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5 big mistakes advisors make with the media

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When dealing with the media, there are five common mistakes that financial advisors tend to make. I should know. I’ve been helping advisors hone their discussions with reporters for 25 years and I’ve seen some doozies. Here is the best advice I can offer, whether you are speaking to the press for the first time, or have been doing it for years.

1. The message is too general or self-centered: Reporters like examples, case studies, interesting details and fascinating client situations. They don't like generalities, and, in spite of how good you are at your job, chances are they don’t want to write all about you either.

For example, when asked for a few specific examples of how he works with clients on tax planning, one advisor proceeded to give the business reporter a commercial about his business. The reporter was completed turned off by his sales pitch and quickly logged off. This was a missed opportunity and a lost relationship.

Provide value to the media. Give them content that helps them educate or enlighten their readers or viewers. And that means it’s important to understand whom the journalist is writing for. So, do some homework before connecting with the media. Marketers call the press "earned media" for a reason — you have to earn their trust and respect by providing quality content that works for their audience. Remember, they can call 10 other advisors just like you.

2. Provide too much information: Don't send 10-paragraph emails with details about tax planning or personal finance topics to a reporter. It really is all about quality over quantity.

One advisor recently responded to a media question about estate planning with a multi-page write-up of her specific expertise within estate planning. It practically required a law degree to decipher.

It is much more effective to send highlights and short descriptions, and please make sure to proofread what you send to a reporter because sloppy work is a poor reflection on you. If the reporter wants more detail, they will come back to you.

3. Don't overshare. Speaking to the media is not the place to vent about prior firms or share industry gossip. There is nothing to be gained from being quoted about other firms. One financial reporter began grilling a prominent New York-based advisor, who had just left a major wirehouse, about rumors concerning changes in senior management. Another New Jersey advisor was asked about the compensation plan at his prior firm during an interview. That’s the job of a good reporter, but your job is to focus on your clients and your future, on the challenges investors face today and how to solve those challenges. Leave the past in the past.

The smartest piece of advice you could ever hear is this: assume everything you say is on the record so you prevent yourself from saying anything you will regret.

4. Don't delay responding. Reporters work on tight deadlines. If a reporter reaches out to you, and you respond hours or days later, you may miss an opportunity to participate in a positive media interview. You may also miss an opportunity to add value to the reporter and earn their trust. Before you return a reporter’s call, you should take a few moments to prepare what you’re going to say, but you need to call the reporter back promptly. Disregarding a reporter’s call on deadline is commensurate with ignoring an urgent call from a client. Chances are if you don’t return it, you might not be getting any more calls.

5. You're disorganized and distracted. It's best to prepare for each interview. Don't memorize a speech, but instead have talking points ready to communicate some key messages. Have some examples, and if possible, include data to support your point of view. And stop looking at emails and texts when talking to the media — distraction could equal disaster.

Handled correctly and treated respectfully, a thoughtful media relations program can be an effective way to elevate your own brand and tell your business story. National, regional, trade and local business reporters want to hear from advisors on a wide range of topics from client behavior to tax planning to risk profiles.

The best way to approach working with the media is to determine how you can add value to their story while communicating the positive aspects of your business.

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