Most financial advisors and firm owners want to know how to get more attention on what they do or what services they offer. Advisors always ask me how to get in the media, how to get quoted, or what to do in order to earn a big feature in a major publication.
The answer is to spend some time developing a solid PR strategy and then executing well on the tactics — but that, of course, is easier said than done.
To get deeper insights on how to do public relations the right way, I asked my friend Stephanie Ross to spill some of her industry secrets.
Stephanie is a marketing and PR professional here in Boston, is in the process of earning her Master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communication from Emerson College, and is launching her side business, Envisions, this month.
She’s also an all-around fabulous person who cares deeply about her work and her community. As if holding down a full-time job and full-time graduate course load wasn’t enough, Stephanie also volunteers with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired and is extremely passionate about finding ways to create accessible marketing campaigns for all consumers, sighted or otherwise.
And we met via Twitter! Who says social media doesn’t spark connections and real human interactions?
Together, we wanted to bring you what we feel financial advisors need to know about PR to navigate and dabble in the world of press, media, and publicity. Here’s what we came up with for you.
To Get Started, Focus on the “R” in PR
“Everything you do, say, or write is PR,” Stephanie explained. Every action you take contributes to the relationship you have with the public and how they perceive you.
And it’s called media or public relations for a reason — because good PR is about the relationships you form with writers, reporters, influencers, and other media members.
“You can’t always go around asking for favors, or asking people to do things for you without offering anything in return,” Stephanie added. “Offer to help them with a project, make yourself available as a resource (even if you don’t always get quoted), and share their work on social.”
Sound familiar? It should if you’ve been reading this blog and you’re familiar with inbound and content marketing. Both these methodologies work because it’s about what value you can offer to someone else — and offering that over and over and over again before you even think about making your own request.
As Always, Know Your Audience
Another concept that serves as a foundational piece of PR should sound familiar, too: you have to know your audience to successfully manage public relations.
“Know the reporter. Know their beat. Know the publication they write for,” Stephanie advised. And if you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask.
Reach out and ask a media member how to pitch them if you have a story idea, when is the best (or worst) time to pitch, and what channel is best to use to contact them.
Everyone is different, and reporters and writers will appreciate that you were considerate enough to stop and ask them about their preferences and what they might need from you.
You also need to deeply understand the publication you want to be featured in — and who is reading the stories they publish. If you pitch something their readers don’t care about, the reporters and editors aren’t going to care about your pitch.
How to Handle Your Own PR as a Financial Advisor: 3 Rules to Follow
Let’s talk more about a core part of PR: the pitch, or the story you want picked up to earn publicity.
Again, not only does your pitch need to align with your audience’s needs (reporters and writers) and who they serve (their readers), but it also needs to be worthy of attention in the first place.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see anyone make with PR and pitching — financial advisor or otherwise. It’s not enough that you care about the story. You need to consider if (and why) other people care, too.
“Before you pitch anything, you have to ask yourself: Is this newsworthy?” Stephanie said. “Is there anyone out there besides mom and dad who care about this?”
This is the first rule of good PR that you need to follow. She added that even after you consider if your pitch is even newsworthy, you need to think about things like:
- Is the story timely or not? As Stephanie pointed out, “What might be relevant at noon might not matter by 4pm.”
- If it’s timely, is it in the right context? Consider what else happened in the same newscycle. “It’s awful to see someone saying, ‘hey guys, I just launched my new line of gummy bears! Check it out here, yay!’ 5 minutes after a school shooting,” she said.
In crafting a newsworthy pitch, it might help to consider your unique angle — and again, why your story matters.
It’s also going to help if you follow rule #2: get to the point.
Stephanie explained that reporters don’t have a lot of time to get into the weeds or go through lots of documents to determine.
“Use a catchy headline, explain why the reporter should care about your story, and send it off,” she said — and send it without attachments or other content. You don’t want to risk it getting lost in finicky spam filters.
And rule #3 speaks to something we already covered: remember that PR is about relationships. Before you ever send out a pitch, do some legwork to get to know the media members you want to work with.
Read their work and engage with them on social media. See if there’s anything you can do to help them before you pitch them and ask them to run with your story idea.
Don’t forget that this process isn’t something you do once. It’s something you need to do over and over and over again — both in terms of relationship-building and pitching. Consistency and frequency matter.
Other Considerations for Great PR Campaigns
Following those 3 rules will get you off to a great start — but good PR is about more than just sending out a few good story ideas.
If you’re serious about running a PR strategy, you’ll want to put together a media kit to have on hand.
“Include relevant information like your bio and headshot, bullet points on accomplishments or anything noteworthy, and appropriate links for reporters who want to learn more,” Stephanie suggested.
She also noted that PR isn’t just a task. It’s a skill — which means if you’re not great at it right now or aren’t sure of what to say or do, you can learn.
“Get media training if you have no experience doing interviews,” she said. You want to look, sound, and be polished and that requires both prep work and lots of practice.
When PR Goes Wrong: Dealing with Bad Press as a Financial Advisor
There’s always a chance something might not go as planned when you actively engage in PR. Maybe someone misconstrued what you said, your company got put in a bad light, or your firm simply made a mistake that the press picked up on.
Whatever it is, Stephanie recommended that you (or your firm) not try to weasel out of it. “Tell the truth and own up to it,” she said. “Don’t back-track or lie.”
She also mentioned you can plan ahead for a press crises the same way you can plan ahead for interviews: prep for them. She suggested imagining various scenarios where you could receive bad press and then outlining the actions you would take should it ever actually happen.
If You Don’t Understand Anything Else About PR, You Have to Know This One Thing
Ultimately, PR is about relationships — which means it’s about engaging and connecting with other people, helping them out and allowing them to help you.
Don’t make it much more complicated than that. If you can focus on building relationships — and sharing great stories — you’ll excel with PR.
If you take nothing else away from this or any other education you receive on public relations, make it what Stephanie said is the most important thing: “Build trust. Be honest.”
To that I’d add one more thing: be authentic, too. As Stephanie pointed out, that serves you well in the long run because people can (and will) “dig up dirt on you if you make it big.”
If you live by the rules of being trustworthy, honest, and authentic, you’ll go far… and you’ll deserve that success both in your own industry and within the public relations you work to build along the way.
Learn More About Stephanie Ross & Get in Touch
Stephanie Ross is a senior account executive at a marketing agency in Boston. She is also the founder of Envisions, a one-stop shop for creative women looking to achieve their personal career and business goals through PR, personal branding and marketing.
She’s an avid volunteer and advocate for the blind and visually impaired and is currently a collegiate advisor for the Delta Gamma chapter at Boston University. Stephanie received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Texas and is a graduate student at Emerson College.