The greatest thing about technology is the many different forms of communication. Cell phones, social media and Zoom are just some of the ways to send messages and news across the globe in seconds. But the thing most people are lacking in regard to successful communication methods is how to properly do it. What are these communication methods we’re talking about, you ask? Public Relations (PR). When it comes to getting your knowledge and credibility about the financial world out there, you need to have a solid PR strategy. To help us explain further, we’ve brought in a few experts in the field.
Brian Hart is the founder and president of Flackable, a PR agency based in Philadelphia. Flackable mainly represents financial service providers, specifically wealth management firms. They also help a lot of service providers who aid in financial services. How are they so good at what they do? They simply practice what they preach, using their own firm PR model as a case study to better help their clients. Since their founding, they have never had to cold call or reach out to gain a client. They all come from word-of-mouth and proven results.
Elise Stoner is the founder and chief strategist for Fresh Perspective Consulting. After going to so many bad events, she decided to do something about it. In her words, “there’s no bad dog, just bad training.” She realized events are very similar. She works with financial services to make sure they have a strategy behind their events, and that companies like Flackable and Kalli Collective have the information they need ahead of time so we can do our jobs effectively.
When asked if he had an opinion on whether financial advisors should be going for major or minor publications to be published in, Brian answered, “It comes down to the strategy in what you’re trying to accomplish with a PR campaign.” If your goal is a short-term campaign so you can have that big banner on your website with the words “As Seen In…” sprawled across it, you’ll want to go for the big names in the business. If your goal is to hit a targeted audience within a niche group, smaller publications should be your goal.
Before talking to a PR agency, you’ll need a few things in place, such as a value proposition. The issue here is the answer most commonly given when asked “why?” More often than not, when Brian specifically asks financial advisors this question, it’s hard for them to come up with a definitive answer. The correct answer is, the value you bring to the relationship between you and your client. It all starts there, and Elise is in strong agreement. Don’t start with a solution. PR agencies need to understand what you are fighting for. How are you going to ease the pain points of your target audience? You need to understand, and empathize, with your client’s issues. Once you understand that, then formulate a solution for their needs.
When Elise asks “why?” in regards to why a financial advisor is even having an event, the most common answer is “We’ve always done it.” Whenever that’s their answer, it makes it seem like they’re not very invested in their own event. An event shouldn’t be planned on tradition alone. Elise believes an effective event should revolve around what she refers to as your “unique selling proposition,” which is the qualities about you that make you different from the rest. That should be your selling point. That should be where you start.
What do you need in place before coming to a PR agency for help? One of the most important things you need is a foundation to build from. A strong brand behind your name is extremely helpful to a PR agency and informs them how they can best help you. “The better branding and marketing infrastructure you have coming into a PR campaign… it raises the ceiling of the campaign,” states Brian. This means if your website is outdated, or if your headshots aren’t professionally done, it can hurt you, plain and simple. Cleaning up your brand before going to a PR agency is worth the investment. Agencies like Flackable can help you integrate the PR work into your brand, but having a strong foundation under your feet is the perfect starting place.
Brian likes to begin with the discovery process. He identifies the key storylines that he can then connect the dots to your expertise. These are stories that big publications are interested in, stories that they can anticipate happening, as well as stories that these publications aren’t already covering, but should be. These are stories which can be presented to a publication so then a PR agency can present you as the expert of said story. By identifying the thought leadership platforms, the PR team can be prepared before the campaign even begins, so that on day one, they have something to go off of. These stories are primers for your credibility as an expert and are absolutely essential.
It’s important to remember that PR agencies already have the connections to these publications. They have close relationships with journalists and reporters and, more often than not, the publications come to the agencies looking for a contact to speak to about a certain topic. Elise points out that it takes a long while to build these connections and relationships with the publications. It can be much harder for a financial advisor to reach out and submit a topic on their own, as it’s hard to know the correct thing to say to make sure your message is getting across and spotlighting you as an expert in the field. The value and expertise that a PR agency brings in this respect is more than worth it. They’ve already been through the pitfalls and learned the lessons that you may not even know about. They save you time and frustration. “It takes a village,” says Elise, “ and it doesn’t have to be everyone that lives under your website address.” Let the PR team be your village.
PR agencies can save you the time in searching out the right people to contact as well. Many journalists or TV shows will look at your Assets Under Management (AUM) when looking for an expert to speak on a subject. If you’re under a certain amount, agencies will save you the time and effort it takes to get on them, because they already know the answer. If you are under the AUM requirement they typically require, Flackable will instead look for a story so unique or compelling to pitch that positions you as the most qualified voice to speak on it. This can be a huge help in getting your name out there, but it isn’t always a guarantee. The beautiful thing about media is that there are more opportunities than ever before, so even if you can’t get published by the place you want, there are plenty of alternative options that will do the trick.
Another thing journalists will look at is your website. Coming back around to the topic of brand presence, having a decent looking website can definitely help you. Publications and news channels look to see if you’ll look and sound good on TV. If you have some preexisting videos you’ve produced, this is a great way to show your physical presence and that you’re comfortable in front of a camera. “You have to remember, TV is entertainment…” Brian says. So be sure to smile and make your videos fun and you’ll have a better shot at nabbing some screen-time on these shows. However, one thing to consider is, these days, many networks are making strides in showing diversity within their pool of guests, as opposed to back in the day when all they would have on were white male guests.
When Elise asked Brian his advice on which media, such as podcasts, vlogs and streaming, would be the most suitable to focus on, Brian says it all goes back to “what you want to accomplish.” What is your goal? If you want more traffic on your website, backlinks, which are links leading to other websites (perhaps to articles you’ve published, or podcasts you’ve been on) are a great way. Kalli strongly agreed that keyword optimization can only get you so far. Backlinks show Google that your website is a legitimate and relevant one. They should be included in any decent PR campaign.
Kalli then asked Brian whether or not it matters if you already have a preexisting social media presence. Brian said that goes back to the story you’re trying to create in order to get your campaigns up and running. Having your own content gives a PR agency more to pull from to get those stories. In fact, they love it when you have your own content. It helps show that you’re comfortable on different platforms. For example, if you’ve written an entertaining and informative blog consistently for a year, they can reference those and pitch the the topics to editors.
Elise is a firm believer that your work isn’t done once the cameras are off, or when event is over. When she says “event,” she means it as an umbrella term that encompasses everything from inviting a guest speaker to speak to your clients, to appearing on a podcast. Additionally, sending a drip campaign to remind your clients, “hey, check out this podcast I was on,” or “check out my article that was published in Forbes…” is a great way to remind them of your credibility.
Brian has two steps in his credibility marketing strategy. First is, earning that media coverage. Show your awards. Show your published articles. Show that clip of when you were on TV. It all serves to reinforce the fact that you’ve earned third-party credibility. Part two of his marketing plan is all about leveraging that credibility. Don’t let that video or article just sit on your website, in hopes that someone will stumble upon it. Funnel that content to your target audience. It’s probable some people within your target audience picked up the paper the day your article was published, but did everyone? Most likely not.
Kalli says people tend to forget about their existing clients in their marketing, as they are so focused on drumming up new business. However, clients are your biggest advocates. “They are your choir,” she says. They spread your news because they’re proud to be your clients, saying things like “My advisor was published in Forbes!” That free, unfiltered publicity could bring in more clients than you’d expect. It’s important to email clients your latest appearances/content, as well as displaying printouts of your written work in your office’s waiting room. Make sure to have the logo of that publication on there to emphasize your credibility. For your prospects, make sure to put it on your website and use drip campaigns in a timely manner to nurture your leads. Reach out a few weeks after your initial meeting with an new lead and share an article that you’ve had published on a topic you know interests them. It gives your prospects a boost in confidence on who they could see potentially working with. Your email signature is also a great place to showcase your accolades and accomplishments. A simple “as seen in” section is the perfect way to do that.
Brian adds that if you happen to be a keynote speaker at an event, the event organizer tends to post your professional bio to promote that event. What better place to show where you’ve been published, what TV shows you’ve been on and what awards you’ve won? Elise says that being a keynote speaker can pave a path to other leads. You never know who is in the room you’re speaking at. As a keynote speaker, you have to remember to speak to your target audience, keep them in the top of mind so you’re not just saying what you’ve done and “I’ve been here, here and here.” It all circles back to your “why?” and your goal of speaking and showing that you know what you’re talking about.
When it comes to putting your expertise out there in a PR campaign, you’re never going to find the opportunity that hits every single piece of criteria you want. Not every opportunity will get a certain message across, hit your exact target audience, timeliness, impact or proximity. It’s important to remember, even if you wouldn’t hit every element that makes an ideal PR opportunity, if there are enough positives for it to be worthwhile, go for it.
Timeliness when getting a story out in a PR campaign is an important factor. Things like job numbers, earnings reports and market reports will have to be done pretty quickly after they’re released or someone else will likely cover it first. Then it becomes old news. Time-dependent content usually has a schedule on when they’re released so PR agencies can get ahead of their clients and anticipate certain stories coming out. When it comes to unexpected events, such as the COVID outbreak, you have to monitor and report. With these, it’s always a great idea to jump as quickly as you can on them. Social media moves fast; so should you.
When it comes to how quickly you need to respond to a reporter with your reactions to certain financial topics, you should schedule a meeting as soon as possible. PR agencies should know how busy your schedule is so they can pick and choose who to contact and know how quickly you can respond. This can also depend on the reporters’ deadlines. When pressed for time, try to focus on topics that have a longer shelf-life than a few days. You should also factor in the time it will take things to get pushed through compliance.
Brian says that the proximity of your topic is extremely relevant. Is what you’re talking about relevant to your target audience’s relative location? Something may have happened in New York that you want to talk about, but you live in Philadelphia. They’re not too far apart, but your audience may not find anything in it substantially pertinent to their day-to-day life. A thing to also remember is to make sure the publications you are trying to get published in are available in the areas your target audience is located.
How many people will your PR campaign impact? What are the consequences of the story? These are questions you have to think about when crafting a story that will grab and hold the attention of your target audience.
This comes back to the idea of focusing on your “why?” statement. Will the prominence of the publication be useful to you and your audience? Would getting a big name to speak to boost your credibility? Does getting published in a bigger magazine mean a bigger level of interest from the people you want to attract? If you’re trying to get into a smaller niche, rather than throwing out a large net, this may not be an avenue worth pursuing.
Is there something weird or funny about the content you want to put out? Perhaps you have a quirky, yet still accessible, angle on a well-worn subject. Taking a left-of-center approach like this tends to catch people’s attention and sticks with them down the line. This strategy can make someone carry your name in their head longer and help with credibility and leads.
Is the content you’re wanting to put out even relevant to the readers at large? Sure, you’ve got a lot to say about topic X, but if the audience is only concerned with topic Y, it simply won’t resonate with them. When your PR agent is pitching your story ideas to the media, are they in-line with what those people generally cover? As we said, PR agents are good at connecting the dots. Let them work with you on creating the right topics for the right people. It may make your voice and presence reach farther than you expect.
It’s not for every client, but when there is some sort of conflict regarding a particular subject, say, bipartisan clashing over policies in Washington, that can be an enticing subject to give your two cents on. People are naturally attracted to conflict and love when someone shares their stance on the matter, especially when the validation comes from an expert in the field.
When Kalli asked if advisors and their potential contributions to the public discourse are even being sought after by the media, Brian’s immediate answer was an emphatic “yes.” You can find a money angle in almost any newsworthy topic, which makes the input of a financial professional relevant and valuable. The angle might not always be obvious, though, but PR agencies are great at finding the ideal entryway into a topic that will showcase why your opinions are applicable to the matter.
A common misconception is that public relations agencies do advertising. This is not the case, as the two are completely separate entities with completely different objectives. PR agencies put out content that people seek out to learn more about a particular topic. Advertising deals in creating interest in something the audience happens upon. Here’s a great example: When you’re flipping through a magazine, you’re doing so because of the top stories it features. That is a PR campaign at work. The inserts for body wash and reality shows in between those stories? That is advertising. No one opens a magazine looking for ads. They’re something you flip past that is meant to get your attention. Advertising has a call to action, directing you elsewhere to find out more.
While PR has a great way to earn third-party credibility and add value to you and your brand, you also need to be able to integrate it into every facet of your marketing plan. You shouldn’t, say, put all your PR eggs into the events basket. For an effective campaign, your PR needs to spread to multiple verticals of your plan. But no branch of your marketing strategy is an island. The products of one branch should then feed into the other branches. Had a great event? Post the pictures on social media. Wrote an article for a magazine? Share it in an email to prospects. Spreading the fruits of your labor like this is essential in a) extending the longevity of your various marketing moves and b) getting the most bang for your PR buck.
We hope you’ve found this to be a fruitful resource on how to establish a foundation for an effective, sustainable PR campaign, what content/personalities the media is looking for and how to convert your strategies into more business. Think it’s about time to spread your marketing wings and soar to new heights of the public consciousness? Let Kalli Collective’s expertise and connections give your brand the limelight it deserves!