Jennifer Connelly counsels some of the world’s most prominent executives and brands through strategic public relations, with an emphasis on financial communications. She is a sought-after crisis and reputation management expert known for solving her clients’ greatest challenges and delivering powerful results through integrated communications.
Prince: Let's start with learning a little more about JConnelly and your role as its founder and executive chair.
Connelly: I started JConnelly in 2003 after a rough ride on the corporate train. I knew in my heart and soul that there was a better way to serve people and brands. My craft is a mix of art and science. Relationships are the connective tissue to everything we do, and I wanted to create an environment of likeminded individuals energized by supporting each other and working toward making a difference together. We are a mission-driven agency where purpose and passion drive everything we do.
I started as a one-person shop 18 years ago. Since then, my team and I have been able to significantly grow the firm because of the consistent results we deliver to our clients. Consequently, JConnelly has become an industry leader recognized for creating award-winning campaigns that generate awareness, amplify brands, drive change and growth while anticipating and solving problems before they occur.
Even though JConnelly is one of the 50 largest PR firms in the US, we’ve never lost our focus on what is most important to us—our values and our mission. We still have the same grit, accountability and connection of a boutique agency. I have always believed that the work we do and the people we invite into our lives—clients, friends and business partners alike—should all fuel our passion.
Prince: How do you help financial firms and non-financial companies become more successful in the evolving digital and media landscape?
Connelly: Today, there is so much information overwhelming people through more communication channels and platforms than ever before. Our team excels at seeing and understanding the fragmented traditional and digital information ecosystem that now exists, and then developing and executing campaigns to help clients reach the specific people they want to engage with, reach and educate or influence on an issue.
We always start a relationship with a client by aligning on their objectives and goals to frame a narrative and authentic story that feels true to their brand identity. We also help identify the best people in an organization to share these stories. It is with this strategic foundation that we can then identify what high-value communication tools and channels will be most effective. We believe that the right creative mix for one client is not what works for another.
One client may have a better target audience and reach on CNBC or Fox Business, while another may require an article in a printed trade publication or getting their CEO an opportunity to speak in more detail micro-targeted audience at a financial event. In each case, a strong website design and social media presence to amplify what is being said through other channels is key, along with leveraging opportunities to incorporate video or other engaging visual content to maximize engagement. As all this is happening, we are also proactively keeping watch for potential landmines and helping clients successfully navigate past them.
What we see far too often is businesses, wealth management businesses included, thinking tactically, rather than strategically, and doing either this or that tactic. At the same time, they are out there talking about themselves in overly technical and “jargony” ways resulting in more harm than good. It also does not make them memorable as a brand that stands out making people want to do business with them.
Prince: Looking forward, what are some of the actions financial firms need to consider to stand out in an increasingly competitive environment?
Connelly: Authenticity and trust are first and foremost. Having a clear point of view is a very close second. Businesses and leaders that want to stand out from the competition need to have something to say or a great differentiated product or offering to talk about. Our clients like DoubleLine and its CEO Jeffery Gundlach or Skybridge/SALT and its CEO Anthony Scaramucci are testaments that smart and strategic engagement with a clear point of view works in differentiating wealth managers in the marketplace.
Ranging from serving the largest financial institutions in the world to also being able to serve independent financial advisors working to establish and amplify their brands in their local communities, we are able to extend this value of strategic integrated communications to the full spectrum of the wealth management community.
Wealth management leaders need to be willing to stop hiding behind a rock and engage with the world they want to entrust them with their wealth. Especially with the new SEC advertising rules that went into effect in May, many have new opportunities to have a voice and to think more creatively in their communication strategies than ever before. Leadership matters, always. The simple fact is this: a logo and a name alone do not create a memorable and trusted brand. Authenticity, a clear point of view and successful, honest execution does.
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