From the July 2011 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Summer Doldrums? Time to Grow Through Media Exposure

Take advantage of down time this summer and market your firm to the media

Summer offers a great opportunity for investment advisors and money managers to get some media exposure in addition to sun exposure. Investment professionals are away from the office enjoying themselves, which means there are fewer sources for writers and editors to interview. Your chances have improved greatly for breaking into some print stories and getting a foot in the door to being on local or national financial television. There are some great proactive steps you can take to make the most of the dog days of summer and get your name out there through media exposure to gain name recognition, visibility, credibility and expert status to attract new business.

Break into Print
Have you been reading about the new financial regulations and shaking your head? Be proactive and voice your opinion by writing a letter to the editor in publications read by your clients. What is good and bad about the legislation? What don’t you agree with? Include suggestions on how it can be improved. This positions you as a thought leader and expert, building your credibility with your target audience. Or perhaps you don’t want to write about anything technical and want to cover some feel good personal story. For example, a Tennessee client of ours wrote a letter to the editor of her local community newspapers about her mother for Mother’s Day, describing how she taught her the value of money and financial planning. September 11 this year is Grandparent’s Day; perhaps there is a grandparent who taught you about money and you can share that story in a letter to the editor.

If a letter to the editor does not give you enough room to voice your opinion on a given topic that is important to you, send an email to the editor proposing a guest column. These typically don’t run more than 800 words. The email should give your credentials and brief bullet points of what topics the article will cover. When you send the article, be sure to include a high resolution photo of yourself. Be sure to spell-check and proofread the article, and send it prior to the deadline given by the editor.

A trick of the PR trade is to refer to editorial calendars of magazines in which you would like to appear. Most magazines post their editorial calendars on their websites, often under the advertising section as part of their media kit. This gives you a leg up to know what stories they are covering in which issues far in advance. Most magazines post their 12-month calendar of stories at the beginning of each year. If there is a topic you feel strongly about or are an expert in, why not contact the editor and offer to be a source or write a column on the topic? Be sure to reach out to the editor well in advance, say four to five months ahead of time. Often their lead time is this far in advance for a monthly publication.

Another way to gain media exposure is to offer to be a source for a blog. Many newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal have various bloggers who contribute to the paper’s website. They need content for several blog entries a day, and are hungry for content and new sources.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to write a letter or column, but feel strongly about an issue in the news, another way to get exposure in the media is to offer yourself to a reporter for a one-on-one interview. Give your background, website and bio to the reporter, and send along some bullet points outlining your position on a given news item. This can be much easier than trying to come up with a news hook. For example, we’ve been able to have clients on financial television shows for the first time by having them comment on news items—perhaps taking the other point of view.

Your Television Debut
Television usually follows print in covering news stories. If there’s a big story in the Wall Street Journal, you can be sure that television will cover it as well, and often will reach out to sources in the original story. You’ll have a better shot at getting on financial television stations such as CNBC in the summer when fewer sources are available as guests.

Once you’ve landed that elusive interview on CNBC or another financial network, don’t keep it a secret—let your clients know well in advance with an email announcing the details of time, day and channel of your appearance. This is a great way to show your knowledge to your clients, as well as demonstrating that a third party—the media—respects and values your opinions on financial topics and considers you an expert worthy of air time. Ask your clients to forward the announcement to friends and family.

Another great way to leverage a television appearance is to write a news release announcing your upcoming appearance with details and some topics you will be discussing. Email it, along with a high resolution photo, to your local newspapers and community weeklies. It becomes easier to approach local television stations once you’ve appeared on a national program, though I suggest getting some experience first to get comfortable before jumping into the national scene.

If you’ve already been quoted or have written a letter or column for a publication read by your target audience and you are wondering what to do with the articles now, merchandise them as much as possible. Get reprints to post to your website and send to your prospect list or to existing clients as referral tools that they can give to their friends, family or business associates. It’s a great way to be in touch without directly asking for anything. Additionally, it becomes an educational tool that you can use and a reason to follow up with your prospect list.

Another great use for articles that include you is to get a foot in the door with television guest bookers and producers. Particularly if you have not been a guest on television shows, you’ll need to be able to provide some press articles to demonstrate your expert status and show that you understand what the media wants.

Tips for working with media
The first rule is to read the publications you are interested in being covered by. It’s important to know what stories they have covered and are not likely to revisit for a while. Also, getting to know a writer’s likes and dislikes will give you a leg up. Perhaps a writer does not like gold as an investment; better to stay away from that topic. Typically, writers have a “beat” that they cover, which is a certain segment of the industry. You can often find the beats for writers on publication websites under the contact link, which may also have a “beat sheet.” It’s important to contact the right reporters when pitching a story and yourself as a source. If you are looking to talk about an investing story, you want to contact the reporter who covers investing, not someone who covers the industry at large, for example. Also, this beat sheet will break out the editors for sections. Usually, the managing editor is responsible for choosing articles that they accept from expert writers. The managing editor should be the person you contact about writing an article for the publication.

Try to form relationships with reporters. This is harder these days than it sounds. Many writers are stretched thin. Some may have to cover more topics and beats, and are also responsible for writing website and blog content in addition to stories for the hard copy of the publications. They have little down time compared to years ago, when they could afford to take a two-hour lunch and get to know you. It’s worth trying to form a relationship, though, by just calling and saying you enjoyed their last piece and offering to stop by their office for 15 minutes to talk about a topic that is newsworthy. The most value you can offer reporters is to aid them in their work, whether it’s by providing data or pointing them in the right direction.

Learn the deadlines for publication dates of magazines and newspapers. For example, most monthly magazines are trying to “close” the issue in the last two weeks of a month, so it’s better to contact the editors in the first two weeks of the month. Keep in mind that they will be closing on an issue that is a couple of months out. For example, if it is the middle of July, they are closing on the August or September issues by then; they already have the content and are just wrapping up the magazine editorially.

While others in the financial industry are off on vacation, sunning themselves on the beach, take advantage of more media opportunities available to find the publications and television shows that reach your target clients. Use these public relations ideas to garner some media exposure for you and your business in order to attract assets to your firm.

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