What not to do when speaking to the media
Media exposure can help your practice in a number of ways — it can improve credibility, provide free exposure and give you a solid voice in the profession. I’m very fortunate to have created a decent media presence over the years, through consistent and thoughtful work.
Here’s how you can build your own, without the aid of a pricey public relations firm
DELIVER VALUE AND PASSION
The first key to working with the media successfully is that you must passionately offer information that adds value to others. By providing good evidence and material, you can become a regular resource for journalists. I call this “earned media.”
Even if your service is holistic, you likely have some area of practice that you might be particularly excited about. Identify it, learn everything you can about that field and prepare to share that information with the world.
SHARE YOUR 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 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’ve developed more topics of interest that are of value to planners and their clients, and I’ve communicated them in various ways. Discussions about health care reform, dealing with money issues during terminal and serious 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 their readers. This has helped me to 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 such as NAPFA and the FPA can come into play for planners.
Early in my career, I volunteered to serve on a NAPFA regional board, and eventually the national board. NAPFA and the FPA provide media training to board members so they know how to work with the press; this is incredibly valuable. Additionally, the press regularly calls the organizations directly to interview board members.
You should also make it a point to attend conferences. The press also frequents conferences to get story ideas, and they often seek to talk to advisers who are there. Introduce yourself, ask what they write about and suggest topics you would like to read about in their publication. There is a good chance they will interview you!
BE ACTIVE IN SOCIAL MEDIA
Journalists appreciate feedback and the sharing of their work. Online journalists are often measured by the number of clicks their articles receive. If you like a piece you see in the press, or you are included in an article, tell the journalist you appreciate the piece, and share it on your social media channels. Be sure to clearly point to the publication and the author with all of your posts.
If you have a comment that could improve a piece or be fodder for a future article, share your thoughts with the writer through email or a phone call.
Be vocal, authentic and kind in your social media posts. Touchy and controversial subjects can become great articles, so be brave and address tough subjects in your social media posts. However, never attack a person. Respectfully engage those who share points of view with which you don’t agree. Be generous in sharing the work of others and giving them credit.
I once tweeted a comment about how I didn’t agree with Dave Ramsey’s investment advice, although I liked his work on budgeting. He saw the tweet and immediately begin attacking me directly. This generated a number of interviews, increased my Twitter followers, and a number of people took notice of how I stayed respectful when he was being very unkind.
RESPECT JOURNALIST DEADLINES
Journalists are frequently on very tight deadlines. At my firm, the staff knows to make their calls a priority. If you are unable to speak with a journalist immediately, ask for their deadline.
Tell the journalist you appreciate the piece, and share it on your social media channels.
Write down talking points before your interview. Keep your answers concise and quotable. Stay on topic and don’t ramble. Think in terms of tweets – after sharing your thoughts, try to sum up points that would easily fit into a tweet.
It is okay to be controversial as long as you can back up your points.
DON’T FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT
If you do not know the answer to a question, don’t wing it. Tell the journalist you don’t know but that you’ll find out or refer them to a source who will. Blowing smoke is an instant credibility killer, and it’s likely the journalist will never call you back if you fake an answer.
If an article topic isn’t in your wheelhouse, help the journalist find someone who can assist them. You’ve then helped two people during the same day, and creating good karma is rewarding.
Don’t think about asking to see the article before it goes to print. This just isn’t done in journalism.
Don’t think about asking to see the article before it goes to print. This just isn’t done in journalism. If you demand this, you may 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 you negatively. You have to let that go, too, and be more careful the next time you work with that journalist. Never get too attached to the outcome of one article.
HOW DOES THIS TRANSLATE INTO BUSINESS?
Metrics on a media presence cannot be measured directly. Marketing is a constant process. Deliver incredible service, be a reliable resource to your clients, be authentic, share your passion for what you do and keep your clients happy. Word will get around.
A media presence helps build credibility with clients, and could lead to referrals. If your happy clients see you 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 the majority of the new clients at my firm come from current clients, 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. Find your passion and go for it.