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Your Brand Identity

It's time to get the word out about you and your services; just don't start with the New York Times

By Brad Elman, CLU

If your clients aren’t bragging about you to their friends, then you may not be doing all you can to promote who you are. In the financial services business, the financial representative is truly what is being sold, not the products. It’s time to build your own personal brand identity by effectively communicating nonsales information to your various constituencies: clients, prospects, centers of influence and, lastly, the general public.

Reality check
As you start your own public relations campaign, your goal should not be getting your name in a major newspaper or magazine. The odds of being quoted in a reporter’s story are fairly low, while the odds of being misquoted if you don’t have media training are high. And the chances of a person just reading the newspaper or magazine, seeing your quote and then deciding to buy from you are about 1 in 2 million.

THE BEST THING TO DO IS TO BUILD FRIENDSHIPS WITH REPORTERS. TAKE THEM TO LUNCH. LEARN ABOUT THEM.

Allow me an example to make my point. My practice and I were featured in a 2001 article in Kiplinger magazine. The first sentence of the article began, “Brad Elman, an insurance agent you can love.” I know you are thinking all two million of Kiplinger magazine’s readers called me. Surprisingly this was not the case. I got just one call from an unemployed woman in Iowa. She didn’t buy anything, but she promised that if she did buy, it would only be from an insurance agent that Kiplinger magazine loved.

Allow me to contrast the article in Kiplinger to an article in a local, community newspaper. Every city has one. Ours is called Los Altos Town Crier—circulation 10,000. It features great high school sports, the letters to the editor give you the pulse of the city and you know everyone in the paper. Everyone I know reads the twice-weekly paper cover to cover. It’s a good place to be quoted to the right public. So how do you get quoted in Town Crier?

The easiest thing to do to get coverage is to send a press release. While that doesn’t work at The New York Times, it will in your local paper. When writing a press release, think about what content an editor might like to give his readers. Remember, there is a lot of competition for space in the paper.

Let’s look at two press releases. One says: “Brad Elman, the top producer in his company, sold a jillion dollars of insurance …” The other says: “Brad Elman has been selected as coach for a disabled Little League team. Elman, a local insurance agent, takes over as Cardinals coach for the 2005 season. Interested players should call …” What release gets printed? Having read the two releases, with whom do you want to do business?

After your press release or information gets printed, what do you do next? You send a copy of the story to your clients with a letter saying, “Dear Client, I am coaching a Little League team of disabled kids; here’s the blurb from the paper. If you know anyone that might be interested in playing, please have them give me a call.”

Create touch points
What if I didn’t get quoted in the Town Crier? Could I still send the note to my clients about coaching? Would it have the same effect? Absolutely! I have just created what we call a touch point. My clients are thinking about me and not thinking that they have to buy something. You can also create a touch point by just communicating with a client.

Be a friend to reporters
But I am not done with the Town Crier yet. Another good way to get into the paper is if you are quoted as an expert. Often this can mean you helped a reporter create a story and provide research. But how do you become the go-to person for reporters? Put yourself in their shoes. Their livelihood depends on providing unbiased information that is valuable to the readers of their papers. They are not likely to stake their reputation on a stranger.

So the best thing to do is to build friendships with reporters. Take them to lunch. Learn about them. Ask questions about what they write and why. Read their work and take the time to comment objectively about what they are writing. It will take a while, and you won’t always get quoted, but it’s worth it if you invest the time.

Market those clips
Getting your name in the mainstream press can be difficult, and it doesn’t sell insurance. It’s easier to appear in community newspapers.

Market these clips to your clients and prospects—send reprints, etc.
Build relationships with your local reporters; get to know them and become a trusted source for information.

Use press releases
Consider making your volunteer activities and involvement the primary focus in your press release and only mention that you are a financial advisor, instead of the other way around.

Communicate with your constituencies! Even if you don’t get quoted in the press, you still can and should communicate who you are to your clients.

For more tips on dealing with the media, see “Top 10 Media Relations Tips—and More.”

This is an excerpt of a speech that was given at the 2004 Million Dollar Round Table annual meeting. Printed with permission from MDRT. All rights reserved.

Brad Elman, CLU, a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual, is a 12-year member of MDRT, with three Court of the Table qualifications, and a member of NAIFA-Silicon Valley (Calif.). You can contact him at 408-535-5747.


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