Marketing at Wise – breaking PR rules
When I chat to candidates interested in joining the Wise PR team I’m reminded of how I used to think about communications before I joined the company. The stock phrases are: ‘you can’t measure it’, ‘I need a CEO who is already bought into PR’, and ‘what’s my budget?’
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sympathetic to this. PR is hard to measure, it helps a ton if you have leadership who already buy the need for it, and ritzy budgets are fun! But after making a bunch of mistakes at Wise, I learned that focusing too much on this means pointing in the wrong direction.
What does PR do?
Like most companies, PR exists to promote Wise’s reputation in the media. We help refine and narrate the Wise story, take that story to the world by working with the press, create new ways of telling it and protect Wise when things don’t go to plan. That’s the job, and we have 17 people around the world spreading the word.
How Wise PR is different
Wise has a clear mission — to build a faster, cheaper, more convenient and transparent way to manage money around the world. The whole company is united in the pursuit of this, and we’re all constantly asking ourselves how we can contribute more.
We drop prices when we create new efficiencies, we innovate to move money at speeds never thought possible, and we fight for transparency in cross-border payments all over the world.
Getting to grips with this means thinking about PR differently. Can you really justify that $100,000 influencer spend if you don’t know if it worked, when it could have contributed to lowering prices from GBP to INR? If your goal is to help consumers understand about exchange rate rip offs, does it matter if Wise is even mentioned in the story?
These are the hard questions that inspire us to find new ways of working.
We’ve built our own PR agency, in-house
There’s a sense that in-house PR is less dynamic than agency land. We don’t think that’s true, and wanted to draw on the creativity that comes from a sparky agency environment, but combine it with the single minded focus of working with one brand. It’s a powerful combination, and has helped us build a diverse, global team with a host of different specialisms, from big company corporate comms geniuses through to consumer creatives, start-up media experts and trilingual ex journalists. We work as one global team to map the company narrative, think up new ideas, and implement multi-market campaigns. We learn from each other and share resources across markets. Everyone from graduates to heads of teams has a clear area of ownership, but support and inspiration from the global team, and we keep each other accountable. This approach helps us stay consistent to the distinctive Wise message and tone of voice, hands on, and close to our product teams who also operate regionally.
That doesn’t mean we stopped hiring PR agencies — we do! But instead of chunky retainers covering a full stack remit for a region, we bring on agency experts with slimmer remits for skills we don’t have in-house, eg. fresh consumer creative or financial comms expertise in new markets where we don’t have local experience or people on the ground.
We stay close to the customer
The PR team’s primary customer is the Wise end user — people moving overseas, freelancers, small business owners and those supporting family back home. These are the people we’re talking to via the news, who need to know about and understand Wise. We have to know how they’re feeling if we’re going to speak their language.
Two members of the PR team started out life as customer support (CS) agents, before joining us a few years into their Wise careers. We’re fortunate that CS is open to regular side-by-sides where we get to see the problems customers face up close, and we even respond directly to queries. We also work closely with CS when news stories break, to help understand what these developments mean for customers.
We measure PR differently
Wise PR has its own data analyst, Katja, who helps us figure out the impact of our work through a whole host of different metrics. It’s a work in progress, and honestly it is HARD. But there’s nothing more satisfying than finding evidence that your PR campaign achieved its goals at a business level, and being able to 10x it later on. Today, alongside the standard industry metrics of quality, quantity and tone of coverage, we’re tracking:
- Customers who heard about Wise via the news, and where
- The relationship between our top pieces of coverage and new customers
- Tangible campaign wins for bringing transparency to cross-border payments, in collaboration with the Government Relations team
- Landing specific messages through the media that most resonate with the problems we’re solving
We’re also experimenting with metrics for brand awareness and the ability of creative PR investment to ‘payback’. These aren’t quick wins, but it’s helping us build a better sense of what works, and filter out less effective approaches so we can concentrate on being high impact.
We ask tough questions before investing customer money
Wise works in autonomous teams with enormous freedom in how each of us approaches reaching our goals. But with great power comes great responsibility. We use the measures above, plus wisdom from our broader Marketing team, to understand the likelihood of a campaign achieving its goals, before we invest money — funds that have ultimately come from our customers — in something we can’t track.
There’s always an element of risk, and we’re never afraid to try new ways of taking our messages to the world. But we try to make that risk as educated as possible. Influencers we’ve worked with over the years include Queer Eye’s Tan France, TOWIE legend Gemma Collins, and Brazil’s meme queen Gretchen, as well as commissioning Belgian cartoonist Lectrr to help us fight for transparency. All of these collaborations taught us more about how to invest in PR campaigns, what works and what doesn’t, and we share those learnings across the world.
Wise PR DNA
Wise PR is a challenge, and a hugely rewarding one – what could be more inspiring than truly knowing the impact of your work, beyond the story in the newspaper. As a fast growing company we’re often hiring in new roles and geographies. We’d love to hear from you, if:
- You care deeply about the problem Wise solves – maybe you’re already a customer, maybe you’re just sick of being ripped off every time you buy holiday money at the Bureau de Change. Either way, you’ve experienced the problem we solve first hand and want to be part of fixing it.
- You’re curious – you believe that PR can make a powerful impact for the customer and in achieving business goals. You’re curious to learn more about how to understand the relationship between your work and outcomes.
- You’re ready to think differently – we learn from industry norms, but you’re not afraid to try new things and break free from the shackles of big company ideology.
Find out more about how to apply, here.