We catch up with Chris Tuite, MRM’s head of consumer finance, on the importance of consumer-centric financial PR, his pride in executing creative consumer campaigns, and how he’s adapted to working from home
- Tell us about yourself
I’m 38 years old and have been in financial services PR for 15 years. I live in North London, am a Liverpool Football Club season ticket holder and boxing enthusiast.
As MRM’s head of consumer finance, I oversee the consumer-focused clients in our portfolio. That means clients that communicate directly with men and women on the street. I’ve run campaigns on behalf of many household name clients in the world of investing, saving, mortgages, insurance, loans, pensions and financial education.
The interesting and challenging part of the job is that every client is different and so is every one of their customers. Even within consumer finance we work with a broad base of clients from trading platform eToro to mutual Scottish Friendly.
Consumer finance PR has to be able to speak to a broad spectrum of media and potential end readers in an interesting and engaging way.
That’s where the team and I come in. We try to understand what makes consumers tick, tell the stories that matter to them and help our clients stand out from the crowd.
- Where did your interest in financial services come from?
While working at Shelter in a long internship on campaigns around bad housing, someone said to me: ‘You will have cracked PR if you can make mortgages interesting’. I accepted that challenge.
I enjoy the hard news edge and practicality of financial services PR. Finance can induce eye rolls – especially if you try and discuss pensions with your friends – our challenge is to make finance interesting and relevant at all levels. That is very achievable because finance actually matters a lot. Our job is to help remind everyone of that, and why.
- Why did you join MRM?
Love the people, love the process, love the considered and intelligent approach to PR and communications briefs. As a firm we strive to be better connected, better informed and better prepared.
This means as a company we all work across a range of clients, sectors and disciplines – from straight PR to content and reputation counselling and beyond. Having everyone practised in a range of skills that encompass ‘communications’ means more innovative ideas, faster reaction and experienced decision-making for clients.
We’re also always thinking of new ways to help clients gain representation – whether that means through new media, working with influencers or alternatives to the written word – having that adaptive approach is crucial.
The group is able to tap into a range of disciplines to meet client needs, which helps to create an all-round media solution. From top-quality content produced by our news and content team to audience insights and analysis from Capital City Media, MRM Group’s media planning and buying consultancy, we’re able to help clients decide what mix of owned- and earned-media representation works for them.
We’ve also worked more on consumer publication campaigns with personal finance blog Mouthy Money, talking directly to their readers about money and gaining insights on how households are getting on during the pandemic through the Money Matters Index survey.
- What area of PR gives you the most satisfaction?
Bringing creative consumer ideas to life and running campaigns that help people to be better with their money.
There is a sense satisfaction when you can successfully tap into the psyche of consumers and achieve cut genuine through. In the 21st Century we have information overload. It’s so crowded and competitive out there and just getting someone’s attention for a few seconds to land a message is a major victory. PR is still one of the most effective ways to do that and leave a lasting impression.
In the past 12 months we’ve executed successful consumer campaigns for the likes of eToro, Shawbrook Bank, Scottish Friendly and many other brands. We’ve run a fashion shoot, helped build and promote a time machine, and remedied the UK’s DIY nightmares.
Satisfyingly, a lot of the exposure we have got has been outside traditional personal finance media and in lifestyle media. As well as more traditional targets of The Times, The Mirror, Sky News and regionals, we’ve been branching out into men’s fashion titles, niche lifestyle podcasts and even health and fitness!
- How has lockdown changed how you work?
To be honest, it hasn’t changed how I work. Only where I work. I miss contact with colleagues particularly for generating ideas, and I’m spending longer at my desk too.
Other than that, as an agency we’ve been able to adapt seamlessly to 100% remote working. Obviously there have been logistical challenges along the way, and the nature of our work will change once the office opens back up but reaching media and helping clients to gain valuable representation has not missed a beat.
- What piece of financial advice would you give your younger self?
Invest what you save. You save enough but cash rates are dismal. In many ways it is one of the core messages for many of our clients.
There is a huge disparity in the public’s minds between putting money in a savings account as the act of saving – and what should actually happen to that money once it is there.
- What would you do if you were Prime Minister for a day?
Open my local for a socially distanced pint. Not long to go now though!
- What is your biggest pet peeve, or makes you angry?
Litter. Blows my mind. Started to think that each piece of dropped litter is an admission from a nihilist that they want to destroy the world. But I am prone to emotional overreactions.
- Do you have any hobbies?
I love creative writing, boxing and following my beloved LFC.
- What is the one column or website that you read every day?
The Times daily email is a good summary of the day’s main topics. I also swap The Economist articles with a friend of mine daily too.
- What would you do if you received a windfall of £10,000?
Split the money three ways and top up my pension, my wife’s pension and put a chunk in my new daughter’s Junior ISA. She’s just five weeks old so I don’t want her missing out on the power of compound interest like her Daddy did!