Last week, I provided information about working with a PR firm on a pay-for-placement basis, a scenario that typically makes the most sense if you just need a micro-burst of activity. The problem for many sole practitioners and small planning firms is that working with a PR firm in any way, shape or form is generally too expensive to even consider.

This week, we'll talk about a more affordable option: Group Training and Empowerment Programs -- which can be a very attractive option if you can find the right group.

As a quick recap, there are five basic structures for working with a PR firm:

1.  Retainer Plans

2.  Hourly Service Plans

3.  Project Work Plans

4.  Pay-for-Placement Fees

5.  Group Training and Empowerment Programs

OPTION #5: GROUP TRAINING AND EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMS

I am often asked if there are any media training and public relations programs that make sense for financial advisors. The good news is that custodians, broker/dealers and other industry groups have long offered value-added services for members and advisors who partner with them.

Check to see if the organizations to which you belong offer group media training and empowerment programs; typically, they will ask you to pay a small participation fee. Associations such as NAIFA, NAAIM, NAPFA and FPA may offer group media training sessions in connection with their national and/or regional conferences.

Networks such as the Garrett Planning Network and other companies such as National Advisors Trust Company, TD Ameritrade Institutional and Financial Network Investment Corporation may bundle training and media coaching services into membership dues or conference programming.

You may also find that small-group retainer services are available through your broker/dealer’s PR firm. For instance, Securities America was one of the first independent broker/dealers in the nation see the need and offer a program called PR Mastermind, a service that offered media leads, professional pitching, interview preparation and critiques, news release creation and localized distribution, news wire placement, media training, ghostwritten articles, and compliance coordination to groups of 10 like-minded but geographically dispersed advisors.

I know of a couple broker/dealers and custodians that have helped certain advisors within their fold get the media relations assistance they desired (sometimes sharing the cost of services and benefitting from a swell in brand awareness). Fees ranged from:

$1700-2000 per advisor for a three-month media coaching program done via webinar and teleconference service

$1000-2000 per month per advisor for a one-year, small-group retainer plan with services provided via webinar and teleconference service

$4000-5000 per month per advisor for a full-service PR retainer (works just like an individual PR retainer but services are shared by 2 or more advisory firms who share costs, synergy and mutual benefits)

$5000-9000 per day for in-person media training and filmed mock interview coaching in a small group setting

The best thing to do is to inquire. If the organization, custodian or broker/dealer does not currently offer group training and empowerment programs related to public relations, they may be inspired to begin offering these types of group solutions if enough advisors ask. At a minimum, they should be able to refer you to 2-3 reliable resources, sometimes called “Affinity Partners” who have been vetted by the referring institution.

My firm offers an “open enrollment” course called Media Mastery University (MMU) as a way to help independent advisors obtain coaching, media training, writing assistance, media leads, and targeted media lists so that they can do their own pitching as an MMU graduate. Check http://www.impactcommunications.org/ for Affinity Partner discounts. WealthVest, an independent field marketing organization, offers marketing credits to MMU (www.wealthvest.com/downloads/Impact-Communications-MMU.pdf).

Another example of a group solution: Lizbeth Chapman, a PR professional who founded Ink & Air (http://www.inkandair.com/), offers a menu of reasonably priced services including the opportunity to be a part of her monthly pitch digest, a newsletter of sorts that goes out to hundreds of personal finance journalists ($1000 per month to participate). 

If approached, most PR firms will consider creating a shared-retainer plan or suite of deliverables for a small group of likeminded advisors.

Advantages of group scenarios could include:

Reduced costs

Peer sharing

Professional advice

Media training

Templates for news releases, press kits, etc.

Interview reminder lists

Interview preparation

Course manual and/or workbook

Access to team of PR professionals

Real media leads

Pro-active pitching

Newswire placement services

Ghost-written articles

Targeted media list creation

Social media set up and post

Compliance coordination

Disadvantages of group scenarios include:

May need to share content with other advisors in the group

May need to develop your own content

Will need to attend classes and/or group meetings as outlined

May not feel kinship with other advisors in the group

Group program may go too fast or too slow for you

Cannot stop and start when you’d like

Depending on the size of the group, may not be personal enough for you

Not as flexible as a service plan developed just for you

WHAT’S AHEAD?

In the coming weeks I’ll answer these additional questions that I hear time and again from financial advisors:

Does it ever make sense to advertise?

What’s the best way to leverage the press I get?

How can I land more interviews on my own?

What are the biggest rookie blunders?

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 and Industry Leaders in the Community Building. Learn more at: www.fpanet.org

*  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

___________

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 can be reached through her website, www.ImpactCommunications.org.