Do It Yourself Public Relations vs. Hiring the Experts


DIYHow to decide which approach is right for your business…

Public relations, or the process of seeking media placements in targeted outlets, can be as simple or as in depth as you want it to be. It all depends on the time you want to invest, the results you desire and the speed to which you want to achieve them.

“Do it yourself” public relations involves planning and research initially, but can be maintained after the preliminary work is done. First, and possibly the most important aspect of public relations, is to define what exactly you’re looking for. There are several different outcomes that can occur from public relations efforts. How do you want PR to work for you? Do you want to be the local expert in your community and comment on relevant news; do you want to have your professional accomplishments highlighted in the paper; do you want to be a guest on a local radio or television station explaining financial strategies; do you want a feature story on your practice and its impact on the community in the local paper… Define your purpose and goals for media opportunities, and then develop the media strategy to get you there.

As Teddy Roosevelt said best, “If you aim at nothing you’re liable to hit it.” Be sure you have a plan for working with the media.

The next step to a media campaign is research, equally important as the implementation process of a successful media campaign, is to define who your target media is. A term often generalized as your “media list.” Who writes about financial topics in the local paper? Who’s the segment producer at your favorite news station? Does your favorite radio show bring on local experts as guest? Who highlights local business professionals and their accomplishments in the local paper or business press? Define the key media who dictate what’s reported in the news.

Third, contact them. What’s their preferred means on contact? E-mail, fax, phone or snail mail? Remember what your purpose is. If it’s to be in the news, provide them a story idea to which you would be a credible resource for. If it’s to become a featured story, create an outline of the story, and define why it would be of interest to their readers. Provide them a media kit, a list of your accomplishments, education, areas of expertise… Share with them what a national story means to the local economy. Be creative, but be resourceful. No one likes their time being wasted, target the right media contact with a story idea that works for them. Much like a recent college graduate having to tailor a resume for each specific company or job they apply for, your media campaign needs to be relevant to the outlet to which you want coverage.

And lastly, there are rarely any one-hit wonders in PR. If you contact your media only one time, don’t expect significant results. PR is a process, and involves constant communication with your targeted media contacts. As in any area of life, it takes time to build a relationship, trust and respect for another person. Become a lasting resource to your media, and for best results, stay in their radar. They may not be writing the story about a topic you’ve shared with them today, but tomorrow they might. Be sure you’re the advisor they’re coming to for information, and not your competition!

If the process of PR seems like an overwhelming task, but you desire the results that come along with it, you might want to consider hiring a public relations firm. A firm will have the know-how and expertise to help you define your goals, and the media contacts that can help you reach them. But there are things you need to consider when seeking outside counsel. The following points can help you choose a firm that’s right for you and greatly improve your media placements and the purpose behind them.

1) Work with a firm that understands your purpose. The financial services industry is vast, and your practice most likely serves a certain niche or areas of expertise. Be sure your media representative understands your goals as a financial advisor, and the spin your media campaigns need to follow. For example, if your target market is retirees, then there is no purpose for you to comment on college planning. Yes, it falls under the financial planning umbrella, but could prove to be a big waste of time to you and your practice. The last thing you want is a story placement that is irrelevant, or worse, counter productive to your purpose. Be certain that the PR counsel you retain understands how to position your services.

2) Deliver quality over quantity. You (most likely) do not want to be the subject of an investigative reporter. A PR firm that is novice to the financial services industry might think you’d be a good resource for an Dateline investigative report. A firm that is more versed in the industry might stop to consider the spin of the story, is it negative or is it positive to the financial advisory industry. I am a strong believer that no news in this situation is better than being the “expert” quoted in a negative story. Some time ago, I had a call from a reporter at a top five major daily newspaper who was seeking an expert resource on a financial topic. After speaking in depth with the reporter, I realized the story was going to be written to portray a product in a negative light. I would be doing no service to a client who specialized in the product by placing them in a story of that nature. When in doubt, opt out.

3) Understands product vs. process. Powerful media is on the processes offered by you or your firm. You are not selling products; you’re selling the solutions to which these products offer. The benefit to working with someone who “gets” what you do is their ability to look at your practice’s function from several different angels and develop media campaigns that promote the processes you offer in a positive manner.

PR firms can bring definite value to a financial practice if done effectively. They can bring the skill and expertise to gain mass media placements, just be sure the platforms and story topics are worthy of your time. Invest yourself where you get the most return. Whether that is with “do-it-yourself” public relations or through a PR firm, define your media goals and reach them through the public relations strategies that work for you.

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