Unreasonable Expectation #1: We’re in this for a sale
Truth: PR Is Education, Not Selling
Often when I tell people what I do for a living, they say, “Oh, you’re in advertising.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Public relations allows experts in their respective fields to educate the public and offer advice on how to do things better; in our case, how to handle financial planning better. This is done for “free.”
Though you may have hired a pro to get you interviewed by a reporter or on TV, you are really sharing your knowledge as an advisor for public awareness. So why take the time and effort for this altruistic enterprise? The byproduct of sharing your knowledge is that people will come to you for your expertise regarding their financial needs. You must establish yourself as a problem solver, not a salesperson offering a service or product. My former mutual fund client with dreams of appearing on Oprah! viewed the media only as a marketing venue. Consequently his efforts, and mine on his behalf, were for naught. This brings me to the next expectation.
Unreasonable Expectation #2: I’ll tell them what they want to hear
Truth: The Message Is the Medium
Together with your public relations counsel, you must clearly define the messages you want to convey to the public through the press. For example, if your specialty is managing client portfolios through mutual funds, you need to explain your process and give specific recommendations. Offer tips to take and mistakes to avoid.
Your PR counsel should work with you to determine the content of the messages and their appearance–deciding how to illustrate the messages using examples, anecdotes, and analogies. Together you should think of sound bites to make the messages come to life, since these are what make it into print. What people most remember are quotable quotes.
Your goal is to leave the media and their audience with something memorable and useful, in addition to the impression that you are qualified and honest. If you can do this and have them remember your name and company, you’ve been successful. Don’t think you’re dumbing down your message to get press coverage. Think of it as providing a way for clients to latch on to an abridged version of your complete message that you’ll provide later on in your relationship. Regardless of how great your full message is, or how unique your range of services is, unless you attract a client, the message is wasted.
It’s important not to change the messages all the time, but to be consistent and repeat the messages. It is through this repetition in different media outlets that the point becomes known and the information internalized.
Unreasonable Expectation #3: I don’t need to be involved
Truth: You’re in This Together
Sometimes a client will hire PR counsel and assume that’s the end of their involvement in the public relations process. They don’t want to be involved, and instead just ask their PR counsel to “Let me know when the big stories are going to hit.” For public relations to be effective, the active participation of the client is required. It can take a fair amount of time, so be prepared. It is critical to provide information to the PR firm, so it can provide that information to the media. After all, you are in the trenches of financial planning and know what is happening with clients and investing. In addition, you will need to give approval for items like news releases and be accessible at reasonable notice to reporters and editors. Many clients squander good PR opportunities by not responding to reporters and to their PR counsel.
So if those three expectations above are unrealistic and misguided, what can an investment advisor or financial planner expect from her public relations pro? At the least, you should get the following: