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How to build media exposure without a P.R. firm

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Media exposure can help an advisory practice in many ways including improving credibility, providing free exposure and giving an adviser a solid voice in the profession.

Here is how you to build a media presence, without the aid of a pricey public relations firm:

Deliver value and passion. The first key to working with the media successfully is to passionately offer information that adds value to others. By providing good evidence and material, an adviser can become a regular resource for journalists.

This is “earned media.”

Even if a firm’s service is holistic, there might be one area of the practice about which to be particularly excited. Identify it, learn everything about that field and prepare to share that information with the world.

Share one’s passion with peers. My medical background led to my enthusiasm for topics that intersected medicine and personal finance. Early in my planning career, I recognized that I could help clients get better insurance rates by making certain that they had clean medical records and tidied up any health problems before submitting an application.

I put together a talk for my study group on how I did this, and they were floored by the information. This led to an invitation to speak at a financial planning conference.

My session was attended by a member of the press and resulted in my first interview.

Over the years, I have developed more topics of interest that are of value to advisers and their clients, and I have communicated them in various ways.

Discussions about health care reform, dealing with money issues during serious and terminal illness, and elder financial safety issues became very hot themes for talks and authored articles. The press then picks up the information and shares it with readers.

This has helped me build my public presence.

Give back to the profession. All professions require sharing between peers, so experts can learn from each other. This is where membership organizations come into play for advisers.

Some organizations provide media training to board members so that they know how to work with the press, which is incredibly valuable. Additionally, the press regularly calls the organizations directly to interview board members.

Advisers should also make it a point to attend conferences. Journalists also frequent conferences to get story ideas, and they often seek to talk to advisers who are there.

Advisers should introduce themselves, ask what the journalist writes about and suggest topics that they would like to read about. There is a good chance that these advisers will be interviewed.

Be active on social media. Journalists appreciate feedback and the sharing of their work. Online journalists are often measured by the number of clicks that their articles receive.

When an adviser sees a piece that he or she likes in the press or are included in an article, tell the journalist and share it on social media. Be sure to clearly point to the publication and the author in all posts.

Advisers who have a comment that could improve a piece or be fodder for a future article should share their thoughts with the writer through email or a phone call.

Be authentic, kind and vocal in social-media posts.

Touchy and controversial subjects can become great articles, so be brave and address tough subjects in these posts. However, never attack a person.

Respectfully engage those who share different points of view.

In addition, be generous in sharing the work of others and giving them credit.

Respect journalist deadlines. Journalists are frequently on very tight deadlines. Advisers who are unable to speak with a journalist immediately should find out the deadline.

Write down talking points before an interview.

Keep answers concise and quotable. Stay on topic, and don’t ramble.

Think in terms of tweets. After sharing one’s thoughts, try to sum up points that would easily fit into a tweet.

It is OK to be controversial, if the points can be backed up.

Don’t fake it until you make it. Advisers who don’t know the answer to a question shouldn’t wing it. Advisers should tell the journalist that they don’t know but will find out or refer a source who will.

Blowing smoke is an instant credibility killer, and the journalist will likely never call back someone who fakes an answer.

Don’t think about asking to see an article before it goes to print. This just isn’t done in journalism.

Those who demand this will likely never hear from that journalist again.

Most of the time, the publication will do a fine job. Every now and again, mistakes will be made.

Let the insignificant mistakes go, and bring the journalist’s attention to the larger ones.

On rare occasions, the journalist may portray an adviser negatively. Let that go, too, and be more careful when next working with that journalist.

And never get too attached to the outcome of one article.

How does this translate into business? Metrics on a media presence can’t be measured directly. Marketing is a constant process.

Advisers should deliver incredible service, be a reliable resource to clients, be authentic, share their passion for what they do and keep clients happy. Word will get around.

A media presence helps build credibility with clients and could lead to referrals. If happy clients see their adviser in the press, they are proud, and they will often tell their friends.

During one of my appearances on CNBC, a client happened to be working out in his country club gym. He saw me on television and screamed, “That’s my financial planner!”

It doesn’t get any better than that. There is a reason that new clients at my firm come from existing ones, despite the fact that we never ask for referrals.

And our marketing budget? Zero.

It takes time and effort, but working with the media can have incredible rewards. Advisers should find their passion and go for it.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on strategies to boost your practice. It was originally published on March 13.

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