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Creating a Bigger Buzz

A common reason most advisors don't harness the incredible power of public relations' media outreach is that they don't know where to start. The truth is, it's really not that complicated. Here are 10 tips to generate positive PR for yourself in the coming year.

1. Know your target market
Advisors who focus on a specific niche can better position themselves as experts. It's hard to be all things to all people, neither is it the best PR strategy.

"If there's a social group or type of financial situation, such as helping divorcees, that you're an expert in, the media will pick you out of the pack of 100,000 advisors," says Mark Schoenbeck, chief marketing officer of Genworth Financial. "A reporter never calls us saying, 'Can you connect me with a generic advisor?' They often are looking for a specific type of advisor. The more specific you can be about the people you serve, the better."

2. Research where to be
Know what your ideal clients are reading, listening to and watching. Simply asking your clients about their favorite news sources can prove incredibly valuable and serve as the basis for your PR strategy. "There are a lot of publications and TV programs out there," says Victoria Woods, CEO of ChappelWood Financial Services. "It is simple to Google and get that information."

3. Write articles
By writing articles, you are demonstrating your expertise. Even if the article isn't picked up, you're proving that you can be a source for future coverage on that particular topic.

Look to partner with a strategic alliance such as a lawyer or accountant and co-write an article. Through extra connections and combined credibility, this potentially doubles your chances of being published.

4. Start small
Local newspapers with tight budgets often need content, especially from a local source. This coverage may not confer the highest credibility on you, but it does help get your name better known in your region.

Industry magazines are another great starting point. Even if these publications are not what your ideal clients are reading, this does two things: It delivers credibility by helping to build a list of appearances or articles you can put on your website; and it shows other outlets that you are already vetted, so they'll be more confident using you as a future source. Advisors using this PR strategy will see that the coverage will begin to snowball over time.

5. Build relationships
The press needs great sources, but they get a lot of junk email. They are also often working on tight deadlines. With those obstacles, it can be hard for any advisor to break through the noise and make a connection. One simple way to do this is to send a complimentary note. If anything, members of the press are used to negative responses, so a quick I-loved-your-article email can stand out.

Another approach is to write a note highlighting something they recently produced, stating, "Great topic! If you ever cover it again, please feel free to reach out to me as a source."

One of the best approaches is to just pick up the phone and make a call. When you get through to the journalist, be prepared to sell yourself and your news idea(s) in two minutes, as that is likely all the time you will get.

6. Be newsworthy
A journalist looking for a quote is often looking to cover two sides of a coin: the pros and the cons. If you stand on neutral ground, you are less likely to be included. So have an opinion. With that said, avoid making a false statement, as you do not want to be published on a point that you don't feel strongly about.

"The press needs opinions, so say what is on your mind-something worth quoting," says Sheryl Garrett, founder of The Garrett Planning Network, a group of advisors who charge hourly rates. Kim Dellarocca, director of global marketing at Pershing, reiterates the importance of "having a compelling story." She recommends, "If you are talking on a subject, have three points you want to make and be able to clarify the issue, if needed."

7. Strategically use press releases
Although the spray-and-pray approach seems less and less successful, there's still a time and place to use it. If there's something worth sharing with several outlets at once, consider press releases. Keep it to the point and make sure you use a header that is an attention grabber or it might never be read.

Carol Graumann, president of public relations firm, JCPR, says, "The newswires can act as an effective tool when leveraged in a smart way, as they enable multiple news outlets to potentially pick up your announcement instantaneously, assuming you are releasing hard news." Hard news might include the launch of a business or product, an anniversary, a big change in senior management, and other company events and actions.

Carol adds, "On the other hand, we've found that it's less effective to use the newswire for softer news or advertising purposes, such as announcing the launch of a new marketing campaign. We always try to ask ourselves and our clients, 'Will this announcement be of interest to a reporter?' Using the newswire to simply advertise can potentially damage your credibility over the long-term if done too frequently and without broader strategic objectives in mind."

8. Be accessible
The value that you are providing to a reporter is twofold: You want to present strong content, but you also need to be a dependable source. That means being on time for scheduled meetings and returning calls in minutes, instead of hours. The sooner you can contribute the more likely you will be covered.

Benjamin Tobias, president of Tobias Financial Advisors, says, "I make myself available. My office knows that they can interrupt me when the press calls. I'll answer the phone, if I am with a client and ask 'Are you on deadline?' If not, I ask if I can call them back. If so, I will take the time to answer the questions."

9. Share any publicity
Once you get positive PR, use it. It's nice to get coverage, but if prospects don't see or hear it, it might not be worth the effort. Use PR on your website, social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, in marketing collateral and as reprints.

Julia Tanen, managing director at the public relations firm KCSA's Boston office, recommends repurposing PR. "Just because you got an article in the paper doesn't mean your clients have seen it," she says. She suggests sending out a short note every time you get a media hit, and to even put the recent links below your signature line in your email.

Don't go another year without positive publicity. PR is just one of the tools in the marketing toolbox, but it's one that is free. Because it's inexpensive, make sure you are fully utilizing it before spending a lot on other marketing programs.

10. Use resources
Your broker-dealer or financial institution should have media relations teams that work with the press every day. Let them know you are interested in getting positive PR. Also, there are plenty of other firms that can be of assistance, like fund companies and technology vendors.

There are two approaches that are advisable to take with these intermediaries: the "I need your advice on how to get coverage" approach or the "I do x amount of business with you each year" approach. Whether you're acting naïve or pushing your weight around, the goal is to get on the radar screen of the media teams. If you're top of mind, you're more likely to be suggested the next time there is an inquiry to reach out to an advisor.

Alternatively, use a consultant or an agency. Although there will be a fee involved, these professionals come with preestablished contacts to help you get the coverage you want.

Mike Byrnes is founder and president of Byrnes Consulting in Boston, a firm specializing in business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness. For more information, visit byrnesconsulting.com.

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