I occasionally receive calls from advisors who are curious about getting exposure in newspapers, magazines, television, and other media. Many want to know, "Can financial advisors use PR to boost credibility?" The answer is yes, for some—but embarking on a PR campaign certainly isn't right for everyone.
The first lesson about PR is that it is not a direct path to new business. The bump in referrals or new client acquisitions is likely to be minimal. If your objective is to increase short-term production, a PR campaign probably isn't your best bet. But if your goal is to build a reputation as an expert in your niche or specialty, then PR can be a sound long-term investment. So, where should you start?
The first step in gaining media exposure is to research the publications and media professionals you want to solicit. One option is to purchase a database with names, contact information, and detailed background information for just about every media outlet in the country. Unfortunately, these tools usually cost between $3,000 and $5,000. For a local campaign, on the other hand, a little hunting and gathering can help you build a target list at no cost.
- For each publication, find the reporter, editor, or producer who covers financial topics or your particular specialty. You can do this simply by perusing the media outlet's content until you find the best match.
- Review the advertising section on the outlet's website for information about audience demographics. If you can find the editorial calendar for print publications, that's even better. It should list themes for upcoming issues, and you can use this information to pitch ideas for specific stories.
- Find the contact information for the specific media professionals to whom you'd like to pitch. Since you haven't yet built relationships with these individuals, it's probably best to initiate contact via e-mail. Search online until you can find the exact e-mail address. Try to avoid sending messages to generic e-mail addresses (e.g., editor@ or info@), and always address your message to a specific person, rather than "Dear Editor."
Once you're ready, you'll want to pitch ideas to members of your target list on a consistent and ongoing basis. As you brainstorm topics, try to think from the perspective of an editor or a producer. Editors are most concerned with content that is:
- Most appealing to the publication's audience
This may seem simplistic, but it's the golden rule of PR. Always keep these ideas top of mind. You should also consider current events, hot topics, and demographics. It's even helpful to research a reporter's past work so you can pitch stories based on his or her areas of focus. Specificity can get you noticed.
How to deliver? There are many ways to deliver your pitch. You might start a new relationship with an editor by source filing. This tactic involves sending a short message to introduce yourself as a future source. This message should include a bulleted list of five to six specific topics on which you can contribute quotes or content.
Next, start sending short pitches approximately once every one to two months. In these messages, you can:
- Offer to give a quote about a timely topic
- Provide a financial spin on a current event
- Propose writing an article or ongoing column
- Suggest an article for a future theme in the editorial calendar
The best pitches are short sound bites with only three or four sentences:
- They are specific.
- They emphasize legitimate value to the outlet's readers or viewers.
- They never sound like a sales pitch.
Should You Hire an Expert?
If all of this sounds like a time-consuming commitment, you're right. In fact, many advisors find it difficult to sustain a PR campaign over time. The alternative is to hire a freelance professional or an agency to do the work for you:
- These firms bring extensive knowledge about PR.
- They can dedicate sufficient time to nurture your campaign.
- The best PR professionals have preexisting relationships with media professionals, making it much easier to get your foot in the door.
But, of course, there are downsides:
- PR firms aren't cheap. They may charge from $2,000 to $5,000 a month.
- It can take four to six months before you get meaningful results.
- PR professionals often face a high learning curve, as they aren't always knowledgeable of financial concepts or our industry's regulatory guidelines.
With these hurdles, hiring a firm can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Be sure to do due diligence before signing an agreement.
10 Tips for PR Campaigns
If you decide that you'd like to go the DIY route for your PR campaign, what are the best strategies? Here are 10 tips to consider before diving in:
1) Use social media. Twitter has become an increasingly important vehicle for connecting and engaging with reporters and editors. If you engage publicly, they're more likely to notice you and engage back. You might also get useful information by connecting with these professionals via LinkedIn.
2) Start small. Even if your ultimate goal is national exposure, start with smaller local publications that will help you build a track record and showcase your PR acumen.
3) Sign up for Google Alerts. Monitor your PR results with this free service that e-mails you any blurbs about you and your firm that show up online.
4) Track details. Stay organized by tracking PR research and pitches in your CRM system.
5) Promote your successes. Be sure to leverage your media hits by sharing reprints with clients, posting messages on your website (especially your homepage) and social media profiles, displaying articles in your lobby, and adding reprints to your prospect kit.
6) Be urgently responsive. Remember that media professionals operate on tight deadlines, so return voice mails and e-mails immediately.
7) Don't waste time on a press kit. Developing materials for a full-fledged press kit is often unnecessary for small businesses. A brochure, website, and biography are usually sufficient.
8) Get a high-resolution head shot (now!). Have a high-resolution portrait in electronic format (.jpg is usually the best option).
9) Don't mention that you're an advertiser. Although some media professionals break this rule, don't suggest that they should accept your pitch because you're also an advertiser. This is a conflict of interest that can be perceived poorly.
10) Assess communication skills. The media will expect quality written and verbal responses that are concise. Be sure to candidly assess your communication strengths and weaknesses.
The Power of PR
Considering all of this, can financial advisors use PR to boost credibility? The answer can surely be "yes"—as long as you first determine your PR goals and then develop a strategy that works for you. For the right advisors, implementing a successful PR campaign can be a powerful tool with long-term results.
Have you had success in using PR to boost your firm's credibility? Did you hire a firm or do it yourself? Please share your thoughts with us below.