Rich Dubroff insists financial professionals shouldn't fear him. But a healthy amount of respect probably wouldn't hurt.
The executive producer for the Friday night Public Television show Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser is the only obstacle between mutual fund executives and an appearance on what may be TV's most exclusive financial program.
Among public relations and mutual fund executives, there is a sort of mystique surrounding Dubroff and the TV show where he has worked for 20 years. Wall Street Week, with a loyal, longstanding audience of up to 5 milllion viewers a week, has developed a reputation as one of the best authorities for financial analysis on TV, executives say. And Dubroff, who is solely responsible for choosing the professionals who appear on the show, has become known as a selective gatekeeper, a stickler for professionalism and a tough man to win over.
Because of that, Dubroff knows he's a man to impress. "There are a couple of large funds that haven't taken the trouble to introduce themselves to me," he says incredulously. "They're not doing their jobs if they don't know me."
Wall Street Week is aired once each week and allows only one guest to appear per taping, compared to the likes of CNN and CNBC, which air financial programming seven days a week and lure dozens of talking heads each day. Dubroff reviews a couple dozen tapes each month. And of the 52 shows taped in Owings Mills, Md. each year, only 15 guests are involved in the mutual fund industry, he estimates.
"Rich is very selective about who goes on and he keeps his eye on the industry, so he knows what's going on," said Tucker Hewes, president of New York-based Hewes Communications, which has also placed clients on the program.
"I consider it the Holy Grail," said Hedda Nadler, president of the New York public relations firm Mount & Nadler. She has sent Dubroff a dozen tapes during the past five years. In that time, she says she has gotten six of her clients on the show. "If you get more than one on a year, you're considered very successful," she said.
But Dubroff says there's no magic formula to winning his favor. "I'm looking for someone who's got a demonstrated, good record." he said, "At least a four-star-rated fund. Someone who has excellent communication skills."
Still, he says PR professionals make a lot of mistakes in dealing with the program. Some send a tape of their client appearing on an hour-long program. The client will show up during the last 15 minutes of the show and the tape will be rewound to the beginning. Not a good way to earn Dubroff's favor. Other tapes are from TV shows that aired two or three years ago. Those aren't current enough, he said. And worse still, some send the wrong tape altogether.
But the worst of these mistakes, Dubroff said, is not contacting him at all. With the declining market, many PR professionals figure their clients don't have records worth crowing about, so they become less aggressive, he said. "I realize a lot of people don't have good records," he said, "but they should be out there trying to get their people on."
There are also professionals who have had it with Dubroff, he said. He turns them down once or twice. They get discouraged and look elsewhere for easier prospects. He says they shouldn't be so easily disheartened.
"Don't be afraid of being rejected," he said. "It's easy to get somebody on one of those cable TV ticker shows. That's what Lou likes to call them."