From the August 2008 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

August 1, 2008

The Pros Speak: Using PR to Tell Your Story

Stepping up their marketing game is on many advisors' minds these days. As practices mature, so does the desire to attract the right type of clients. Periodic promotions may help boost business in the short run, but a brand is built with an effective public relations message that gets your optimal prospects to connect with you when they are ready for professional financial advice. Clear positioning is about getting the right message to the right people at the right time.

The right PR firm should first and foremost teach you the value of building long-term relationships with members of the press who will find your story compelling. Then they should help you build those relationships. Media placements and working with the media should not be viewed as transactions.

Depending on which market you wish to reach, your message will vary as will the media in which you will want appear in to convey that message. Being clear about what you say and where you say it is critical to effective positioning.

How do you find the right PR firm to guide you through this maze? Look for a firm whose principals are committed to knowing the financial services industry inside out and who have advisory clients who will provide enthusiastic references that focus not just on the quantity but more important, the quality of results obtained. The right PR firm should be able to show you detailed results of the media coverage they've generated for clients in the past quarter or six months, both print and broadcast, with the specific news outlets you are trying to reach. You need a firm whose professionals have long-standing, trusted relationships with reporters, columnists, editors, bookers, and producers. You need to ask if they can get you a meeting with the personal finance columnist of your city's daily newspaper, for instance, or meetings with journalists at The Wall Street Journal, Worth Magazine, CNBC, or Fox News.

Expectations and Your Role

Don't let the wrong PR firm learn the ropes on your nickel. The right firm will deliver your message to strategically targeted members of the media, providing a constant flow of helpful, timely, and on-point information about your company and its services, as well as news angles that complement your expertise. That's how reporters can transform your message into informative articles or news shows that showcase your firm's offering. The right PR campaign delivers an outcome, not just a plan.

What is your role in the PR process?

Work collaboratively with your PR team, sharing case studies so that they have texture and context for your message.

Respond to reporters in a timely fashion and to your PR firm when they are setting up an interview for you. The news cycle keeps getting shorter and shorter. Opportunities can evaporate if a reporter is called back a day or even an hour too late.

Let your PR firm know when reporters call you directly and before you "break" news. Your PR firm can let you know what leads they are pursuing, and who from the media they are working with on that very topic. It's very important not to offer the same story to a host of different reporters, especially ones writing for competing magazines.

In giving interviews, stay away from overly technical descriptions filled with industry jargon. If you provide analogies and stories, reporters and their audience won't have to ask "So what does this mean to me and my readers?"

Treat your PR firm as a trusted advisor and share information with the firm that could be potentially damaging if it were to find its way into the press. Your PR firm can help you proactively get out in front of any negative media coverage, but only if they are aware of it.

When you hire a PR firm be prepared to commit to the success of the campaign. While you should expect to see results and media placements in a very short time frame, reaching your overall PR goals won't happen overnight. Commit to the process.


Jennifer Connelly is president and founder of JC Public Relations, Inc. in Morristown, New Jersey, a PR firm that specializes in creating and delivering high profile media campaigns for mutual funds, registered investment advisors, and other financial services firms.

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