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Finding a Hook for Client Communications

When people connect with what you have to say, it makes all the difference.

C. Marie Swift, 04/09/2009

As a marketing communications expert and PR professional, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to communicate effectively--both for myself and for the advisors with whom I work. For years, I've challenged my team's copywriting, graphic design, and marketing ideas with a brisk "So what? Who cares?" or "What's in it for the reader? Why should they read this now?" In fact, one of the reasons my team is so successful pitching story ideas and placing bylined articles is due to this constant mindset that constantly challenges and asks "why would anybody but us (or our client) care about this piece? Why should an editor publish this now?"

In the PR world, this is called developing "the peg." You can learn and refine this skill, too. The news peg, also known as the story hook, is the reason to publish this news story right now. The peg makes the story timely, and thus defines the story as news. Without timeliness, you don't have news. This "what's in it for them?" mindset also works in connecting with audiences (imagine you're giving a speech), engaging new clients (imagine you're delivering a sales presentation), and convincing existing clients that you're still the best firm in town (imagine you're in a portfolio review meeting).

I'm drawn to other professionals who share this same mindset. They are the ones who can, in a seemingly effortless way, project themselves into the recipient's mental framework and deliver a clear, concise, and compelling message. They are the ones who connect more quickly, seal more deals, and win more business. If you've ever wondered why some advisors land their messages every time and consistently get better results than their peers, it's due to this: They have refined their ability to listen for and intuit what their clients, prospects, staff members and strategic partners want. They have internalized this vital skill--it's second nature to them.

It's no wonder, then, that I immediately liked Mark Magnacca. Mark is a professional motivator, consultant, and speaker who develops training programs and presentations for the financial services industry. A few years back, I heard him deliver a speech based on his first book, at an industry conference. Mark's enthusiasm was contagious as he shared some of his key concepts, including how to develop, internalize, and use a well-crafted positioning statement.

In January, Mark sent me a copy of the manuscript for his second book. It's called "So What? How to Communicate What Really Matters to Your Audience." I spoke with Magnacca to learn more about his motivations for writing the book and to get his current thinking on surviving and thriving in tough times.

Swift: Mark, why is it important for financial advisors to be better communicators in today's more challenging environment?
Magnacca: Most advisors recognize that the world changed in a very significant way for financial advisors on Sept. 15, 2008. It brings to mind the song that says, "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine." While we don't all necessarily feel fine, we do know that our environment has changed dramatically and we're in this new normal. The central idea in my book is the "So What" filter, which can help give financial advisors a new perspective on how to transform this crisis into an opportunity.

Swift: Talk a little bit more about that.

Magnacca: I liken the "So What" filter to polarized sunglasses. Until I purchased polarized sunglasses about two years ago, I didn't appreciate just how powerful the polarized filter was. While I was shopping for sunglasses one day, the salesman asked me if I was currently wearing polarized lenses. When I replied that I didn't know, he said, "Well look over at this poster." What I saw was just a gray poster that appeared to have some faint images. The salesman then said, "Now, put these on." I took my own sunglasses off and put his polarized sunglasses on and all of a sudden, with that polarization filter present, what I saw instead of the gray poster was a coral reef with orange and blues and yellows--and it was just amazing. It was the same image, just seen through a different filter.

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