Here's some insight on the media bang you should get for your marketing buck.
If you've been dreaming of becoming one of the
financial media's newest darlings, you're not alone. A select but
growing number of advisors are hiring public relations firms to help
them achieve their publicity goals. After all, a good PR campaign can
ramp up your reputation, your clients and your assets.
And it may be significantly more effective than an advertising campaign, according to a new internal study by Proctor & Gamble. With a hefty $4 billion ad budget, P&G found the return on their PR campaigns often exceeds traditional forms of advertising and for significantly less money.
If anyone knows how effective PR can be, Ronald W. Rogé does. The 30-year-plus financial services veteran, who helms R. W. Rogé & Company in Bohemia, N.Y., spent a chunk of the mid-1990s as the public relations chief for the then-fledging National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Rogé says he got pretty comfortable talking to journalists and arranging interviews for his fellow Napfa members.
But two years ago, as he and son Steven set out to launch their first mutual fund, the Rogé Partners Fund, a fund attorney suggested the Rogés hire JC Public Relations, Morristown, N.J. "I was skeptical at first. But when I talked to Jenn (Jennifer Connelly, president of JCPR), she told me something that struck home. She said, 'It's one thing to get quoted. It's another thing to have your firm featured in each story.'"
Rogé credits Connelly for landing him on numerous cover stories in the advisor press, including his rank as lead advisor in Investment Advisor magazine's 2006 Top 25 feature (May 2006) and this magazine's cover story Starting Your Own Mutual Fund (May 2006). "Jenn really keeps our names in front of reporters," Rogé says.
In just the past few months Connelly also has booked Steven Rogé on Bloomberg TV and TheStreet.com Web TV, as well as getting him featured as the lead commentator in investment stories in Barron's, Business Week and Kiplinger's.
The Rogés aren't alone in their quest for the type of media exposure that will drive business to their door. Nor are they the only advisors stepping up to the plate to spend significant sums to buy professional PR services. The advisors we talked to pay between $4,000 and $7,000 monthly, usually for a one-year period, to purchase a publicity campaign that helps them achieve their goals, whether that's building a brand or marketing advisory services, a new mutual fund or even a book.
Here is an in-depth look at the PR firms that advisors are hiring (these are the same firms who routinely contact us on behalf of advisor clients), the services they provide and what they charge. What we found was a range of prices and varying success stories that should give advisors a clear snapshot of the spectrum of services they can choose from. Here's what we found:
Firm: JC Public Relations, Inc.
Principal: Jennifer Connelly
Number of clients: 14
Retainer and terms of contract: Typically ranges from $6,000 to $8,000, commensurate with the scope of clients' needs. Connelly is fairly unique in not requiring clients to sign term contracts, but does ask firms to work with her company exclusively. Retainer is a flat fee, with no add-on expenses for calls, faxes, etc.
What do you do well? "We earn our fee each and every month," Connelly says. "We know that the majority of advisors are small business owners, and the time and money necessary to commit to a public relations effort is a precious resource. We maximize that by becoming a true extension of their team. And we don't feel that we're truly successful until we have helped our advisor clients attract their own new clients and new assets under management."
Specialties in working with the press? "We have strong and deep relationships with the financial and consumer press, based on mutual trust and respect," Connelly says. "This allows us to be an asset to our media contacts by providing interactive dialogue on story ideas, angles and positioning. We work to deliver great sources and content to the media and prominent media placement to our clients."
Media highpoints for clients in 2006: Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, CNBC's Closing Bell, Power Lunch and Squawk on the Street, ABC and NBC affiliate morning shows. Numerous stories in the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Businessweek, Kiplinger's, TheStreet.com and with Associated Press (AP) wire service. Cover stories in Barron's, Financial Advisor magazine and Investment Advisor Magazine.
Why do you like working with advisors: "I think advisors have fascinating stories to tell and we're very good at helping them tell them," Connelly says.
Advisor-Client Testimony: Ron and Steven Rogé, R.W. Rogé & Company, Bohemia, NY, $250 million in assets. Working with Jennifer Connelly Public Relations Inc. for more than two years. See Rogés' quotes, above.
Firm: Gregory FCA, Ardmore, Pa.
Principal: Greg Matusky and Doug Rose (right)
Number of clients: 75; 25 are advisors
Retainer and terms of contract: Ranges from $7,000 to $20,000 per month. Initial contract is typically for six months, with an "opt-out" clause after 90 days.
What do you do well? "Our strong suit is high-end media coverage," says Doug Rose. "We're not really the people to come to for brochures and sales kits. We commit to generating very targeted press on an ongoing monthly basis. We focus on a fast start to our relationship with advisors and submit a custom campaign to them one week after meeting with them."
Specialty in working with the press? "If you serve the media and make clients look good, your phone rings and it's reporters on the other end," Rose says. "About 50% of our calls are from reporters, saying: 'I need a source or a soundbite. I'm on deadline, can you help me?'"
Media highpoints for clients in 2006: More than 300 national TV appearances, 400 top-tier print articles, including stories in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post AP, Reuters, Investor's Business Daily, Business Week, Smart Money, USA Today.
Why do you like working with advisors: "We're good at it. If an advisor tells us: 'I want to brand myself as a financial guru,' we're the folks to come to," Rose says.
Advisor-Client Testimony: Greg Church, Church Capital Management, Yardley, Pa., $2.2 billion in assets. Has worked with Gregory FCA two years. "We've had great growth and a lot of doors open that would not open without a PR firm," says Church. "They've also helped move our current relationships along, which is very important to us," adds Church, who regularly appears on CNBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox New and Forbes on Fox and has been in Barron's and Forbes, thanks to FCA/Gregory.
Firm: Mount & Nadler, New York City, N.Y.
Principal: Hedda Nadler
Number of clients: 16, including the Financial Planning Association of New York.
Retainer and terms of contract: Typically starts at $4,000 per month and goes up from there. Firm uses no contracts. "We need to feel a high level of comfort, as do clients," principal Hedda Nadler says. "No one wants to be locked into a relationship that might not be as productive as it could be."
What do you do well? "We promise our clients that we will expend all necessary efforts to achieve their stated objectives and goals," Nadler says. " "During the course of the relationship, we evaluate results and adjust our activities accordingly. We love to be piped into what they're doing, whether it's meetings, internal newsletters or articles. It gives us ideas to talk to the press about."
Specialty in working with the press? "We like to call the media to discover their interest in pursuing a particular story," Nadler says. "We find out their preferences and then accommodate them. That said, we've found places like CNBC and Bloomberg to be bottomless pits. They call me because they know we have good folks."
Media highpoints for clients in 2006: Bloomberg, CNBC and PBS. Article bylined by advisor clients appeared in Worth. Articles in Business Week, Money Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Wealth Manager Magazine Roundtable.
Why do you like working with advisors? "We ask advisors what they're looking to achieve and then work to achieve that for them. If they say they want more clients, that's what we tilt toward," Nadler says.
Advisor-client testimony: Lewis and Karen Altfest, L.J. Altfest & Co., Inc., New York City, have $500 million in assets and have had a relationship with Mount & Nadler for one year. "We've always had a good relationship with the press, but at the end of 2006, my husband Lew came out with his financial planning textbook, Personal Financial Planning (McGraw Hill), and we thought we could use PR help to get the word out," Altfest says. "Hedda got Lew on the PBS show Wealth Track with Consuela Mack. She got me on the Wealth Manager Magazine Roundtable. I think her work really builds business over time, and existing clients love it," Altfest says.
Firm: Perception Inc., Gaithersburg, Md.
Principal: Benjamin Lewis
Number of clients: 18, including the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, the FPA of the National Capital Area and the FPA of Georgia.
Retainer and terms of contract: Typically ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 a month for a one-year contract, with discounts for two-year contracts. Lewis is launching a new Web-based PR service under the auspices of Napfa, which will allow clusters of advisors to receive local PR at a discounted rate (cost is $2,000 for a media kit and $2,000 each in monthly retainer). The PR service, called Rapportico (www.rapportico.com), is scheduled to launch this summer.
What do you do well? "We ask of each prospect, 'What makes you unique?'" Lewis says. "Whether that's a book an advisor wrote or a PBS show they're trying to launch (Lewis will spearhead press for a Napfa-sponsored PBS financial planning call-in show set to roll out in August), we want to help them achieve success."
Specialty in working with the press? "We provide timely, expert sources. We're very responsive. Clients have to agree to be responsive, too," says Lewis. "We got an advisor a Wall Street Journal interview once, and he thought he could put it off for two weeks. We educate clients that the press doesn't work that way. They need what they need when they need it."
Media high points for clients in 2006: Articles and appearances for clients included: Time, CNBC, BusinessWeek, Money, ESPN, US News & World Report, Newsweek, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning, Wealth Manager, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal. Lewis himself is a media maven. He does a weekly podcast (30 Minutes of Personal Finance with Ben Lewis), available on www.perceptiononline.com) and has a new PR book coming out.
Advisor-Client Testimony: Brian Jones, Cooper, Jones & McLeland, Fairfax, Va., has $350 million in assets. Jones has worked with Perception for almost four years. Lewis helped Jones ink the deal for his just published book, Getting Started: The Financial Guide for a Younger Generation (Larston Business Reporters, Potomac). "Both with new prospects and existing clients, the press Ben gets us on Bloomberg TV, CNBC, MSNBC and USAToday really builds credibility. I hired him personally and now he works for the entire firm, helping us develop our message and speak with one voice."
Firm: Ink&Air, Wellfleet, Mass.
Principal: Lisbeth Wiley Chapman
Staff: sole proprietor
Number of clients: 6 to 8 clients at any given time.
Retainer and terms of contract: "I offer two levels of service," Chapman says. "Clients can pay $1,000 a month to appear in Trends, my monthly newsletter, and receive follow-up press calls to targeted media. Or, clients can choose to work with me on a full-service basis for $3,000 to $7,000. I suggest it takes a year to create branding, but have a 30-day opt-out clause."
What do you do well? "Clients hire me to build their brand and their reputations," Chapman says. "I'm good at zeroing in on the type of exposure they want. For some that is consumer press or leading local business publications. For others it is professional journals. I've gotten very good at writing or co-writing journal articles and getting them past peer exceptions."
Specialty in working with the press? "I'm fairly tenacious. I just got word after 14 months of talking with an editor from a financial advisory magazine that a client of mine will be prominently featured in a story. I ghostwrote several articles for the magazine, but it took that kind of persistence to get the advisor featured.
Media highpoints for clients in 2006: Clients appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Worth, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine and Kiplinger's Retirement Letter, and have started doing Bloomberg and CNBC. Journal work has included co-authored articles in The Journal of Financial Services Professionals.
Why do you like working with advisors: "I've enjoyed it since I was the editor for Financial Services Times and the vice president of public relations at Putnam Investments," Chapman says.
Advisor-Client Testimony: Seth Pearson, Pearson Financial Services, Dennis, Mass., has $250 million in assets and has worked with Chapman for one year. "Beth has really opened doors for us," says Pearson, who's appeared in Kiplinger's, Worth, Consumer Reports and the Wall Street Journal and writes a column in Cape Business, thanks to Chapman. "The press momentum is really feeding on itself at this point," Pearson says. "She's been a great investment and is like a full-time employee at our firm. If I look at the new clients who are coming in the door and what is happening with boomers, the timing of her work for us couldn't be better. She takes our ideas and makes them happen."