Spoiler alert: Stop reading now if you don’t want to find out how you can get more than $100,000 in free marketing and PR for practically nothing. We’ll give you a few seconds to skip ahead to the next feature if you’d like. To the brave souls who chose to continue, read on.

Chad Slagle, president of Edwardsville, Ill.-based Slagle Financial LLC (slaglefinancial.com) knows the power of writing a column and appearing regularly on his local NBC and Fox affiliates as a financial expert: instant credibility. Slagle wasn’t even looking for a media spot when he landed his column. A war buff, Slagle read a story about a local World War II POW.

“I belong to Rotary,” Slagle says. “As part of that, I have to get a guest speaker every year. I contacted the editor at the paper to get in touch with [the former POW]. The editor and I hit it off, and he asked me to write a monthly column.” More than four years later, Slagle is still writing.

Slagle’s advice is consistent and simple to follow.” If you don’t have the budget,” he says, “you’ve got to start some place. You don’t have to start big.” For many, however, it’s that one word – start – that causes many efforts to end. So how does an advisor make his first forays into the media landscape? (For advice from the PR experts, see sidebar on page 71.)

Book it
One thing advisors are doing is hiring PR firms to get the word out if they are rolling out a new aspect of their practice. For Shak Hill, CFP, CLU and ChFC, with Lantern Wealth Management in Centerville, Va., that helped spread informaton about a book he’d written: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Planning – The Seven Essential Ingredients for Your Best Financial Recipe.

“A book can give one integrity and let others know you’re serious about what you do,” notes Hill, who migrated from a career as a bank-based representative to an independent financial advisor with broker-dealer Cantella & Co., Inc. “It’s another statement to validate your practice.”

Hill’s not alone on taking the writer’s path. “Shorter books and e-books are becoming increasingly popular,” writes Susan Ward, an About.com columnist. “Focus on your expertise and come up with ideas for possible titles. Then choose one or more of these titles and write a chapter-by-chapter outline to get a sense of whether or not the project would work, and how long the finished book would be.”

Ward adds that TV is another outlet that can really pay off for advisors. “Even if you can’t manage to get your own show, you can still be on TV. Many programs, such as news shows, are looking for guests for expert segments. You can also buy your own TV time, creating ads and/or infomercials about your products or services.”

Don’t let money get in the way
Remember, it doesn’t require a major cash outlay to get the word out on your most important asset you! As Slagle points out, one mistake many advisors make is spending a lot of money up front, not getting results and then dropping it.

Slagle decided to supplement his column with a radio show. He bought 30 minutes a week on a local station and used the equipment in the studio. To defray the cost, he sold time on his show to a mortgage broker, CPA, elder law attorney and travel agent. They appeared every few weeks and talked about topics in their sphere of expertise. Slagle invited these other professionals because he wanted to educate retirees, not sell them products.

“Yes, we talk about Slagle Financial,” he says. “But we also educate. We have to show them we can be their personal CFO.” Slagle says people come back to listen to his show because they know they’re not going to get a sales pitch – they’ll learn a thing or two, usually about national events and trends that he brings down to the local level.

A key way for advisors to succeed in the media arena is to be focused. Instead of spreading yourself too thin, narrow your talking points to specific topics. Educate seniors on how to manage money, how to protect assets and how to plan their estate.

The elevation factor
Getting your face or voice out to people is essential to branding yourself. Stefanos Loisou, principal at Financial Workshops in Middleton, Mass., has spent the better part of four decades building a brand for himself and his practice, through means both traditional and unconventional. Loisou says the media is one brand-building tool where he is happy to invest his time. Hosting one weekly radio program on financial matters and being a frequent guest on another has given him the kind of name recognition and credibility many advisors covet. “It differentiates me from other advisors who might have similar skills and who offer similar products and services,” he says. “From a public perception point-of-view, it has elevated me. People figure that because I’m on the radio, I must know what I’m talking about.”

Another way to develop your “name” is by establishing yourself as the local expert. Jim Lineweaver of Valley View, Ohio’s Lineweaver Financial Group, says it’s a great asset to become a recognized resource in your community by forming strategic partnerships with your local media. “By positioning yourself as the go-to resource for your media, community members will take note and turn to you in their time of need.”

Credibility is key
As for Slagle, he has hired larger PR firms to handle many of his national media tasks. But he still concentrates on local media to build his reputation. And he says that one intangible asset makes all of the money and effort worth it: credibility. Seniors still read newspapers; they still listen to AM radio. They trust the people they read and listen to. The credibility is quickly earned and long-lasting.

Slagle says he may not be able to quantify “credibility,” but he knows his media efforts have been worth it: “To measure – looking back – I look at how my practice has grown, from working out of my house to running three offices.” And Slagle’s column was almost an accident. Yours doesn’t have to be.