One of TD Ameritrade Institutional’s best breakout sessions was a panel of experts discussing some of the best tactic to get PR exposure.
The panel included Diane Pearson of Legend Financial Advisors, Joe Giannone of Reuters, Liz Weston of MSN Money, and Sydney LeBlanc of S. LeBlanc & Co.
The following are ten sound pieces of advice to help advisors become more successful with their public relations efforts:
1. Be Patient
It is not realistic to expect to get positive publicity overnight. “It’s a dialog”, said Giannone. “It is about building relationships.”
2. Target the Right People
Pearson explained how her firm profiled where they wanted to be published or quoted and built a list of “Who is the editor, who is the writer, etc.? We are pushing 2,000 media sources now.”
As a reporter, Giannone shared that it is a bit of a pet peeve to get calls from people that have no clue who they are calling. He said, “Vague and untargeted contacts are annoying. A little bit of research can be very helpful.” By stating you liked a previous article, you will automatically be on better footing.
3. Be Honest
If a reporter asks a question and you do not have an answer, do not make one up. If they find out you are lying or that you are not an expert on the topic, they will be upset and not ever call you back. If you are upfront, reporters will appreciate the honesty and reconnect down the road with a topic that is a better fit for you. Liz said, “Tell the truth. Don’t know the topic? Be honest.”
LeBlanc shared a funny story of a time she was doing an interview as a young reporter. The broker asked that he call her at a scheduled time. When he did, he said he was calling from a pay phone. They continued to get disconnected ever ten minutes with a message stating the time had been exceeded. After this happed about ten times, she finally had the information she needed and ran the story in the magazine a month later. She then got a heated call from a wire house asking, “Why did you interview this guy?” LeBlanc had the whole room laughing, when she shared, “It turns out, the broker I interviewed was serving time in prison for embezzling money from his clients. That’s the day I learned about due diligence.”
4. Ask for Assistance
Tell any associations where you are a member, your custodian, etc. that you would like press coverage. They will put you on the list for when reports ask for sources. Pearson shared how TD Ameritrade was helpful in this area.
5. Have Something Newsworthy
Pearson’s firm started out by sending out “financial briefs. We used to put them in the mail and we would get calls. With the internet, we now blast out the stories. Her focus for the firm’s PR is around “educating the customer.”
6. Be Accessible
Pearson’s team alternates taking trips to New York City. They let everyone know they are coming, from radio to TV to newspapers. She shared, “Lou and Jim did 13 interviews in two days on the last trip. Between the three of us, we did 200 interviews in a year’s time.”
Pearson also talked about the need to be timely. “If you get a response, don’t think you can wait 48 hours later to call them back.”
7. Use CRM for PR Contacts
Similar to what advisors do with their clients, they should do with the media, especially with a firm that might have multiple individuals playing the role of spokesperson. Pearson started from scratch by “hiring an intern to build out the database to track and know who was being called and when. We also keep all our quotes on file. That intern is now our director of marketing and a shareholder.”
8. Don’t Try to Control the Story
“We always remember it is the reporters story and we try to stay on topic”, said Pearson. She did also give caution, saying, “Even the best of the best can misquote you.”
This brought up the discussion around the acceptability of asking the interviewer if it is ok to review an article before it gets printed. Liz said, “Reporters usually do not share their articles, as they do not want to tip their hat.” She though advisors need to be careful how they ask, if at all.
LeBlanc had as slightly different view point. As a writer, “I prefer to have my articles correct. Just in case I mishear something. I would be more than happy to show a quote if asked properly.” She did give examples of individuals going too far. She said she has had PR departments completely rewrite articles and send them back. She also said compliance departments can try to ruin a good story.
Giannone said, readers “don’t trust an article that will be scrubbed clean.” The group also thought an article should not come across like a marketing brochure.”
9. Provide Exclusivity, the Right Way
Giannone explained, “In a reporter’s world there is a great desire for exclusivity. You don’t want to be the last to know. Once the cat is out of bag, the reporter might not want to talk to you.” He shared a story of someone pitching him an exclusive story. Then before they even did the interview, the story ran with another publication. You can imagine that relationship did not end so well.
10. Write a Book
The panel agreed that a book provides instant credibility. Liz mentioned how unfortunately a lot of it is junk – just look at the finance section in your local bookstore.
LeBlanc shared, “Advisors can go the traditional route. Or there are other options they can do, including print them on their own, use print on demand or just have it be an ebook.” She suggested a “collaborative approach where each person writes an alternating chapter. That way, everyone gets in the book and they can still call it their own.”
As the session was running out of time, she quickly shared the ways to create a book, saying, “You can do one yourself, hire a writer or consultant or even just work with interns to help with organization and writing. A book can be a great thing. Plus, it can be very cost effective.”
Mike Byrnes founded Byrnes Consulting to provide consulting services to help advisors become even more successful. His expertise is in business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness, along with several other areas. Read more at www.byrnesconsulting.com.
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