The extent to which hedge funds and venture capitalists are using big data and artificial intelligence to inform their investment decisions is no secret to Jessica Schaefer, a public relations veteran with a keen eye for new trends, and founder of newly minted New York firm Bevel.
Not only are financial heavyweights increasingly relying on satellite imagery to assess, for instance, the health of the Chinese economy, or checking on apps like foursquare to predict the first quarter earnings of fast food chains like Chipotle, they’re also keen to invest in emerging technologies of all kinds.
But finding the companies that have cool technology to share can pose a challenge to investors, and that’s where Bevel comes in.
Schaefer founded the firm to help companies with all kinds of cool, new age technology articulate their mission and create their brand, in order to increase their visibility vis-à-vis the investment community. “This can help companies secure additional funding and increase their valuations” she says.
Prior to funding Bevel, Schaefer led communications and marketing for Point72 Ventures, the early stage-venture capital arm of Point72, which invests in disruptive technologies. She also served as Vice President of Corporate Communications at Point72, the family office managing the assets of billionaire and philanthropist, Steve Cohen, one of Wall Street’s leading hedge fund managers.
During her tenure, she not only amassed a wealth of key contacts in the world of high-power investing but also forged close ties with reporters dedicated to covering emerging technologies, artificial intelligence and big data at top media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times.
“We can introduce companies to leading venture capital firms and help them in other ways like securing high profile speaking events,” Schaefer says. “Many of these start ups don’t have the funds to pay for these and can’t afford expensive high branding fees. We can help them.”
Jessica Schaefer, Founder of Bevel
Currently, Bevel – the firm was launched in the middle of February – is working with six companies, but Schaefer has a growing list of new, cutting edge firms eager to partner with her to formulate their PR and media strategies.
“I really enjoy working with start-ups and entrepreneurs that are disrupting the financial services space,” she says.
One of her clients is Acorns, an app that connects a user’s credit and/or debit card with a savings account and allows them to automatically invest any spare change from their purchases into a diversified portfolio of exchange traded funds and stocks.
Bevel arranged a media tour for Acorns, introducing its CEO to key reporters from Yahoo Finance, Reuters, Fortune and others.
For Schaefer, though, what’s most important about Bevel is its focus on transparency when formulating strategies for its clients.
“One of the biggest problems with PR is that the client has no idea what the firm is working on,” she says. “We want to build a platform that is transparent and interactive with our clients, so that they can see exactly what we’re doing. That’s important to us and so we’re communicating with our clients frequently using an online sharing portal where we can IM them, post news and updates and share all documents so that everyone is on the same page at the same time.”
Bevel will partner with Cognito, a global finance and technology focused PR and marketing firm, to provide clients with a full suite of offerings, including marketing communications, media relations, advertising and media buying.
Prior to Point72, Schaefer had multiple sales and marketing roles at Moody’s Analytics, which included Head of Marketing Communications. She helped build the firm’s reputation and establish Moody’s Analytics among clients and investors as a leading player in risk technology and economic research.
She started her career at Prosek Partners, a leading financial services firm, where she was Senior Account Executive in the Financial Services practice. Her clients included First New York Securities, Jefferies, Lenox Advisors, OppenheimerFunds, RBC, RBS, Sterling National Bank, and Swiss Re. Schaefer has received multiple awards for her work including the most recent PR News Rising Stars 30 under 30 and Moody’s Rising Star Award
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.