When it comes to dealing with the media, advisors often either love it or dread it. Many jump on every invitation to be interviewed by the media, no matter how obscure, and even actively seek out opportunities to comment or present their views on financial planning topics. Others are averse to media requests, refusing or ignoring reporters’ requests or bumbling unprepared through interviews.

Even if you never become completely comfortable being interviewed by the media, you can gain a sound understanding of what’s involved in developing an effective media relations strategy and learn how to use it to boost your business.

Advantages of an Effective Media Relations Strategy

Establishing and maintaining an effective media relations program can be well worth the time you put into it. First, a media relations strategy can be an important way to promote your business, creating brand and product awareness. It raises visibility in a crowded market, making your services stand out. And not only is it free publicity, but it’s often more effective than simply placing an advertisement in a publication. Lastly, it can help attract new clients while reinforcing relationships and helping you gain credibility with existing ones.

Media relations presents a huge opportunity for advisors. The latest RydexSGI AdvisorBenchmarking study shows that advisors don’t rely heavily on media relations to acquire or keep clients. Only about 6% indicate they might attract clients through an appearance on a radio or television program, about the same number that list media coverage as a business-building method. Moreover, only about 10% of advisors surveyed said they keep in touch with clients via press releases, so in general, using the media to support the business is not widespread. Advisors who develop a media relations strategy, therefore, have an edge over the competition. Reporters need to quote someone—it may as well be you.

The Components of a News Story

To be of value to a reporter, you must know what makes a story newsworthy. Often, it’s timeliness—perhaps involving recent market events, for instance. To be considered news to a particular media outlet, the story must be not only be current, but also relevant to the media outlet’s audience. Often, news has a human interest value—including a potential for emotion, conflict or uniqueness.

Advisors who know the audience and demographics of a particular news outlet, or can explain how national or global stories affect local news consumers, are ideal sources since they can help reporters obtain unique and compelling information quickly. And remember, reporters often use people’s experiences and words to frame a story, so be sure to practice telling your story until it rolls off your tongue and come up with “hummable” quotations—ones that will be easily remembered.

Four Steps to Target Media and Prepare for Opportunities

There are two essential elements of any media relations program: targeting the media and preparing for media opportunities. By taking these four steps, you’ll be well on your way to developing a robust strategy that will help boost your presence in the media:

 
  • Prepare a biography. A short biography about yourself, your business and your areas of expertise shows reporters where your expertise could be useful—for example, you will have unique insights if your practice involves a defined audience, say retirees or young entrepreneurs. In addition to getting on reporters’ source lists, you want reporters to be able to describe your business the way you yourself describe it. That’s where a two-sentence summary of your business and experience comes in handy—it gives reporters a way to quickly and easily explain to their readers or listeners who you are and what you do.
 
  • Know your story. To engage a reporter, it helps to have some message points that you are prepared to speak about. This doesn’t mean you won’t have unexpected questions, but the more you set the agenda, the more likely you’ll be portrayed in a positive light. Good reporters invariably ask tough questions, so prepare responses to some “quicksand” questions in advance so that you aren’t caught off guard. This enhances your credibility and enables you to remain in control of the interview. If a reporter calls when financial markets are in turmoil or your business is going through tough times, be forthright and continue to build trust in the relationship by offering honest assessments and finding opportunities to bring in your message points.
 
  • Know your audience. That is, know your media targets. Create media distribution lists for news releases you prepare. Prioritize them so that the outlets most useful to your business get the greatest level of your attention. Try to familiarize yourself with reporters and those whose regular writing involves financial markets or trends. Read and watch widely, including online and trade publications, to become familiar with different reporters’ styles or innovative news angles. This way, when an interesting angle comes to mind, you’ll know who to pitch. Lastly, after your article is printed, contact the publication about reprints, which you can give to prospects or clients to gain credibility.
 
  • Be a source of story ideas. The secret to successful media relations is knowing what the media want, and then giving it to them. Think about what’s different about your firm or your service offering, and try to come up with some “first-of-their-kind” stories that are particularly attractive to reporters. Spend time identifying story lines in trends among investors or clients, investments, regulatory issues or practice management. And, of course, keep an eye out for that unusual human interest story, such as one about a client whose financial success has given him or her the freedom to pursue philanthropic activities.

Regardless of how sophisticated your media program turns out to be, if you stick to simple and practical rules, you’re likely to increase your chances of gaining positive media coverage and at the same time develop lasting, rewarding relationships with the media. Being a media darling can be an effective way to increase your firm’s visibility, helping you win new clients, keep existing ones and continue growing your practice.