting the firm, he served as EVP of the New York Stock Exchange and a member of its management committee. Previous positions include VP of corporate communications at Sony and CCO at Bristol-Meyers Squibb.

He also happens to be a former Ketchum client–a fact that might, in part, explain the ease with which this partnership developed.

Brand Moves: Audi Snaps Into Action and E*TRADE Scraps the Cheeky Baby

Audi Snapchat Dog Courtesy of HUGEBeing a brand that’s witty, irreverent or challenges convention isn’t so easy, especially since those companies set the bar high and their customers come to expect unique, creative ads and social communications. Two such brands, Audi and E*TRADE, shared their stories at Ad Age’s Digital Conference this week in New York. Audi detailed their use of Snapchat during the Super Bowl game, and E*TRADE discussed their decision to end their popular baby ad campaign.

Audi picks up the pace: “Being a challenger brand gives us an edge”, said Anna Russell, Audi’s general manager of brand marketing. She outlined the car brand’s core messages: they’re “champions of progress”, using LED lighting, they “challenge convention”, particularly with their Quattro system, and they’re a “brand of action” and frequent sports sponsor.

Still, as Aaron Shapiro, CEO of their agency, HUGE, noted, with the Oreo effect, “now every brand is piling on no matter how relevant or not” in real-time marketing during events. He said Audi didn’t want to use a “me-too strategy”. (Plus, they needed to be careful since they were involved in a 2010 Super Bowl campaign controversy).

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STUDY: Banks Don’t Find Much Value in Social Media

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Two questions: do you follow your bank on social? More importantly, why?

A Carlisle & Gallagher survey published in The Guardian this week found that, while some Americans do pay attention to their banks on social, they don’t much care for what they see. 87% of those questioned described the social accounts of said financial institutions to be “annoying, boring and unhelpful.”

One BIG qualifier: only 7% of those surveyed actually follow their financial institutions, yet many mention them by name in public complaints. The issue, then, comes down to customer service on social—or a lack thereof.

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Yes, Wall Street Still Has a Big Perception Problem

Got 15 minutes to spare? Listen to this NPR ”Planet Money” clip in which New York magazine financial writer Kevin Roose gives us a hint as to why the insular world of big finance no longer appeals to Ivy League MBAs as much as it used to. In short, The Social Network is this generation’s Wall Street.


Roose says:

“The sex appeal is in Silicon Valley now. It has the…cultural cachet that Wall Street used to have…the tech industry is making things…”

That’s a key insight: tech makes things while Wall Street “re-bundles” things—at least according to popular opinion.

Younger bankers want to change all that. While all evidence indicates that the old generation is perfectly fine with being feared, the new generation “wants to be loved.”

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