Financial Communications: A Q&A with Bob Zito

Ketchum Zito Financial, a strategic alliance offering management consulting and financial communications services between Ketchum and Zito Partners (ZP), marked the third anniversary of its alliance this week.

David Allan, SVP of Investor Relations at Ketchum, recently sat down with founder Bob Zito to ask him a few questions about the future of financial communications, and the impact of the alliance over the last three years…

What has been the most rewarding element of the alliance over the past three years?
The opportunity to connect with and provide meaningful counsel to Ketchum clients has been very rewarding, as has Ketchum’s ability to support ZP clients on a global scale with specific needs where we may not have the expertise. As a team, we are very proud of some of the accomplishments we have had on behalf of our clients. I’ve always believed our role is “behind the camera” and I feel many of our clients would agree that our work has been especially helpful, especially to the CEOs and management committees we’ve worked with.

What is one thing everyone should know about Ketchum Zito Financial?
Whether helping develop strategy or providing guidance on brand positioning and media outreach, we do not rest until the client is happy. We have a team that is exceptional at what they do, and I believe unmatched in the industry. Having spent 20 years on management committees and nearly double that in corporate roles, I would have welcomed having this team support my internal teams at every stop.

How has the financial communications landscape changed since you’ve entered the business? 
Social media, a diminishing number of media properties and the ability now to speak directly to investors and other key constituents have changed the “tool box” significantly. But two things haven’t changed: the importance of telling a story… and the importance of transparency and building trust. They remain paramount for every organization and individual.

As a 30-plus-year veteran of the financial communications industry, what advice do you have for students and young professionals entering the industry?
Ha! Nice way of saying “hey old-timer,” David. Listen and learn, treat everyone in your organization equally, and be humble. Writing skills remain essential; building contacts across agencies, companies and media remain important. Thus, this is not a profession for someone who feels all of their person-to-person communications can be via a mobile device. This is a “people” business. I need to trust the people I work with, and believe that they will be partners on every assignment. They should be people I would want next to me in a foxhole. Learning from every experience is vital. But the most important thing is leaving the ego behind. I use the phrase “delusions of adequacy” regularly. None of us know everything. Humility is extremely important. Realizing you are part of a team, and bringing your strengths to that team… but listening too, and understanding the input of others is so important.

Where do you see Ketchum Zito Financial at its 10-year anniversary? 
Well, I’ve never been one to guesstimate what “may” happen or where an organization may be in the future, but “word of mouth” endorsements are vital in this industry, and I do believe our body of work and the relationships we’ve built will help us continue to grow. So if we can continue to be a sought after resource for management teams, especially when they face critical strategic issues, we will be just fine in 10 years.

Ketchum formed an alliance with seven-year-old Zito Partners – led by longtime Ketchum client Robert Zito – in May 2014 to provide clients with management consulting and financial communications services. The joint venture combines the depth of resources and experience from Ketchum’s worldwide network and Zito’s decades-long management committee experience in multiple industries.  Zito Partners’ portfolio of clients has ranged from large multi-national firms to start-ups, with the alliance seamlessly working together to strategize, plan and execute for clients’ needs from both the Ketchum and Zito teams.