Advisors are working with local media outlets to establish credibility.
Although financial advisors often comb through
newspapers, magazines, television and the Internet to keep up with
financial news and trends, most probably haven't considered the
possibility of becoming an expert source themselves. Yet advisors who
successfully mine the media say public exposure can be a highly
effective marketing tool that is within reach of almost anyone.
"Research shows that affluent investors often rely on the media to help them make financial decisions," says Derrick Kinney, a Dallas/Fort Worth area financial advisor and author of Master The Media To Attract Your Ideal Clients: A Personal Marketing System For Financial Professionals.
"Appearances in the local media give prospective clients the opportunity to form a favorable impression that you are knowledgeable and likeable. And that can build tremendous credibility for you and your business." Kinney, who appears weekly as a financial expert on a local NBC affiliate and writes a financial column in the Fort Worth Business Press, estimates that two-thirds of his business comes from media exposure. Below, Kinney and two other advisors who appear in the public eye on a regular basis talk about how they got started, whether the exposure actually brings in new clients, and how they leverage their local celebrity status.
Scott Hanson, CFP
Advice: Be persistent and reliable
Although his Money Matters column appears every week in the Sacramento Bee's Sunday edition and in about 25 newspapers around the country through syndication, Scott Hanson says that the time he spends writing it "is definitely not my favorite part of the job. In fact, I'm usually reluctant to get started on it." The $30 a week the newspaper pays him doesn't exactly light a fire under his typing fingers. He's not even sure about how much business the firm has drawn from the column over the years.
Yet the co-founder of Hanson McClain, which manages some $800 million
in assets and employs a total of eight advisors, says the benefits from
the nearly eight years he has spent fielding financial planning and
investment questions from readers both locally and around the country
more than offset the drawbacks. "It's a great way to get PR and name
recognition," says Hanson, whose practice specializes in serving
individuals in their 50s and 60s who are transitioning into retirement.
"We sometimes get calls from people who have seen the column in the
paper. And obviously our clients see it, which enhances credibility."
He started the column in 1997 after a local public relations firm he had hired introduced him to the newspaper's business editor. After several sample columns drew a positive response, he continued answering reader questions for about a year before he forged a formal agreement with the newspaper. Part of maintaining good relations with editors, he says, is dependability and consistency. "I get my column to the editor the Monday before it appears in the Sunday edition," he says. "For them, it's easy, convenient and makes for good fill." On the downside, the newspaper's reporters don't quote him as much as they used to because of the column. And the newspaper discourages calling or e-mailing questioners (and potential clients) directly. Still, because he includes contact information at the end of each piece, those who are interested in connecting with his firm have little trouble finding it.
In addition to the column, Hanson and longtime business partner Pat McClain host a call-in radio program, also called Money Matters, every Sunday on 1530 KFBK in Sacramento. The pair broke into radio about nine years ago by cold-calling the program directors of three local radio stations with a proposal for a call-in show.
Despite his success in getting his name out to the public, Hanson cautions that media attention alone "won't get the phone to ring. It's just one component of a thorough marketing strategy."
Ellen S. Rogin, CPA, CFP
Strategic Financial Design
Advice: Find a niche and a unique voice
Finding a niche and filling it has helped Ellen Rogin build a practice, as well as a following for her monthly column on women and money issues that runs in a chain of 48 suburban Chicago newspapers.
Rogin's column began about ten years ago, after she attended an adult education program at a local high school on how to get coverage for a business or event in the Pioneer Press, an area newspaper. "The speaker focused mainly on garden club announcements and the like," recalls Rogin. Later, when she approached him about how the newspaper's columnists got started, "He blew me off at first. After I pointed out that there were no women writers covering financial topics, he gave me a contact name at the newspaper." Before writing to the editor, Rogin decided to hone her pitch by calling the newspaper's advertising department. "I discovered that 54% of their readers were women, and mentioned to the editor that the financial needs of over half their readership were not being addressed."
She got no immediate response. Several months later, after Rogin gave a speech to a large group of local businesswomen, an editor from the newspaper who had received her pitch approached her and finally expressed interest in the column.
Although Rogin receives no compensation for her writing, she says that it provides "amazing PR." Several of her largest clients found out about her firm from the newspaper, and the column gives prospective clients an added level of comfort about dealing with her. "An accountant I know recently referred a widow to my office, and she told me she felt confident about the referral because she recognized my name from the newspaper. It's amazing how much credibility you get from the mere fact that someone has seen your name in print." She also reinforces her reputation among current clients by sending them copies of her columns.
In addition to her column, Rogin has also been
quoted in several national and local publications, including the
Chicago Tribune, Money magazine, Working Mother and Ladies Home
Journal. She credits networking with helping her connect with editors
and reporters. One public relations professional she knows from a
women's business networking organization in Chicago, for example,
passed her name along to a reporter, who later interviewed her for a
story. "When you are dealing with the press, it's important to follow
up quickly," she advises. "And if I can't help someone, I'm happy to
refer them to someone else who can."
Whenever her name appears in a national media outlet, Rogin gets "instant credibility" by e-mailing the article to her clients. As for the Internet, Rogin says she is trying to expand her presence on that medium so that her name comes up when reporters do a "Google" search.
Often, the subject matter advisors are asked to comment on does not seem to address an audience they wish to attract. "I once did an interview with the Chicago Tribune about people who spend too much," she says. "I got a call from one individual who happened to see the article, and he was far from an over-spender. He was just a good saver who needed some advice on what do with his money. Now, he is one of my largest clients."
Palladium Media Consulting
Advice: Make media outreach an ongoing effort
Eight years ago, Derrick Kinney took his first steps toward becoming a media presence by telling news producers and newspaper editors to call him when they needed a financial expert. Today, he offers guidance to other financial advisors looking to do the same through his consulting firm, Palladium Media Consulting. His advice for financial advisors seeking media recognition:
Start at a local level. One of the biggest mistakes financial advisors make is to start off by trying to connect with reporters and editors of major national media outlets. "People want to work with financial advisors in their local area, so appearing in the local media is the best way to reach potential clients," he says. "The national media is more valuable as a credibility builder."
Base the selection of a target media outlet on the kind of client you wish to attract. Advisors targeting business executives or owners might focus on the area's weekly business journal, while those looking for a broader audience would probably get better results from appearing in the business section of a local newspaper.
Be persistent and available. Once you identify the writers and editors at publications you wish to appear in, send a short e-mail or fax offering your services as a financial expert they can rely on for commentary. Follow up every two to three weeks with story ideas or suggestions. "When a reporter calls, you jump," says Kinney.
Play to your strengths. Tailor media efforts to what you are good at. Those who consider themselves strong writers might focus on landing a newspaper column, while those with good face-to-face communication skills may find success with a local cable television show or radio.
Build media time into your schedule. Advisors who wish to appear in the media on a regular basis should be prepared to spend the time necessary to keep their name in the public eye. "Being in the media isn't for everyone," says Kinney. "If you're not willing to arrive at a studio at the crack of dawn, have your schedule interrupted when a reporter calls or stay on top of your field on a daily basis, you may want to consider other ways to grow your business."
Keep expectations realistic. Maintain reasonable expectations about how much business a single media appearance will generate. "It's unrealistic to think that a single newspaper mention will trigger a flood of phone calls," he says. "Advisors shouldn't look at the media as a get-rich-quick effort. But over time, appearing in the media is a great way to establish a local presence, enhance credibility and target and attract the kind of people you want to work with."
Marla Brill is a freelance writer and founder of brill.com, a leading independent Web site on mutual funds.