Most seasoned financial professionals have received media inquiries – commonly called “press requests” – from journalists who are working on a story and looking for sources. Responding quickly, concisely and compellingly is essential if you want to stand out from other professionals who may be vying for attention. Journalists will often send the same press request to a number of organizations as well as their go-to list of contacts, so being quick to reply and hitting the bull’s eye is key.
How does the journalist or producer decide whether to interview you or another expert? Certainly, part of who gets chosen (and who doesn’t) may be based upon who responds fastest. But it also heavily depends on who provides the best sound bites. Put yourself in the journalist’s place: he or she has a limited amount of time or space to convey their story; the most concise and memorable response can not only capture the attention of their audience but keep them reading or watching.
Developing the ability to speak and write in sound bites is not always easy, but you’re more likely to master the art of capturing the journalist’s attention if you incorporate the following tips into your media responses.
1. THINK AND SPEAK IN TWEETS
How many people take ten sentences to say what could be said in one or two? Don’t be that person. Twitter allows 140 characters to say what you want to say. Use that as your guide to develop the ultimate sound bite. Your response should be no more than one to two sentences long.
Here are some good examples:
“Defining wealth by what you see can be very misleading. I've found that Ferrari owners can struggle to make payments, and multimillionaires may choose to ride their bike to work.” – Brian Parker, CFP®, co-founder of EP Wealth Advisors in a WSJ.com article on money and the perception of wealth
“To understand someone’s financial DNA is to understand the financial demons they may deal with. For example, do you think about money from a history of abundance or scarcity?” – Wayne von Borstel, CLU, ChFC, CFP®, founder of Von Borstel & Associates in a WSJ.com article on financial planning basics
2. BE SPECIFIC AND COLORFUL
In an interview with Business Week, an analyst for Avondale Partners, LLC, was talking about the stocks of two railroad companies: Union Pacific and Burlington Northern. Here’s the language he used to turn an otherwise boring statistical trend into something truly memorable:
"It's one thing if you steal dirt from my front yard, and it's another if you break into my house and take my sterling silver. For six quarters, Union Pacific's been walking around Burlington Northern's house and taking as much silver, jewels and flat-screen TVs they can get their hands on."
His comments are colorful and specific. Of all the analysts who could have been quoted, Donald Broughton’s fluent use of sound bites earned a place in the article.
3. HAVE A DEFINITIVE POINT OF VIEW
Many people prefer to appear neutral in order to avoid offending anyone with an opposing viewpoint (or worry their compliance department will go nuts). But remember that journalists are looking for clearly expressed opinions. Besides, are you really contributing anything if what you say never elicits commentary or debate?
Sheryl Garrett, CFP, founder of the Garrett Planning Network, rarely shies away from a strong opinion. She was quoted in an article in The New York Times:
“I think very few people need a full-time financial planner,” said Ms. Garrett, whose network includes a group of approximately 300 certified financial planners who charge hourly or flat fees. “There are people who do, like the proverbial little old lady from Peoria whose deceased husband took care of all the finances, or maybe you’re a very busy individual who doesn’t want to be bothered.”
Garrett explained she wasn’t opposed to the idea of paying a certified financial planner a percentage of your total assets - often 1 percentage point for comprehensive financial planning. “I just think it’s being way oversold, and the price is pretty steep.”
Garrett tries to tell it like it is, at least as it occurs to her. That’s one of the reasons she is quoted so frequently in top-tier media outlets and has become a go-to resource for dozens of journalist across the country.
4. REPEAT OR RHYME