The art of public relations is a marketing strategy that can pay off with big returns. In fact, the Public Relations Society of America measures the average value of a media placement as five times that of an advertisement. While advertising is the only guaranteed way to control the content and timing of your message, positive media coverage can help establish your credibility, enhance your image and influence your potential clients.
The good news is that all editors share the same problem, whether they manage a quarterly trade magazine or a daily paper: They continually need timely, interesting, informative stories.
Now for the bad news: Most editors are inundated with pitches. From e-mail spam to unwanted faxes to reams of mail to endless telephone calls, everyone, it seems, is vying for editors’ attention. How can an advisor possibly compete?
Increase your odds by being relevant, targeted, genuine and thoughtful in your approach. These techniques will help you avoid common mistakes and write queries and media releases that journalists are more likely to notice, read and select for publication.
Understand the purpose
To get your story in print, in most cases you’ll need to contact a writer or reporter and pitch the idea. One way to accomplish this is by sending a brief query letter accompanied with a press release – a short, one-page document that explains something newsworthy about your business. The document generally includes a compelling headline that sums up the information, the date of the release, the news and your contact information.
The straightforward format of a press release enables journalists to quickly understand your idea, decide whether it’s relevant and determine how it might benefit their audience.
Begin with the end in mind
Before you launch a campaign, determine exactly what you hope to achieve. The more specific your goals are, the better you’ll be able to target your efforts. If your news is immediate – you want to promote an upcoming event, for instance – target your pitch to the daily newspapers, plus news directors at radio and television stations. Most magazines, on the other hand, require a lead time of four to 12 months or longer and are better suited for long-term goals like increasing awareness or building image.
Aim your pitch at readers
Editors consider stories from the audience’s point of view, and you should, too. Good pitches are targeted toward the ultimate reader and will persuade the editor that your information will benefit or inform his audience. A bad pitch is filled with self-serving verbiage that quickly convinces a journalist that you’re just a publicity-seeking hack.
Byron R. Moore, CFP, managing director for Ruston, La.-based Argent Advisors Inc., writes a regular column about financial issues for the daily News-Star in Louisiana.
“You must have a genuine desire to give something of value to the media outlet, and you can’t just view the media as a direct means to an end,” Moore says. “You really have to partner with the media in that sense, and it can’t just be all about you.”
Write your press releases to provide good, usable content. For example, most editors will yawn if you send a release announcing your new annuity product. But if you write an informative pitch with a chart that helps people understand how to compare similar annuities on the market, it’s more likely to get accepted.
Target your efforts
It’s crucial you send your query to the exact person who can make the decision; make sure you’re not sending a life insurance story to the lifestyle editor. Avoid “boilerplate” letters and releases and mass mailings; they just don’t work, and they may annoy journalists to the point that your name gets added to the dreaded spam filter.
Your pitch should also be localized to the community or region you’re targeting. Can an advisor seek national publicity? George Blooston, personal finance editor at AARP: The Magazine, says, “I’m looking for bona fide news and real experts, authorities who can inform our 22 million readers about spending and saving issues. There are only so many products that come out, so there aren’t many prospects for individual advisors to promote themselves at the national level unless they’re a noted authority.”
Read on for some tips about how to establish your reputation as such an expert.