There are endless ways to get your name, your brand and your company out there and recognized. But time and money are of the essence, and knowing which outlet is most worth your time and money is invaluable. Some advisors swear by the seminar, others are lucky enough to bask in a sea of high-net-worth referrals, while a few have caught on to the seemingly endless gratification of the media. Although using the media for branding’s sake can take both time and money, advisors who use it swear by it. But what can the media do that, say, seminars cannot?
In a word, Alan Haft, president of 5th Avenue Financial in Boca Raton, Fla., says the difference is credibility. “The attention certainly helps differentiate you among thousands of other advisors that never had their name in the media. This all leads to brand awareness, better client retention and most importantly, easier progress towards attracting new business,” he says.
The advisor perspective
Credibility. What better reason to investigate getting your name or your company into the media? But don’t be fooled – this process takes time. You need to think about how you will establish relationships with the media, what media outlets you will pursue, if you will write for a local newspaper or how you can brand yourself as a financial expert.
Haft, who frequently publishes a local financial column and writes articles for local news sources, says that he uses all forms of media – whatever it takes to brand his name.
“It all funnels toward the ultimate goal: to get your name out there, your thoughts heard. And as a result, people start gravitating toward looking at you for answers,” Haft says.
For advisors who are interested in getting into the media but are unsure how to go about it, Haft suggests you start writing. This, he says, is the quickest way to penetrate the media. How accurate this statement is can be left up to debate, but there is no doubt that writing a column for a local newspaper is a great place to be seen and heard, assuming two things: You have a clear and relevant message, and you can convey that message through quality writing.
There are services available that can do the writing for you or, essentially, recycle used content and stamp your name on it, and there are plenty of advisors out there who use these services to save time. But, nothing can take the place of original material. With writing services or newsletter services, there could be hundreds of advisors or professionals out there using the exact same article as their own. If you truly want to stand out of the crowd and deliver a message that is unique, the only way is to write your own work based on your knowledge and experience. This, Haft says, is critical to long-term success.
Haft, although a purist at heart when it comes to writing, has no problem seeking help to get the writing gigs or the television ops. To establish contacts and opportunities, while managing your time, he recommends hiring a publicist.
“But be forewarned,” he says. “You need to have patience, and you may even go through a few publicists before finding one that works hard enough to see results. This stuff takes time and obviously money, but in the end it will be well worth it.”
How much can media attention really be worth? Norm Bour, co-host of a nationally syndicated radio show, “The Real Estate and Finance Show,” gets 90 percent of his new business directly from the show.
His two-hour show boasts the tagline “teaching you to do more with the money you already have,” and is broadcast in Southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Orlando, Fla., and Hawaii, and covers anything from estate planning to taxes.
The radio show has served as a cornerstone to Bour’s and co-host Mike Roberts’ financial planning, real estate and mortgage businesses. “We have branded ourselves, our Web site, our 800 number, and the goal is to become ingrained into [our listeners'] psyche so when they think of real estate or finance, they think of Norm and Mike,” Bour says.
The radio show has opened doors into other areas for Bour and Roberts, from newspaper columns to television interviews. In addition, it has enabled them to buy a second hour of airtime and to open their own broadcast studio. But the No. 1 payoff, Bour says, is the credibility they have developed from their listeners.
The media perspective
In her 22 years working as a reporter and editor for various newspapers in the Midwest, Joan Stewart learned a thing or two about the media. She knows what the media want, what they look for in a story and how they go about making contacts. Valuable information, we think.
After finishing off her newspaper career as the editor of The Business Journal in Milwaukee 10 years ago, she capitalized on her insider knowledge and started her own online company called The Publicity Hound, which provides tips, tricks and tools for getting free publicity. Her advice? Get familiar with a financial journalist in your area, know her work inside and out, and make your move.
If you call a journalist and comment on something she has written – a story you liked, something she missed, a breaking story that didn’t tell both sides – she would be impressed that you know her work. Stewart says that because 90 percent of the people who contact journalists “have no clue what they cover,” they will be interested in hearing more from you if you show that you can help them.
“Present yourself as an expert in the topics of A, B and C,” Stewart says. Once they are interested, ask them to meet you for coffee or lunch – a perfect time to ask how you can help them. Offer to feed them story ideas and leads. Let them know about emerging trends in the industry, she suggests.
“Once you start to build the relationship, find out a little about the reporter’s personal life,” Stewart says.
If she enjoys collecting wine, Stewart suggests sending an interesting clip from a national wine magazine with a short note. “It keeps you on [her] radar screen without looking like a pest or asking for something. And it shows her you care.”
Dan Sondhelm, president of SunStar, a news generation company for financial advisors, suggests taking things a step further. He believes that national media attention sheds even more credibility on an advisor’s business than local coverage. Sondhelm, who helps advisors build their brand through the news media, says local coverage is “good” because your clients are local and the coverage is highly targeted.
“National, however, has more credibility,” he says.
With local media, you may be competing with other local advisors, whereas at the national level you are competing for ink with national brands and big budgets. This lends you serious credibility, Sondhelm says.
Stand out of the crowd
However you go about branding your business, create a plan for yourself. Whether you decide to use a publicist, write a column, build a relationship with a local reporter or seek national attention, avoid shortcuts. If you put in the time and money it takes to get you where you want to be, you will get noticed through the media and gain invaluable credibility.
Haft challenges advisors to think about what differentiates them from the competition. “We all work in a highly commoditized business,” he says. “So what are you doing to differentiate yourself? What are you doing to generate more business? Media exposure is very difficult, time consuming and another line item in your expenses. But because it is so difficult – as opposed to being yet another seminar speaker – it is, what I believe, the most effective way to differentiate yourself. Showing prospects articles you’ve written or places you’ve been exposed is a magical experience. It’s something to be really proud of, something clients will talk about and certainly something that will have a significant impact on your business in a truly positive way.”
We couldn’t have said it any better.