Many financial advisors are able to successfully pitch their own story ideas, place their own bylined content with reputable media outlets and navigate the PR waters on their own without the help of a professional PR firm or marketing consultant.
Whichever way you decide to go -- do-it-yourself of professionally-assisted -- if you want to generate more interviews and media success, you’ll want to steer clear of these harmful (and potentially fatal) rookie blunders.
1. Be hard to reach.
Journalists have demanding deadlines. If you’re unavailable, they’ll quote the person who was. And they’ll go back to that person when they need a resource in the future.
Make yourself accessible and do what you say you’re going to do. If you promise to send supporting materials by a certain time and day, be sure you are on time and on target. Offer to be available, outside of standard business hours. They will come back to a source they can depend on.
2. Pitch to the wrong person or place.
This is totally disrespectful and shows you are not familiar with the writer and/or the outlet. Instead: Do your research. Familiarize yourself with the journalist or outlet. Read and listen so that you don’t pitch topics that aren’t valuable to their audience -- or something the journalist or outlet just recently covered.
3. Send boring, evergreen ideas.
Instead: Send a brief pitch or story idea, making every word count. Use a strong headline as your hook. Be sure your pitch answers the questions “why should I write/cover this topic now?” and “how will this help my readers/audience?”
4. Incessantly toot your own horn.
Journalists are looking for quality content that will appeal to their readership. If you can give them that, then you are promoting yourself without a hard sell.
To stand out from the crowd: Find a unique angle to pitch. Keep an idea file to inspire you. Work in some statistics or client stories. Talk about economic trends or industry trends and how they affect the outlet’s readers/viewers.
5. Neglect to prepare for an interview or show up late.
Just like you wouldn’t go into a meeting with a client late or without preparation, you shouldn’t go into an interview without being ready, focused and on time. Believe it or not, #5 on our “Don’t List” happens more often than you might imagine.
Instead: Get ready for the interview. Find out what the journalist wants to cover. Think about the best way to respond, and work from your notes. Provide quality answers. Have some good statistics and colorful quote or client stories ready.
Know your topic and if you can’t answer a question, refer them to someone who can (for instance, a strategic partner who would be happy to be a part of the story), or offer to provide them with an answer later. Then make sure you do get back to them as soon as possible.
6. Require an interview you when you could answer with a brief email.
Remember, journalists are working against the clock. Package your information efficiently to make their lives easier.
7. If you decide to call and pitch a story idea on the phone, don’t drone on and on.
Instead: get right to the point. State your name and company and say you are calling with a story idea on xyz topic. Ask if now is a good time to talk. If yes, start with your most compelling comments first; talk for one minute and ask if he or she would like you to go on. If now is not a good time to talk, find out when would be a better time and offer to call back then; keep your word.
8. If you are meeting in person, don’t ask if you can take your picture with them or try to buy them an expensive meal.
It’s not that they don’t like to socialize or be friendly, but journalists need to maintain some semblance of distance and objectivity.
Once the interview or meeting has taken place, send a brief recap via email. Many writers appreciate it when you can give them a written comment they can use. Be sure you include a complete e-signature with every communication. Include your mobile information if you are willing to work with them after standard business hours.
9. Pitch when the journalist is on deadline -- and don’t become a pest.
Get to know the media outlet’s publication rhythm. A good rule of thumb is to pitch ideas first thing in the morning when the journalist is not fatigued by the pressures of the day. You might also learn over time that xyz magazine is “closing” that month’s issue on, say, the third week of every month—so you would avoid pitching or being seen as a pest during that week.
10. Expect to be quoted every time.
A journalist usually needs three or four sources in every story but they cannot quote the same person too often. As you develop a relationship, they may ask you to speak with them “on background” so that they have a better sense of a particular topic or trend. You may not be quoted but it’s a good sign that the writer has begun to think of you as a go-to resource. Stay helpful and accessible. Don’t keep score.
11. Never ask to see their piece before it runs or (gasp) tell the journalist that you need to run any portion of their article through compliance, pre-publication.
This is a sure-fire way to alienate a journalist. Remember that they are working on deadline and that this is THEIR story. If the story carried your byline, then this would be totally different: you would have complete control over the content and you would want to run it through compliance to ensure nothing is problematic before it runs in a media outlet.
(You will, however, need to review the article/clip once it runs to ensure it is client-friendly and meets compliance rules before using it as marketing material.)
12. Forget to say thanks.
Once the story runs, send a short note commenting on the story. Thank them for including you and offer to be of assistance in the future.
If you were misquoted or there is some glaring inaccuracy in the piece that ran, think twice before firing off an email to request a change. (1) A change may not be possible (2) you may burn a bridge you wish you hadn’t. Talk with your PR consultant or a trusted colleague before calling or sending any form of criticism.
13. Neglect to stay in touch.
If you have a good story idea in the future, get back in touch and offer to get together in person or on the phone to discuss why you think it’s a timely topic now. Or put a short synopsis in an email and follow up by phone if you don’t receive a reply within a reasonable length of time.
Use the article or clip to build your credibility. Post a short summary of the article on your Web site and link to it if it’s available online. Mention the article and your participation in client correspondence or company newsletters. Update your bio or company literature. Consider purchasing reprints to leave in your lobby or handout at seminars. Order a lacquered plaque if you’ve been profiled in a major publication. For more tips on leveraging the press, read last week's Market Maven blog post.
Consider enrolling for a course such as Media Mastery University if you can’t afford to hire a PR firm on a retainer basis but would like to obtain a variety of tools, templates, training and a localized media contacts list. To understand the various ways PR firms work with financial advisors, peruse the list of articles in the Marketing Maven archive at the bottom of this entry.
This fall, I’ll be speaking at a number of conferences. Look for me at the following events:
-- September 14-17: FPA National Convention in San Diego. Presenting “Twitter Live with Industry Thought Leaders” on the Professional Pavilion Stage and hosting a special Round Table Discussion on the “State of the Financial Planning Profession” with Bob Veres, Cameron Thornton, John Brackett, Michael Kay, Stephanie Bogan and other Industry Leaders in the Community Building. Learn more at: http://www.fpanet.org/ or just watch my Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry blog.
-- September 24: Fairfield University in Fairfield CT. Presenting a full-day workshop on Building Your Online Presence for FPA-CT and FPA Hudson Valley. FPA members, non-members and business people in the community are all invited to attend (attendees to not need to be financial advisors). Details at http://www.marieswift.com/ and www.fpact.org
-- October 13-14: Tiburon CEO Summit in San Francisco. Attending and providing conference services onsite. Find the invitation criteria at: www.tiburonadvisors.com
-- October 24-27: NAPFA Practice Management and Investments Conference in Brooklyn. Conducting half-day Social Media Boot Camp as a pre-conference offering as well as a session on public relations and a round table discussion on marketing, PR and social media during the main conference. Details at: www.NAPFA.org
Marie Swift is a nationally recognized consultant who has for over twenty years worked exclusively with some of the industry’s top financial institutions, training organizations, investment advisory and financial planning firms. Her “Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry” blog provides additional insights and advice. Find it at http://www.marieswift.com/. Get breaking news at www.twitter.com/marieswift or connect with her via Facebook or LinkedIn.