What’s at stake when you attempt to misrepresent yourself and your accomplishments—your credibility.
I’m guessing you’re familiar with the term “fake news” by now. We see it everywhere we look these days and it appears in many forms—from the satire of Saturday Night Light and the hoaxes of Bigfoot sightings to poorly reported journalism and the actual “fake news” websites that spread disinformation.
It’s these last two types of fake news—the kind that should be trusted or that’s made to look real—that’s most damaging. When we hear a story that closely mirrors the truth, but turns out to be false—that’s when we begin to question the credibility of all news stories coming out of a news outlet. That’s when the trust factor between the media source and a consumer goes right down the drain.
As financial professionals, you also run the risk of losing that “trust factor” with your clients and prospects if you fall prey to what is known as “fake PR.” While fake news has hit the mainstream, fake PR remains in the shadows, but make no mistake; it’s a type of deception that could impact you, your business and your credibility if you are not careful. In fact, one misrepresentation can make all other accomplishments you’ve worked hard to obtain over the course of your career lose perceived value as a result. And as a financial representative, fake PR can get you in trouble – a lot of trouble – with regulatory bodies if your fake PR is uncovered. (Think Dateline 2008 among others.)
What to Avoid
Like the new breed of fake news, the kind that’s dressed up to look like real news, fake PR has an air of authenticity that only begins to show suspicion under closer inspection. Let’s take a closer look at four of the most prominent forms of fake PR so you will know what to avoid:
1. Fake TV Interviews: Some TV spots are not what they appear to be. Yes, there are lights, cameras, action… in some cases, there are even TV personalities interviewing a financial professional for his or her insights. And you know what? It’s fake. It’s all fake. Even the fern between the interviewer and advisor is fake. You know what’s not fake? The damage you do to your credibility by appearing in one of these late-night infomercials in a market across the country or jazzed-up YouTube videos that try to pass as a legitimate news interview. These are a sham, and you do not want to be associated with them.
2. Publish or Perish: You want your name or byline in a major magazine or newspaper. Nothing wrong so far, but understand three potential outcomes are in play:
- An editor accepts your pitch and runs your story. All is good.
- You pay the magazine to run your byline. There are pseudo “magazines” where selling editorial pages is how they make their money; they don’t actually send those publications to subscribers. Some like to rope you in by conducting the interview first, and then explaining they won’t publish the story unless you pay them after you’ve already invested your time in the interview or article development. This is a deception, and if you show this to clients without disclosing that money changed hands for you to be in the publication, you are misrepresenting yourself and your accomplishments.
- The piece is a paid advertorial, and “advertorial” is clearly stated on the page. Most people understand that “ad” means advertising. So to say it’s legitimate media coverage, such as, “I was in X magazine,” while in reality, you paid to be there, you’re setting yourself up for a potentially uncomfortable conversation. In all cases, it’s important to be as transparent as possible with your clients and prospective clients. If you didn’t “earn” the media placement, don’t try to pass it off as you did.
3. Magazine Covers: In the age of Photoshop, people putting themselves on the covers of mainstream magazines has gone, for lack of a better word, mainstream. Some people also find themselves at industry events with such luminaries as Warren Buffet. In short order, they have their image cropped and designed with a catchy headline like “The Captains of Industry!” These fake covers are fun conversation starters, but if you have one on your office wall, or worse yet on your website, you will want to disclose to any clients the true nature of the image.
4. Media Logos: Using media logos when you have not worked with a media outlet is a big no-no, yet appears to have become more common amongst less scrupulous financial professionals. If you have not appeared in The Wall Street Journal, you cannot say you have. A quick google search of “your name and Wall Street Journal” will quickly show a prospective client that you are completely misrepresenting your exposure, leading them to question your credibility. Not only is this deceptive, but this is considered “misrepresentation” and a regulatory no-no too.
Take No Shortcuts
Fake PR is often about taking shortcuts. Think about the way you run your business. If you take short cuts, you set yourself up for failure. The same goes with PR. If you cut a corner here with a fake magazine cover or bend a rule there by representing yourself as having worked with a major media outlet when you haven’t, you will eventually be found out. Today’s investors are savvy and they or their attorney, accountant or children will do the due diligence and separate the falsehoods from reality. There’s no coming back with a prospective client after you’ve been found out for using fake PR.
Credibility is King
In a real PR strategy, a public relations firm works with the media to highlight your expertise and insights by telling your story or announcing your accomplishments. This is all done through credible third-party media outlets such as newspapers, TV news programs, radio shows, internet reference sites and the like. They can also help you to navigate through the world of “fake PR” and keep you on track with only working with real news outlets. With every column, appearance or interview, you are building trust with your audience. Remember, your primary objective in securing PR is to establish your credibility. Fake PR will do the exact opposite of that.
If you are ready to take the next step in growing you and your brand as a credible source, we are here to help. Contact AdvisorPR at (866)888-5333 or email us at Info@advisorpr.com.