Small-business owners, and financial advisors in particular, know that one key to survival is getting the word out about the products and services they offer. Public relations, by whatever name it is known, is a means to an end.
The problem for many advisors is they don’t do a very good job with the PR game. Some have been in business so long they operate solely on referrals and thus don’t do the PR thing. Some, however, are too busy with clients to get in front of enough prospects, and while they wonder and worry over how to bring in more prospects, many overlook creating buzz through news.
Press releases can be an inexpensive and effective way to get one’s name in front of a lot of people at once. A newspaper or magazine editor may call and want to know more about a press release sent in by an advisor, and that is what most people think of when they think press release. But editors aren’t the only audience for press releases anymore. In fact, if done correctly, editors may comprise the smallest audience for a press release. Consumers are the new target for press releases, because on the wide-open bits and bytes of the Internet, everyone has access to much of the same information. The news – it’s not just at breakfast anymore.
Once upon a time, people with press releases to share had no choice but to send the release to editors at newspapers and magazines, hope the news item was deemed worthy of follow-up, and wait.
That is still part of most strategies, because the print media represent a tried-and-true method for disseminating legitimate news. But the days of newspapers being labors of love, operating on razor-thin margins and employing large staffs of editors and writers, are gone. As large corporations have scooped up most newspapers across the country, the papers are expected to produce sizeable profits, and to do that most have trimmed staff and space for actual news.
“There are half as many reporters as there were in 1980,” says Greg Jarboe, president and co-founder of SEO PR, which has offices in Boston and San Francisco. “Papers are continuing to downsize. There are fewer journalists at mainstream media outlets. They are stretched thin and have smaller news space to fill.”
It is more difficult to catch the eye of an editor, according to Jarboe. While that may sound like bad news for advisors who already feel they are fighting an uphill battle to be noticed in a crowded marketplace, it doesn’t have to be – if they are willing to embrace technology. Services are being created that allow professionals with advice to offer the ability to reach consumers directly while keeping things news oriented instead of sales oriented.
The Internet has made it possible. Consider Google and Yahoo. Most readers have heard of those search engines. Those who haven’t should immediately contact their grandchildren or the kid across the street and ask about computers. Both portals have searchable news sections, and both news sections are open to news from independent advisors, with a little help from an online newswire. These press release distribution services will take an advisor’s press release and put it into circulation on scores of news sites all over the Internet. Each advisor should do his homework and choose a distribution service that best meets his needs. The best-known newswires are BusinessWire, PRWeb, Market Wire and PRNewswire, but those are not recommendations, merely a starting point for advisors.
“Remember, the newsroom and geographical reach offered by a service is less important than ensuring that your releases are included on major online news sites,” says David Meerman Scott, the Boston-based author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and himself a PR entrepreneur. “Ultimately, this is direct marketing, search engine marketing. You are reaching people directly with information they are looking for.”
“It’s like Tivo for press releases,” Jarboe says. “People find [an advisor's news] when it’s of interest to them.”
Level playing field
So the egalitarianism of the online world may make it possible to reach consumers directly with news, but how is the little guy supposed to compete against the giants in the financial world, the companies with entire departments dedicated to getting the company name in the news? Well, there are a couple of first steps – one technical, one message-related.
On the technical side of things, advisors need to find out what keywords people use to search for retirement-related information. This can be accomplished with a number of tools. A quick Google search using “keyword research tools” yielded several. Jarboe likes Keyword Discovery (www.keyworddiscovery.com).
“It comes as a stunning revelation to many people that you can find what people search for,” Jarboe says.