You’ve probably heard about financial advisors who, after being quoted in key publications, have gotten their names in front of their target markets and have subsequently grown their businesses.
Others have increased attendance at their seminars by promoting them through media sources. If you want to reap similar rewards, it’s time to implement your own public relations campaign.
Once you have given the media an interview, you have appointed yourself your company spokesperson.
Preparation is key
To truly benefit from a PR opportunity, you must be prepared.
Without careful planning and a keen understanding of the message you want to convey, a PR opportunity may be a waste of time, or even worse, may create a negative image of you and your firm. For this article, we’ll assume you’ve taken the steps necessary to launch your PR campaign. You’ve created a list of contacts from your local newspapers and radio stations and put together a media kit, complete with a news release. You’ve identified some timely topics on which you can serve as a quotable resource and included a few article samples. You have mailed this media kit, and now you’re ready to begin your follow-up calls to make sure your media contacts have received your information.
After placing several calls, you’re pleased when the financial reporter of your local paper says he is interested in interviewing you for an article he is writing and wants to know if you are available tomorrow.
It’s time to pull out your PR emergency kit. This kit should help ensure your interview with the media goes smoothly and that you’ll be presented in a positive light. It should be kept in a convenient location in or near your desk where you can easily reach it.
A basic kit should include:
Accurate, up-to-date information about you and your firm. Make sure you include statistical information about your practice, your performance, the year you began your practice, and other data of importance. If employed by a large financial firm, make sure you include not only your personal information, but information about your firm, also, i.e., the date it was founded, number of officers and advisors, etc.
Special awards and positions. These include honors from your firm or acknowledgements for community service.
Designations. Let others know what they are and what you had to do to get them. Also list what you have to do to maintain these designations.
Memberships in associations, clubs and other community groups. People like to read about people who are actively involved in their communities.
Your company brochure. Usually a lot of thought has gone into the creation of your company brochure—your marketing piece. It usually contains information about who you are and what you do for your clients. Have it on hand as a prompt in case the opportunity arises to give more information about you and your firm.
Article or story ideas. After you finish talking about the subject at hand with the editor or writer, you could mention a few story ideas of your own. Have a list of topics available in your media file in case the opportunity arises. If there is adequate time, you can discuss these topics at length while you and the reporter are on the line. Or you can make an appointment to discuss them later.
A referral list and client case studies. Have on hand a list of clients you work with who could contribute to the article. For instance, if the reporter is writing an article on small-business owners who provide retirement plans for their employees, suggest that the reporter call several of your clients who own their own businesses and can contribute to the article. Include case studies in your kit that describe how you worked with these clients to help them reach their goals.
Make sure you get permission from your clients before sharing their information with the media.
Additional resources. Any conversation with the media provides you with an opportunity to promote members of your professional network, such as CPAs and attorneys. Most articles include information from multiple sources. You can make your media contact’s job easier by providing the names and telephone numbers of professionals you work with. Remember to spell names out for them to ensure accuracy.
“No comment” list. Keep a list of topics that are off-limits. Say, for example, your firm has gained a lot of negative media attention. Include in your media kit a short response in case you are asked about any topic related to that issue. While you briefly acknowledge the question, the prepared response will allow you to smoothly move to a more comfortable topic.
While not all of the information in your PR emergency kit will be needed for every interview, the important thing is to have an accurate one available that allows you to respond to every question with confidence.
A few extras
To work effectively with the media, remember to be prompt. When receiving their calls, make yourself available immediately. If you're out of the office or meeting with a client, make sure your receptionist understands how important these calls are and gets the message to you promptly. Remember, most reporters and writers are on tight deadlines. If you are unavailable when they call, they may decide to go on to the next contact on their list because of time constraints. By taking the call promptly, you establish yourself as a dependable and timely contact source for them as they prepare future stories.
It's also important to clear your current and future involvement with the media through your compliance and legal department, or your manager. Show them your media kit to let them know how you will be handling calls from the media.
In addition, be careful with anything you say to the media. Once you have given the media an interview, a quote or just background information, you have appointed yourself your company spokesperson. It is almost impossible to call the reporter and retract the statement. It will probably be too late. Never talk “off the record.” When talking, just imagine you are talking to the editor of The Wall Street Journal and everything you are saying is going to appear on the front page. This tip will caution you to be precise and responsible.
Lastly, remember to follow up on any interview, article or quotes that are published by sending a thank-you note or making an appreciative phone call to the writer. This helps cement the relationship.
Remember that building a relationship with your media contacts is a lot like building one with your clients. It takes time, effort and a sincere desire to help make their lives and jobs easier.
Lyn Fisher is president of Financial Forum Inc., a speakers bureau, and co-director of Fisher LeBlanc Group. Contact her at lyn@ financialspeakers.com. Sydney LeBlanc is co-director of FisherLeBlanc Group, a financial services marketing communications firm. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.