Everyone knows that publicity is wonderful when you can get it. But far too many advisors think there is some sort of magic needed to get their name in print or to be interviewed on television or radio. While you could hire a PR firm and use their professional insights and connections to launch your credibility marketing campaign, the truth is, with a little training and focused effort you are likely to get some good traction on your own.

If you'd rather do-it-yourself or can't afford to hire a PR firm, this public relations primer and related future articles will show you how.  And if you're going to hire a PR firm, reading this series will help you understand how to get more mileage out of your working relationship -- and your PR dollars.

Last week in this Marketing Maven space, I talked about what PR is and isn’t. I gave nine examples of financial advisor peers who are doing a great job building their professional reputations, both online and in person.

Bottom line: Public relations is about creating "buzz" by promoting and positively positioning your company so that potential clients are inclined to seek your services when a "triggering event" occurs. It’s building reputation and top of mind awareness. It’s positioning yourself as a thought-leader and others-centered professional.

This week, I’ll explain the differences between “Push” and “Pull” marketing and drill deeper into the Power of PR and why you should add it to your marketing plan.

Differences between Push and Pull Marketing

Think of advertising and direct mail as "push marketing" tactics. You are essentially paying for the privilege of pushing your message out to a targeted group. Good ads and direct mail are full of punchy language aimed at hitting the reader's or viewer’s hot buttons.

In an advertising campaign, you should actually try to stimulate a healthy dose of pain and desire. Your goal is to get the recipient or reader to take immediate action -- which means there should be a call to action built into the end of the piece. (See Using the Right Words and Tone to Connect with People.)

Push marketing takes time and money. Because of this, many advisors avoid it entirely. And who can blame them? It can be tricky coming up with a good headline, a compelling message, and a solid call to action. Of those who do give it a try, a good percentage of them abandon the program just when there might have been results.

Good PR aims to pull interest toward you. It requires an idea that will benefit an audience or the media outlet's readers/viewers, some time, and a bit of speaking and/or writing skill. Since advisors generally see themselves in the business of helping people, coming up with good information or planning an event is the easy part. Making it timely, unique, a little bit fun or slightly offbeat, and 100% others-centered is what trips up most advisors.

Learning how to write an interesting story, construct and deliver an engaging presentation, develop a compelling television segment or deliver a solid pitch isn’t easy. You can, however, hone your skills by working with a presentation coach, studying what other professionals write and present, hiring a writing coach or copywriter, or enrolling for a media-training course such as Media Mastery University.

Advertising Costs More than PR and is Less Credible

Unlike advertising and direct mail, publicity is generally free. Advertorials are really paid ads posing as articles -- not a bad "second best" if you can't get free publicity as the advertorial will be seen as more credible than a traditional ad.  Studies show it takes multiple impressions before a person even notices your presence and begins to absorb your message. So whether you undertake an advertising or a PR campaign, you’ll need to stick with it to get results – that’s another good reason to choose the lower cost option, PR.

In addition to being more costly, advertising is generally seen as less credible than PR. Because advertising and direct mail is paid for by you or your company and directly promotes your company agenda, consumers will likely be on the defensive. They'll be filtering your call to action through a mental filter that defends them against being sold something they don't want or need. This is especially true when there's been negative press about financial institutions such as the banks, mutual fund companies and brokerage houses implicated in recent scandals. Consumers have their scrutiny meters set on high right now -- and that's not likely to change any time soon.

Because PR hinges on building your visibility and reputational capital, it may be hard to measure the ROI in dollars and cents; but common sense and my experience shows that PR can prove to be a powerful part of your marketing plan.

Watch this column. Next week, I’ll give you the inside scoop on how PR firms work and get paid.

As president and CEO of Impact Communications, Inc., Marie leads a dedicated team of marketing communications and PR professionals serving financial institutions and a select group of independent advisors on an exclusive basis. Marie resides in Leawood, KS and can be reached through her website, www.ImpactCommunications.org. For more tips and insights, read her Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry blog at www.MarieSwift.com.