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Now Is the Time for an Integrated Marketing/PR Campaign

Credibility is crucial during times like these.

C. Marie Swift, 06/25/2009

If you've been reading my contributions on MorningstarAdvisor.com for any length of time, you know that I am on a mission to help fiduciary advisors get more ink, pixels, and airwaves in the form of media placements. I know you are all busier than ever but NOW is the time that you really need to ramp up your media marketing and purpose-driven social-networking campaigns.

With all the bad news related to the big Wall Street brands and an ever-growing list of scams, it's more important than ever to build credibility with the people who are--or could be--doing business with you. As people get used to what author Susan Bradley calls "the new normal," and life goes on in spite of financial concerns and daily challenges, we are as a society regaining our balance and determining how to recoup lost ground. By positioning yourself now and being more visible than ever, you can reap many rewards.

Creating Top-of-Mind Awareness
Independent advisors must position themselves as the advisor of choice in their local markets and create "top-of-mind awareness" among ideal prospective clients and centers of influence. Advisors who are seen as expert media resources are generally perceived as more credible than their less-visible peers.

Public relations is about two things: building reputation and creating positive buzz. If you can do this, it will leverage the time and expense you devote to other marketing strategies.

Tactics that build positive reputation and credibility and create top-of-mind awareness should be higher priorities than those that simply enhance name recognition. The primary objective of reputation is not to be liked, but rather to become differentiated and disproportionately valued from competitors.

The truth of the matter is that everybody wants to work with a slightly famous planner--not so famous that you're too expensive or too busy to work with them, but enough to give prospective clients good reason to visit your Web site and seek you out. If you're a slightly famous planner, clients and centers of influence will also talk about you to their friends and colleagues, further helping you garner new business during these recessionary times.

Most Powerful Means to an End
Public relations is more powerful than advertising and traditional marketing activity because it contains an implied third-person endorsement not available with an advertisement or other means. People assume that there has been some sort of vetting process, otherwise a person wouldn't be used as an expert source or published author. If an advisor says it about himself, it's automatically suspect because others think that the advisor is just trying make himself look good.

In addition, effective PR can result in what I call "the ultimate marketing materials"--a reprint of an article in which you are quoted, a video clip of you serving as the expert for a reputable news outlet, or a published, bylined article. Good press should never die; You can "give legs" to media mentions, by distributing them to clients and strategic partners, adding a news room to your Web site, mentioning the articles and/or shows in your newsletter and bio, etc.

More than Media Relations
Remember, too, that PR is much more than media relations and getting your name in print; it's also about taking visible actions. By taking a leadership position within the financial services industry as well as in your own community, you will have opportunities to demonstrate the values that underlie your reputation. Developing reputation and credibility this way will increase the likelihood that your ideal clients will remember your name when they are ready to make a change or get a second opinion.

Here are some guidelines for developing a PR plan:
* Identify local and national media outlets that fit your target market. Determine a key contact, familiarize yourself with his/her articles or show, and build rapport by emailing with a compliment and suggestions future stories.
* Create news releases about newsworthy events related to your practice, as well as financial topics of interest to consumers for distribution to local and consumer-oriented national financial publications. Publicize events you host, awards and credentials you receive, conferences you attend, and speeches you give.
* Create a "newsroom" page on your Web site. Include news summaries of your media mentions (with links to the actual articles, if appropriate) and news releases distributed by your office.
* Create a "clip book" for your office lobby with reprints of articles, copies of your news releases, and visual representations of any broadcast media occurances.
* Seek out speaking opportunities with local business groups and industry conferences.
* Network and share your marketing message through centers of influence, online social media, and business, and trade/civic/social organizations.

You can do much of this you can do on your own, with a little studying, time and energy. However some coaching and advice is always wise before you undertake any type media outreach. Industry guru Bob Veres (publisher of Inside Information) and I recommend Media Mastery University, an innovative coaching program powered by my firm, Impact Communications.

So what are you waiting for? Put on your PR hat and get out there!

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