How to Get in the News as a Financial Advisor
5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a PR Firm
It was more than 15 years ago when I first started in the financial industry, and it’s certainly come a long way. In 2003, public relations was mostly unheard of within the industry. I remember an advisor telling me he’d consider public relations in his practice because he likes the public so much. Clearly, the very definition of “public relations” had not yet made its way into the minds and marketing plans of most financial advisors. Since opening the doors to AdvisorPR® in January 2005, the popularity of public relations among financial advisors has only increased. It could be due to the fact that:
- Boomers embarked on their retirement journeys and media wanted to accompany the largest generation through that trek;
- media went through a digital evolution requiring more content to fill their print and digital platforms, so more opportunities became available for advisors to fill; or,
- that some forward-thinking advisors began recognizing the value in building credibility and visibility to their practices by working with the media and the “FOMO” effect (FOMO = fear of missing out,) took place amongst their peers; or,
- all of the above, which is most likely.
So naturally, as the demand for media grew, and advisors became more comfortable with adapting a public relations strategy as part of their marketing mix (which I’m sure our advocacy for PR plays a part in here somewhere), so did the supply of media resources. It was only natural that more public relations firms, the connectors between the expert and the media, would pop up too.
Fast forward to 2017 and advisors today have many more than the handful of service providers that were around in 2005 to choose from. Some PR firms are great and are doing right by their clients, and some not so much…let’s just say we’ve been called upon to “fix” another firm’s doings more than once.
So, caveat emptor—buyer beware. When considering adding or expanding upon your public relations strategy, here are a few questions to consider asking before hiring a PR firm:
- “What’s your focus?” What are your goals as an advisor, and do they align with the PR firm you’re considering? Who do you want your viewing audience to be, and let that guide your decision making. Some firms focus on national media only, others primarily on industry media. Do you only want to be part of national or industry news coverage? Ideally, a PR firm should work to get you exposure in front of the people that you can actually work with, which would be your local media market, while also helping you to build credibility and exposure and furthering your position as a thought leader by bringing you opportunities with national media and industry as well.
- “What’s your specialty?” Does the PR firm’s specialty meet your reach objectives? In addition to media markets, some firms specialize in working with one type of media solely. There are radio-only firms that can be a great resource when promoting a book, for example, but would fall short if the primary objective is “visibility.” Not everyone listens to the radio, watches the news on TV or reads the paper/news site, but most people do at least one. A well-rounded mix of media opportunities is ideal to maximize the many benefits that come with PR. This would include TV, radio, print and online media coverage as each comes with a unique set of benefits. Don’t just pick a firm that only knows how to do one type of PR or one medium. A TV-only firm isn’t going to help you get that exposure in print publications or with the people that choose to read versus watch or listen. Print, because there is almost always an online version, is the most powerful for SEO (search engine optimization), making it easier to find you on the web. Be sure you have a well-rounded approach with your PR efforts and that you’re getting exposure from a wide variety of outlets.
- “What’s your experience in the financial services industry?” Does the firm know what you do? Do they understand compliance? If they don’t, you’re paying not only in money but also your time, for their learning curve. There are a lot of ins and outs that come with the financial services industry, including compliance and the knowledge and understanding of the specific services and expertise you have to offer. This expertise should be reflected through the types of media materials created on your behalf and carry forward to the types of topics you (want to) can speak to when working with the media. The benefit of appearing on TV talking about how to save money back to school shopping will do very little, if anything, in propelling your retirement advising career. In fact, it can do the opposite by creating confusion amongst the people you’re trying to convince to hire you. By working with a firm that specializes in the financial industry, they understand and are able to pitch and secure the opportunities that work best for you, and (hopefully!) in a way that has your compliance team on board.
- “How will you protect (and further!) my brand?” Does the firm understand your ultimate goals and objectives? Do they have the capabilities to cascade those goals through your PR? Many public relations firms solely understand PR, and most often they consider the media their client, and not you, the actual paying client. They’ll ask you to partake in interviews that meet their media contact’s needs, and not your own. From the topics you speak to, to the outlets you appear in, you must make sure your media choices match your goals. Typically, when advisors are ready to embark on a PR strategy, they’ve established their brand through other marketing communications initiatives; PR should be a continuation of this brand and work to further it. It should not be treated as a separate and stand-alone service, but one that takes your marketing and branding into the strategy and execution of your PR.
- “How else can you promote my business through PR?” Does the firm have ideas for ways to keep you in the media by not only following the news but helping you to create the news? PR is not just about you talking about the services you provide. It’s also used to demonstrate your professionalism, your commitment to your profession and your overall role in your community. New training and education acquired can become a PR opportunity. Team expansion, new office or radio show can become a PR opportunity. A firm that has firsthand experience in the financial services industry will be able to recognize that your upcoming event or charitable initiative is also an opportunity to create positive media exposure for your financial planning practice. If you’re committed to a monthly retainer agreement with your PR firm, be sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
When choosing a PR firm to work with, keep these five questions in mind. This is the team responsible for your future fame—be sure they’re up for the job. PR has the ability to live forever online, whether or not it’s good or bad. So choose your PR partner wisely!