Tuesday, 16 April 2013 11:52
How to promote your business and Financial Planning through PRWritten by Don't delete
As Financial Planners feel the need to differentiate themselves post-RDR, IFP communications director Sue Whitbread talks to two media experts about how Financial Planners can get their names in print.
With making your business stand out even more important following January's RDR changes, now is a good time to look at some professional tips on how getting to grips with PR can have a big impact.
Promotion. Marketing. Public Relations. These words don't always resonate with Financial Planners whose focus is often on the more day-to-day aspects of running the business and looking after clients' needs. However, ignoring these now puts the business at considerable risk.
Imagine for a moment the position of a would-be client considering your services. What research will they do before they come along to meet you? At the very least you can expect them to have done a Google search on you, your business, checked out your website and read other searches they pulled up from networking and other sites and maybe looked you up on social media too. You'll probably find that existing clients regularly look you up too, so what will they find? Is it positive? Is it impressive? Do you know? Have you checked?
According to Elizabeth Holt, director at specialist financial services PR agency, Holt PR. "Client engagement is more important than ever before," she said. "Clients expect an increasingly bespoke service and, with economic pressures continuing, will only select a business that they feel is absolutely right for them and their circumstances. It is therefore essential they know you exist (the days of clients simply looking through the Yellow Pages have long-gone) and that they like and are impressed by what they find."
It is also essential that businesses embrace social media platforms as a communications channel says Ms Holt. "We don't live in a 24-hour news society any more, we live in a nano-second news society. Potential clients and influential journalists are all over outlets such as Twitter and LinkedIn, it is essential you are too. A targeted communications strategy should include social media and digital communications as part and parcel of the overall approach."
So how can PR help? Things have moved on significantly with the advent of social media, which makes promotion and engagement so much easier, cheaper and quicker.
Top of the list is still gaining PR through editorial comment in the media. The bigger the name of the title, the more impact it has. To be quoted by a respected journalist in an editorial piece is far more effective than traditional advertising, as these journalists carry a lot of weight and impact in their sectors and their every word is followed by their readers. Readers often contact experts quoted in articles when they are looking for professional advice.
Stephen Womack has worked as a successful personal financial journalist at the Financial Mail on Sunday for many years. He is now working to become a Financial Planner himself and is ideally positioned to throw some light on what goes on behind the scenes. How is it that the same names seem to appear in the financial press each week? He explained: "Journalists look to advisers and Financial Planners as part of their network of eyes and ears. We can't be everywhere so rely on connections we can trust for tips, advice and wise counsel."
It helps to understand the journalistic production process, he said. "Most reporters are not masters of their own destiny. They have been asked to produce a piece to fit a space or fill a need. Sometimes the deadlines are ridiculously short, for example because an advert on a page in a newspaper has just been moved and there is a hole that needs filling right now. So that means journalists will instinctively turn to those who respond swiftly to their calls, emails or Tweets. Likewise, stories can suddenly disappear. There are some advisers who I've been talking to for the best part of 15 years now and am proud to count as friends.
"Even if the reporter isn't on such a tight deadline, it is still worth responding as quickly as possible. If, for example, someone is writing about how advisers charge their clients, and your business model is to have every client on a monthly retainer, then the earlier you plant those seeds in the reporter's mind, the more likely it is that your comments and ideas will see the light of day." As a final word of warning, he suggests that planners should not expect to control what goes into an article, they will only end up disappointed.
So what tips would he give planners on how to make a connection with a journalist? "If you are trying to get yourself into a reporter's black book, then do your homework. Look at what they have personally written and think about who their audience is. Make sure you are targeting the right people. Then give them a call and ask if you can meet for a brief chat to introduce yourself and talk about a couple of specific story ideas. You won't hit it off with everyone and don't worry if you have a few misfires – you'll make some great contacts which will generate great coverage and you'll build rewarding relationships that will last for many years too and should prove invaluable."
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