Paying for publicity: Is it worth the cost?

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Retail pioneer John Wanamaker is credited with saying, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I don't know which half."

That difficulty might also apply to the dollars that flow from advisers to public relations firms.

“It’s not easy to quantify the results from hiring a PR firm,” says Joe Belfatto, managing partner at Massey Quick, a wealth management firm in Morristown, N.J.

Nevertheless, some advisers think that hiring a PR firm has upgraded their practice.

“We wanted a PR firm with a reasonable number of clients, so we could be confident of the level of service we’d receive."

Belfatto is in that category. So is Christina Lindsey Orta, a CFP and a vice president at Lindsey & Lindsey Wealth Management in Westlake Village, Calif., who says that hiring a PR firm has helped her gain recognition and recruit advisers.

“We’ve won awards, which help with credibility in the community, bringing referrals and new clients,” she says.


Orta credits monthly conference calls to schedule goals and measure successes with boosting the PR effort.

“My caution is to make sure you have a PR firm that isn’t catering to every other adviser in the direct vicinity where you work,” she says.

Belfatto echoes this concern.

“We wanted a PR firm with a reasonable number of clients, so we could be confident of the level of service we’d receive,” he says. “We also sought a firm with significant experience in the RIA space, so we wouldn’t have to educate the people there about our business.”

To Belfatto, signing a retainer with a PR firm in late 2014 was one step in a larger process.

“We named Darcy O’Brien as director of marketing and communications a few months later,” he says. “Before Darcy was involved, working with the PR firm was challenging because of the time commitment for our advisers.”

O’Brien, now the director of marketing and communications at Massey Quick, says that her goal is to reduce the time that advisers spend interacting with the PR firm yet deliver productive publicity.

“Two years ago, if you Googled our firm, you’d see the website and maybe a few other mentions. Now, you get two solid pages listing articles where our advisers have been quoted,” O’Brien says.

“That builds our credibility in the eyes of anyone who is looking into Massey Quick, including prospective clients,” she says.


Belfatto agrees that the time and money spent on PR has been an upgrade, but he says the firm may cut back.

“We had a two-year time horizon for this,” he says.

“Once the two years are up, we may not renew the retainer. Instead, we’ll rely on Darcy for ongoing public relations and perhaps work with the PR firm on special projects,” Belfatto says.

Orta, too, has “decided to take a pause,” as she puts it.

“The PR firm has done some things we wanted to accomplish,” she says. “Now, we don’t feel the need to keep the people there on continuous retainer, but we will engage them on certain cases.”

Thus, paying for public relations can be a series of engagements, rather than a marriage.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on ways to upgrade your practice.

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