Public Relations (PR) involves shaping and maintaining the image of a company, organization or individual in the eyes of the client’s various “publics.” PR can be a powerful tool for independent investment advisors or, worst case, damage your practice if it is not process-driven and taken seriously.
PR is not for every financial advisor; ask any PR professional and they will tell you it is not a direct path to new business. They will also tell you there is a definite distinction between public relations and marketing.
If your objective is to increase short-term production, a PR campaign isn’t going to be the way to go. Additionally, the bump in referrals or new client acquisitions is likely to be minimal. However, if your goal is to build a reputation as an expert in your niche or specialty, then you should consider PR as a long-term investment. Having someone proactively pitch your message and story to the media can be worthwhile, but it takes time and commitment.
“Advisors who wonder if this may be for them need to think carefully and consider whether they can say ‘yes’ to possessing the following components: full engagement and proper preparation,” says Jason Lahita, managing partner at FiComm Partners. This is a Los Angeles-based specialist communications firm that works with advisors and advisory oriented B2B firms to raise their profile, put forth their messages, and market their hard-fought credibility.
“Before you endeavor to elevate yourself and your practice to a higher profile, you should know what will be expected of you. Whether you do PR yourself, use a professional agency, or are using an in-house staff member, you should understand that PR is time-consuming,” says Lahita.
The time it takes to plan and execute a PR plan, versus the time you could be spending on what you do best in your business, has to be weighed and measured. Taking on the public relations efforts of your firm is not easy. You or a staff member will need to devote a lot of time defining your target audience, as well as research editors and reporters in both traditional and non-traditional media to contact, draft and refine the message, draft press release[s], do pitching and follow-up. Once you are able to reach a reporter or editor on the phone (not an easy feat), you will need to persuade him or her as to why your story is more important than another pitch. Remember, space is limited both online and in print. In addition, you will need to prepare and be available for interviews — planned and spur of the moment.
“If you are serious about getting good media coverage, you will want to explore professional help. It is similar to going to court — sure, you can represent yourself, but above a certain level you’ll probably be outmatched and under-prepared for the experience. Plus, a third party can say things for you and about you that you couldn’t, with a straight face, say yourself,” says Lahita.
PR specialists and agencies generate publicity full time and know the ins and outs, shortcuts, and secrets to getting the job done better and quicker. Hiring a professional, however, is not cheap. Expect to pay anywhere from $2000 to $5000 per month, depending on the type of work and hours.
A great firm will have the business contacts you need and will have a track record of placing clients in the media, but you need to have realistic expectations. The general rule of thumb is it will be six months before you see any results. Keep in mind, the firm you hire may have a steep learning curve as it learns about the financial advisory business, regulatory guidelines and your firm.
For a PR professional to do his orher job, you need to be upfront and honest about every aspect of your business from the beginning. (If you’re uncomfortable, have him/her sign a non-disclosure agreement). A strategic PR professional will need access to your business plan, your goals, your analytics, your database and your metrics. Without those things, it’s impossible to be successful on your behalf.
Before you start a PR campaign, carefully consider the pros and cons, as well as the economies, of doing it in-office or hiring a professional.
Summit Brokerage Services is part of Cetera Financial Group, RCS Capital Corporation’s (NYSE: RCAP) retail investment advice platform.
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