As you grow your firm, there’s a very good chance that you will eventually need to reach out to your community—or the whole world—in order to find great clients.
That’s where PR comes in, and few people know more about PR than Alana Kohl. After working for a Fortune 500 company and a career in corporate finance, she used her know-how and talent to succeed in large-scale national marketing campaigns to build AdvisorPR in 2005.
Alana is known for innovative, all-inclusive marketing communications programs designed to help her clients stand out in a crowded field and become prominent voices in their communities. We spoke about what exactly PR entails, when and why financial advisors need it, creative ways to reach your prospects, and much more.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
Discover how building your company is about more than just generating leads! CLICK HERE to download Alana’s whitepaper, “Define, Support, Promote and Capture Your Way to a Successful Financial Advisory Firm.”
Andrew: Welcome, everybody, to another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. I’m your host, Andrew Rafal, and I am very, very excited to have on today Alana Kohl who is not only somebody I respect thoroughly in our business but somebody I’ve known for what, Alana, almost has it been a decade maybe?
Alana: Maybe. Yeah. It’s been a while.
Andrew: Well, welcome to the show. I know this is long overdue and you guys are busy this time of year so thanks for joining us today.
Alana: Of course. Glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Andrew: So, today we’re going to go through a lot of great stuff beyond learning about how you came to start AdvisorPR and some of the nuances in what you saw out there but for the listeners because I know your niche is working with financial services and advisors and really helping them define their message, build their brand, create that credibility but when we look at PR and we look at defining the brand, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in. It’s a critical piece to getting your message out there. So, as we start today, kind of walk us through some of the myths or the preconceived notions that business owners have in regards to PR whether what they’re not doing right or some of the things that maybe they’re afraid of and the benefit of really putting together a strategic plan to get the messaging out there.
Alana: Okay. That’s a big one. So, in terms of PR, I think that misconceptions that you have to be very, very trained and prepared to be able to speak with media which isn’t necessarily the case. I mean, you certainly need to know your areas and the things that you want to talk about, but I would never suggest somebody just try to go out there and answer every single inquiry, every single question that remotely falls underneath their realm of expertise. PR is a great tool to illustrate so to show by example how you can potentially help somebody or the benefits of working with you and I find that a lot of advisors still like they need to, if they’re going to do PR, they need to be available to talk about any topic that falls underneath, in our instance, the realm of the financial services industry.
So, you can certainly be focused in the types of topics and things that you choose to work with the media on. So, I wouldn’t let that be, I guess, an overwhelming reason as to why you wouldn’t want to move forward with it. Another misconception kind of tying into that one that any PR is good PR. Not the case especially now with the web and the evolution of social media and whatnot, things live out there forever. And so, it’s like the old adage term like 50 years ago, “Any PR is good PR,” but you certainly want to be protective of the types of things that you’re working with media on and again just making sure it’s consistent with your expertise and how you want to be recognized.
Andrew: Well, that’s like Google. It never forgets. It just never forgets. It’s out there forever.
Alana: I know. I almost feel bad for this new generation coming into the workforce with the onset of digital devices in their college years, in their 20s and whatnot. I mean, they’ll be out there forever.
Andrew: I know. I don’t want to age myself but I feel like I was the last in the generation where we got through high school and college with no digital technology and it’s so refreshing to think back that not that we did a lot of things bad but there’s no record of it and it’s like we actually had to communicate with people and if you said, “Hey, I’m going to meet you at this restaurant or bar,” if you weren’t there, we’re not going to see each other there.
Alana: Yeah. There’s no way to get a hold of you. I remember.
Andrew: But we’re starting to see I think a pullback back from this technology and it’s, yeah, raising kids. It’s a constant battle that I think it’s a never-ending battle for sure.
Andrew: So, when you think in terms of like so business itself is in their infancy and are trying to structure who they are, their culture, what are some of the advice that you would give to a firm as they’re trying to define their message, defining their brand, making sure the public knows who they are, what they believe in, and how they can be a benefit to whomever their target market is?
Alana: Okay. I would tell people that you don’t want to build the brand by accident and I find that a lot of small businesses or people just starting out, they have a good service or a good product, but they failed to identify like how it benefits the people they worked with or even who specifically they want to work with. So, I suggest any small business should really begin with the business plan for the brand and you just want to think through every single aspect of what your brand represents.
So, from the who and like just the defining what that company name is, the tagline, a logo setting, some design standards whether it be colors and fonts, just being very specific about what it’s going to look like and represent. I mean, even to like your URLs and a consistent use of capitalization and lowercase letters when you’re putting that kind of stuff on your materials, getting through and getting clarity on the types of people you want to work with and I’m not just saying other 50 years old and they have half a million dollars, again, going back to financial services but what are their interests? What are their hobbies? What are their groups? What are their problems? What are the concerns that your product or service can help to solve? You really need to get clear on all of that.
Andrew: What I think too especially in the service industry whether you’re a financial advisor, you’re a CPA, an attorney, even a chiropractor, as you mentioned there, I think that’s such great advice is to find your avatar client. Who do you want to work with? Obviously, you got to look at who can provide revenue for the firm but then it also especially in a service industry and for us in particular and the clients that you helped serve in the financial services space, there are some clients I don’t want to work with. Even though they may have the dollars that are there that can bring in revenue, if they’re not a, you know, philosophically believe in what we do and thinking the long-term, we know that those people are not going to be with us over the long-term and in any space, I think a lot of the heavy lifting goes into the beginning of a relationship.
So, you don’t want to put all this work out there and then in eight months, they’re gone because they didn’t firmly believe in the value and on our side maybe they were just looking at us on the investment side rather than the whole picture there. So, for you out there, make sure that you really identify those and clone those clients that you like working with. That’s the first step in making sure that you build and brand that message the right way.
Alana: Yeah. That’s good advice and I’d even take that further. A lot of people have difficulty communicating the value because they themselves don’t truly know. So, even going into talking about the brand building and getting these core messages in place, why? Why should somebody work with you? And I would get very clear in what those why factors are. This can start with identifying all of the different problems that your ideal client may have that you can help to address. This would be what are all of the like the benefits, the strengths that you can bring to them. Again, professional services, are you investing in your education so you’re always at the top of your game? Are you committed to a high impact customer service experience? Just get very clear on those why statements.
So, I think that when you have that down and you can communicate that effectively both in the written and verbal then when people come to you and like you’re talking about the challenging client or somebody that doesn’t see the value, you have those statements on autopilot like you’re able to communicate it in a way you’ve thought through it all that they can then understand the value that you’re bringing to them. I see a lot of people just assume that you’re going to understand. The PR bringing to you is going to create value. What do you mean you don’t know all the different other reasons why you should be doing it? You have to have those messages clear, so you can communicate them effectively.
Andrew: I mean, does that go back to the old adage in a sense of this elevator pitch, “Give me three minutes or two minutes who you are what you do?” Is that still relevant in today’s world?
Alana: Absolutely. It’s a little different. Now, these are kind of your bite-size messages on your LinkedIn page or on your Twitter and you’re still having those communications with people and they ask what you do. So, I certainly think like having that high-level overview not necessarily the service of the product so I have some advisors that would be, “I sell stocks and annuities,” like that does not create any sort of interest whatsoever but if you talk about the benefit of I help people grow assets and protect their income for the rest of their life, something to that effect that creates the value in the service that’s provided, that is going to get more interest than just coming out and saying you make widgets.
Andrew: Right. I think you said at making it like personal and you looked at what drives people at stories. It’s humanizing something and from our side when we came up with a tagline of, “You dream. We plan.” We wanted to keep it simple but then bring in what we’re trying to accomplish and making that tagline that resonates with our planning process itself. So, defining a message. Now, when you think in terms of all these things you’re talking about of who, the why, who’s your avatar client, you’re obviously been in the industry for a while and not just as an owner and builder of your firm but prior to that which we’ll get into, but can a business, do they need somebody to guide them, somebody professional like a PR firm, AdvisorPR, etcetera?
Alana: I would say yes but it’s not necessarily when you’re very first starting out. I think there’s a lot of how-to books, a lot of resources. I mean we personally have a blog that we update on a weekly basis that gives tips on different areas of your business that you could be focusing on. When you get to a certain point so if we’re going to the media side of things, absolutely. It’s, first of all, it’s the contacts and relationships that the media firm would have or PR a firm would have with the media. It would take you so much time and energy to try and replicate.
Number two, if it’s an area you’re not familiar with, there’s that screening process, that barrier for you so somebody’s going to be able to tell you what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense in that sense. For marketing, there’s a lot of systems or processes that somebody could follow. So, if you’re very clear with your message, you follow the format, you have a call to action, you’re getting in front of the right audiences, you’re being consistent with your message, things like that then, yeah, I think business owners can go ahead and tackle that on their own.
There does come a point where a professional service provider can make things happen for you more efficiently, more effectively and give you that counsel, that insight, and expertise on marketing on your brand, on your message that you may not be able to see for yourself. I feel like so many business owners get caught up in the weeds of their own company that they fail to even see some of the obvious things and the third party that’s trained to look at the marketing message and the effectiveness of strategies can really help you to kind of cut through that clutter and put a really strong plan in place.
Andrew: Yeah. And you look at something that is a business owner that they’re not looking at things high level. They’re not looking at their competitors. It’s even as something as simple as what if they chose the wrong color tone where a professional firm could come in and say, “We know based on X, Y and Z, that color red in your business is going to have a negative effect.” Well, there’s no way the business owner who’s just trying to get their whether a business off the ground or they’re focused on a successful business but this isn’t the world they live in, there’s no way that they would know that that’s going to have that type of adverse effect so that’s that branding and going through a process and making sure that you look at the competitors, the landscape, the wording and that’s where I think it’s sometimes the investment of working with a professional far exceeds the cost that’s associated with it. Because if you make a mistake, going back and trying to fix that two years later, that’s going to be so much more expensive.
Alana: Yeah. Absolutely. Both on the visual side what you’re talking about but there’s also the trademark issues with the company names or with any sort of like icons that you may be using with your business. So, I don’t think people just starting out or working in their business or thinking about those things beyond what sounds good right now and what do I think my clients would like. So, yeah.
Andrew: When we look back to the starting of your firm, AdvisorPR, so prior to starting AdvisorPR and what is it the early 2000s is when you created the firm and the niche and focusing on the financial services and the advisor?
Alana: Yeah. It was January 2005.
Andrew: Awesome. So, up until that point, what experience did you have in the working or in the corporate world, how did you get into PR and was that always a passion of yours to be able to define and help brand other businesses and strategize and build out and help them get their defined brand and messaging out?
Alana: No, actually. Listen, I started Fortune 500, I did PR and advertising for one of the casinos here in Las Vegas and then went to their corporate office for a few years and loved it. I was involved in investor relations, community relations, high profile events, restaurants, photo shoots, movies, things like that. It was a lot of fun. Very fast paced but certainly learned a lot during my time there. So, then I took a position with a financial services organization. It was a wholesaler and came in very early stages of their company as the PR and advertising person there. In a very short period of time, the company grew substantially. It was I think the fourth employee. By the time I left 21 months later, they had almost 30 employees. They had grown their sales over and over and over again and become very well recognized within the financial services industry.
So, at the time that I was there, I had noted that there were no PR firms or any marketing firms within the financial services side that were focusing on the advisor. So, really, they were out on their own in their different markets and it just so happened at the same time my grandmother had passed away and had gotten some really bad advice about her money and I had made that connection. If my grandmother had known that there have been people out there that took a more comprehensive approach or that wouldn’t have had all her money in the stock market in her late 60s like I would’ve loved to have been able to make that introduction for her. And so, it became my mission to help independent financial advisors that are doing right by their clients that weren’t just selling products but were actually taking a comprehensive approach for them to help them gain more prominent voice in their community. That became my mission.
Alana: So, in January ‘05, I did move back to Las Vegas and was very fortunate. I had made such an impact from my previous employer at the time that over the course of the three days just driving back to Vegas I was getting phone calls from different companies who wanted me to come and do the same thing for them that I had done for the previous company and had shared with them my mission to help with the advisors more. And so, it just turned into a built-in referral program, I mean, from day one. That’s still to this day 13 years in the business as of last month never ever advertised. We’ve never paid money to any third party in order to get information about my firm out there. It’s all been word-of-mouth, referrals and just having those networks in place that send their advisors.
Andrew: So, you made this decision because I know a lot of listeners maybe on the cost of starting something or knowing they want to get out of their corporate world that they’ve got this vision to build something that they know they can grow but it’s a big, big decision. So, walking backward and knowing, “Okay, I’m good at what I do, and I can do it where nobody else is doing it at this niche,” did you like on that drive, that three-day drive, had you already made the decision? Did you quit your job and you’re like, “I’m all in and I’m going back to Vegas,” or was it – because I’m trying to have a listener think about how you made that decision.
Alana: Sure. Yeah. No, that makes sense. So, I made the decision six months prior to going out on my own. At least made it partially. I started exploring the thought, what it would take the cost associated with owning my own business. I had talked to a couple of people that I trusted within the industry and did have verbal commitment from a couple of people that they would be clients of mine if I did go out of my own. So, this is before it was public but, yes, so I had some of those reassurances. I had a lot of really great people in my corner that believed in me and then the products and services, what I had to offer. And so, I left with that confidence.
I also did not take on a significant amount of overhead or anything like that when I first started. It was very conservative, lived and worked and you slap everything in my apartment when I first moved back to Vegas but, yeah, I had a couple of people lined up in advance and it just so happened once the word got out and I had shared with people what I was doing that the referral program started coming over almost immediately. So, very fortunate in that sense. I don’t think that’s the same thing for a lot of business owners but…
Andrew: And where were you – are you in the East Coast then if it was a three-day drive back? Is that where the firm where you’re at previously?
Alana: Yeah. It was in the middle of the country.
Andrew: Okay. Yeah. Because I just imagine it’s kind of cool going out West, starting your own thing back home that have I’m sure a little tivenous but having the ability to know you got these clients already, it just had been a cool drive to just think in terms of you’re out there, you’re going to go build something. Scary but just kind of that open road and knowing that you’re on the bigger and better and you know you’re going to be successful. So, then you started. It was just you then? You’re solo and you’re kind of at that point, you started building your own messaging. So, when you think about what you do now, how did you start building first and foremost your message, your brand defining that was like where did AdvisorPR come from, that name, and how did you go through that process for yourself?
Alana: Well, I’ve learned a lot over the course of the last few years or whatever, the time that I’ve been doing this but at the beginning just structurally like I knew I didn’t want it to be about Alana like I knew that I wanted to grow the firm and wanted to eventually have employees and have a larger impact so that’s why I chose a company name that was more specific about who we work for or we work with and what we do versus it being about me and it was my reputation initially that led me to start the business but I never wanted it to stop with me. I wanted to always be bigger than that. So, that was really the strategy that went into the selecting of AdvisorPR.
When I first started, I did have the goal again of providing the PR services to advisors and very quickly I noticed that I’d have advisor send me over all of their marketing materials as an example. We needed to build out their media materials to be consistent with their marketing materials. You want to have one cohesive message in all the different platforms that you’re promoting through.
And so, I have them send over their marketing materials and they were template like nothing was unique to them. I had two advisors that I worked with the first year and completely unrelated, had no mutual connections as far as I could tell and speaking with them, but they were both using the exact same bio, the exact same bio but it was like a game of Mad Libs like they had just changed out city, state, kids’ names, things like that. They really had nothing unique about them that was being communicated through it. So, very quickly I learned, okay, not only do they need PR support, but these advisors also need some assistance with the marketing side of things. And so, I sit down with them and I’d say, “Okay, tell me what makes you unique, what makes you better, what are we writing in your brochure to your website to communicate this, your value to clients?” And again, it’s like crickets. They don’t really know.
Alana: So, that’s when we started going even further back to really that brand development process. So, now I’m a big proponent of you’ve got to first define the brand, define what those messages are, what the look is of that brand, and only when that’s in place can you move on to step two which is support. You need the materials in place to help tell that story to support the process that you take new clients through. Once that’s in place then you can go out and promote so this would be the PR. This would be lead generation. This could be your digital marketing, whatever it is but now that you’ve got the brand clear, it’s consistent through everything else that you’re doing, you have the materials in place to support that brand. You can go out and promote it and feel confident that everything is going to be consistent in the message and in the look.
And then the last step that we’ve added would be the capture. So, I saw very quickly that leads were being generated or people were engaging in new relationships with clients or potential clients, but the clients never move forward. So, what are you doing to continue to communicate with those prospects that have not yet become clients?
And so, this is the fourth step in our process, the capture. It’s that ongoing communication that continues to outreach, not to the point where they’re going to get a restraining order against you or anything like that but just wanting to stay top of mind because clearly, they have a need at one point for your product or your services and perhaps that wasn’t the right timing for them. So, that ongoing communication is really critical to make sure that when that need does arise that they remember you and they called you to help them through that process.
Andrew: And there was a lot of great nuggets to what you just said so let me step back a little bit. So, in the scope of you defining in a sense your process, this four-step process that’s easy to have your team convey. It’s easy for a potential of one of your clients to understand what you’re delivering. So, those out there listening, if you have a process which we all do, and it doesn’t matter what type of business that you’re in, we all have a process. The key and in what Alana’s done and what she preaches to her clients and in our financial services industry, it is like how do you separate yourself from somebody else out there because in a sense we all do the same thing.
So, in this case, define support, promoting capture, that in itself is a great vehicle to show that you can help them create their own process because you’ve already had one for yourself and it clearly kind of defines and delineates the value that you’re bringing. And I think it simplifies it for the potential client of yours and then that’s the first step there. So, obviously, if you didn’t have a process, how can you go out and say that you can help somebody else? So, I think that’s great and I’m looking on the website itself. It’s clearly defined. I like the color codes there and I know this didn’t happen overnight. This for you was ongoing over the last 13 years. You continually modifying and tweaking and editing your process to make it better and better as the industry changes.
Alana: Of course. Yeah. I think any business owner would do that. The services that we offer, those four areas, those have been in place since the onset of the company. How we do each of those services has evolved. So, I’m a process-oriented person so even from like branding, I have a process that I follow for that. From marketing collateral, I have a process. My team, all of us are on the same page. You’re getting the same process, the same quality no matter who you’re working with for anything.
It’s evolved though because 13 years ago, businesses, we didn’t have Twitter. We hardly have Facebook. People were just transitioning. They were just really getting websites, a lot of small businesses, and they were just now starting to transition from brochure-like websites to more interactive type of sites. And so, as even the whole industry, the marketing side of things, not just the financial industry but you have to evolve to adapt to new technologies in the financial industry, new regulations, things like that just to keep you relevant not only for the services that you’re providing your clients, but your clients need to stay relevant in the services that they’re providing their clients. So, I think that’s business for you. You’re constantly evolving but the foundation I think it’s really what’s made a big difference and us being able to adapt so easily to change this.
Andrew: When you look back as you started bringing all these clients and figuring out that what you’re helping them do that this thing is going to work. You remember then in ‘05 or ‘06 like the first person that you hired, how was that for you as a solo practitioner going in and then having to bring somebody on board? Was that a hard step for you to take both economically and then also to maybe have to delegate?
Alana: Oh, yes. My first employee, I’ve brought on in 2006 about 15 months after I started the company and it was just sheer necessity, but that person worked as an administrative type of role as she learned the processes, the ins and outs of what I did. So, she was in many ways like an apprentice for the first year or two. What supports me on projects where on the steps that anybody with direction could potentially do while she learns the unique skills or the unique things that I was doing to facilitate a project. So, of course, it was very scary. Just somebody else is going to depend on you for their own livelihood but it worked out. It worked out. I mean, payroll now becomes a thing and paying those taxes and all of that was a bit of a learning curve. Remember, I never worked for an agency. I just built one right from scratch. So, time tracking just a lot of things I had to learn through the process, but I hired right. I had a really strong person with me those first few years and they brought a lot of value.
Andrew: And you flashed forward now like 13 years later and what does AdvisorPR look like now with the team you have on board? How many people? And how was it managing the business and managing your people? Has that been something that you’ve enjoyed or is it you find some difficulty in it?
Alana: When they’re good people, I love it. Like with any company, we’ve brought on some very strong people over the years and we’ve also brought on some people because we had a need to fulfill and brought on some people that weren’t the right fit. And managing people that don’t want to adapt to your internal processes and procedures or want to reinvent the wheel and the wheel is working just fine, some of those types of things certainly pose challenges over the years but now we’re six strong. I have people that can sort of lead their divisions if you will. I have a marketing director and a PR director so while I’m overseeing kind of the big picture with everything, they can run with, the PR programs are all done with the PR department and the marketing. They have obviously the skill set and the authority to be able to make decisions and move projects forward. So, I’m still all clearly very involved but not to the point where I’m managing every aspect. All of that’s been defined. We certainly have a process for just about everything over here and so they’ve got clear guidance and direction on what they need to do to keep moving that ball forward.
Andrew: With you having I’m sure over the years trials and tribulations just like we all do, having that ability to talk to a financial services owner which I assume is the bulk of the clients that you work with, the owner, the rainmaker, the founder of the firm, you can feel their pain. You can put yourself in their shoes and that helps I’m sure in developing that relationship with them and, listeners, full disclosure, Alana and I have not only known each other for quite a while but we’ll talk about how we actually got to know each other and some of the way you’ve helped grow your company and get your messaging out by partnering with other firms that are out there doing good things. But as working with you for a number of years, I just felt you always you got it and that was something that you got in a sense like what we deal on a day-to-day basis versus if I went out there and said, “Okay, I want PR. I want to get into the news. I want to get into the newspaper,” but you’re dealing with a local firm that doesn’t, they don’t work just solely with one niche. They’re not going to get our industry so I’m going to spend half the time trying to explain to them what we do, who we are, what we need to get out there, what we need to message.
So, for those of you that are financial advisors and are trying to figure out how to get the messaging out there, I think it’s so important to work with somebody that gets it, that understands it, that’s built into the world that we live in and not having to reinvent that and that’s one of the values that I saw with you guys. PR is like it’s a very hard thing to quantify sometimes and I’m sure you battle this with trying to quantify your value and in any business itself especially ours, sometimes it’s like in our business I know if I bring a client in through a referral or we did a client workshop, I can quantify that. I paid X. I got these many clients in and they brought in this revenue. Isn’t PR one of the difficult parts is quantifying that because there are so many intangibles that go into it but there’s so much value there, right? That’s persuading, building that credibility, that getting that messaging out. So, what would you say to somebody who’s kind of on the fence there of, “Well, I want that, but I don’t want to pay for it and I don’t know if it’s going to have a return on investment?”
Alana: I would tell them to google their name and when they don’t see anything come up whatsoever for their own website then they should give us a call. I always call PR. It’s kind of like a performance enhancer of all of the other marketing activities you have going on. People need to leverage it like you may be in the Wall Street Journal one day but for the rest of your career, you can say that you were in the Wall Street Journal. Of course, you’re going to want to refresh this every once in a while, but it has like a level of credibility that you can’t buy like you can’t run an ad in the Wall Street Journal and say you’re in the Wall Street Journal like it wouldn’t fly from a regulatory standpoint but that’s just a blatant lie.
So, the fact that media has already vetted you, they’ve already confirmed that you are the expert that you claim to be and so much so that they’re using you in their reporting, that’s a level of credibility that you really can’t find anywhere else. But, yeah, in terms of quantifying it, it needs to be ingrained into all of your other marketing. So, in the example of being in that prominent newspaper incorporating that into your bio, sharing that information with people that are just learning about your firm or coming to a workshop or whatever it may be, you have to leverage that so people can see it because they’ll have the same impression about you as the expert, your credibility even if the article took place three months ago, six months ago, a year ago, whatever like it’s going to last.
Andrew: Here’s a question I kind of always ask myself and I think I’ve talked to you on it in the past too but so, for instance, let’s say we have an owner of a firm whether it’s financial services or whatnot and they’ve got a lot of press. They’ve got into publications, let’s say Wall Street Journal. They were on the news. So, we’ve got Twitter. We’ve got Facebook. We’ve got LinkedIn. We’ve got email. I always grapple with how do I get my message out there that we were, that here’s where I was and here’s my messaging but without like beating your own chest. That is something that you want to push it out there but what would you say to somebody that says, “I don’t want to look like an egotistical maniac that’s just promoting the heck out of myself?”
Alana: Well, you have a company, right, and I’m sure the company has all the social platform. So, being at a position this company news versus you to tooting your own horn is one way to go about doing it. I mean, do all of the emails that you send out comes from you personally or does the company send out announcements and newsletters and updates like that?
Andrew: Yeah. So, from our standpoint company-wise so you’re saying is maybe more effective to use the company Twitter, the company LinkedIn and then maybe sharing that from your personal?
Alana: Yeah. I think that’s good. I don’t think that it’s bad to be proud of your accomplishments. I think that it creates a lot of comfort and value for those people that are connected to you. So, I’d have to dig into this a little further in your scenario but let me just speak high-level third person. So, if your social channels are used predominantly for business purposes, sharing this is only going to create greater value in the eyes of your clients and prospects. I think where people may feel like that they’re overstating it as if their social channels are predominately used for personal reasons and if that’s the case, then I think putting it on the business page and sharing it that way is a great way to go about doing it. But I think I would certainly make it available to people to find on their own so as you’re talking through the website, a lot of our clients have reels that they’ll play like in their waiting rooms at their offices, their lobbies. If they have client events they’ll run those reels there. It’s just kind of as a background as everybody is coming in and getting their food and taking seats and whatnot. So, it’s on display but it’s not in your face.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s been really effective for us and the highlight reel that you guys actually helped us put together, you take a day like the last Monday where the Dow, the S&P was down record levels and we have our lounge were the client comes in and kind of relaxes beforehand or fills out things that they need to, and we want them to have an experience. Well if I’ve got on CNBC or Bloomberg and we’re seeing just blood red across the board, that’s not a good environment to start a meeting. So, we looked at that and even if things are really bright green, the type of portfolios that we’re going to create, we’re not going to keep up with the S&Ps so it’s kind of you look on either way. So, we made the decision especially for newer clients or prospective clients is that through our YouTube channel which incorporates a lot of our media, a lot of our webinars, a lot of things that showed the value. We like to push out as much value as possible and then allow people to go on their own to learn about what we do and it’s a lot of different marketing than it was when you started this in 2005 where it was like static website and you maybe update it every year. That’s not going to work anymore.
It’s a different cycle there but that reel that you are talking about or having a YouTube channel is such a great way to build your brand and identity and then take away that emotional of them thinking that if you didn’t do that there in the meeting with you and they’re thinking about how the Dow is just plummeting and that’s just not a good place to be in our world and it doesn’t matter what business that you’re in. You got to think about the client experience and that’s a great way for you to be able to showcase who you are and take away that emotional that may have a negative effect on the meeting.
Alana: Yeah. No, I think that’s strong. I’d also add to that. So, that’s from a leveraging standpoint of PR. When you any business, your prospects before they choose to move forward with you specifically a service-based business, they’re going to do a Google search. They’re getting ready to entrust you with all of their money or their estate plan or their taxes or whatever it may be. First thing they’re going to do is go to Google and do a search of your name. So, you talking about having fresh content on your website, that’s going to help you stay higher in the search engines. PR, this is different than any form of advertising. PR, every single time that you work with the media even if it’s a traditional print, newspaper you’re interviewed in, there’s always an online component to it. So, if somebody does a search of your name, your company name, every single one of those media opportunities that you participated in are going to come up in that Google search.
So, go back to the client experience, before they even walk in the doors, they do a search of you wanting to get to know you a little bit better and pages and pages and pages of quality interviews are coming up that you’ve been featured in. I know you can’t put a price on that so talk about quantifying it but, wow, I mean there’s no hurdle to overcome in terms of credibility. Again, going back to media has already vetted you and confirms that you are the expert so why are they going to question it?
Andrew: So true. That’s that persuading, getting that out there, that messaging out there so somebody feels confident. Now, that doesn’t mean that that’s the end-all-be-all. That’s just going to give them that confidence to meet with you, but you still got to have your own systems processes and you’d have to know your stuff and it doesn’t matter financial services or anything else. You can only do so much on that end, but you’ve got to then…
Andrew: Yeah. Deliver and act on what you say you’re going to do. So, if I’m a business owner and I think about, “Okay, I’ve got my messaging down. I’ve got my branding down and now I want to get out to the media,” if I don’t have a firm that has the relationships like an AdvisorPR that’s building relationships with publications and authors and bloggers and bloggers, etcetera, for the last 13 years, is it possible for me to get out there to say, “Hey, I am a specialist in this or I know X, Y, and Z and I’m going to bring value to your audience?” Would that be an uphill battle without a professional team that’s got those relationships?
Alana: I mean, yeah, it’s going to be a challenge but it’s not necessarily just because of our relationships. Two things. First, you’re going to take a generalist approach so you’re going to reach out to say a reporter in your local town. “Hi. I’m a financial advisor and I specialize in retirement.” So what? So many other ones do the same thing like that’s not the hook or the angle that you need to share like you need to bring something of value, of insights, something unique to the media outlet in order to pique their interest. It’s different how you approach TV versus print. It’s different how you approach resource opportunities versus creating the news, you have an announcement. So, any small business trying to go at it on their own, is it possible? It’s certainly possible but there’s a lot that needs to go into building your story to generate the interest needed to get you that sort of opportunity.
The second point to that is going back to like a generalist firm so you talked a bit about hiring a PR firm in your local area and having to spend half of your time communicating to them what it is that you do in the types of articles that you like to be interviewed for. Their level of understanding is only going to go so far. So, this is where we’ve almost had to fix things for people in different markets. They’re going to go to media and say, “I have somebody that can talk about finance.” I don’t know exactly like something with retirement, whatever, and so now it’s on the media person like, “Okay. Well, if he can talk about finance, well, we’re having a back-to-school shopping segment coming up. Maybe they can talk about how to save money for that.” Well, that’s not the opportunity that’s going to put you in the best light or I’ve seen how to pay off your credit card debts or whatever like those aren’t the topics that you specialize in but somebody that doesn’t understand that that can actually be negative to the brand, that could detract from it rather than build it further.
Alana: They’re just looking for the win. They’re just looking to get something, anything, and they’re not going to really care if it’s the right opportunity for you. And you’re excited. I mean, I’ve seen advisors. They’re so excited by it. They’re being interviewed for pet insurance on a segment or local NBC affiliate but what value does that create for you? So, somebody contacts your firm wanting to know more information about pet insurance. Are you really going to be able to help them? So, just being very clear on the types of stories that you want to participate in and be empowered to say no, like if it’s not the right thing, don’t do it.
I know I probably just went a couple of different directions after your first point. I think you are asking me just more about can somebody do it on their own? Yeah. You can give it a go, just make sure you have like a strong angle, a strong topic to offer, not a me too but something unique that you can provide insight to and know the outlet. I mean, it’s the same as sales. I mean, you have to know who your client is, and you have to know all the details about them. You also need to know who your media contacts are and what types of stories they cover and what angles they take. I see a lot of people want to approach media that get this reporter to cover something that likes about this product I’m offering or whatever like that’s not even at all the types of stories they cover. So, it’s just now you become a nuisance to them like if you aren’t giving them content that’s of value to what they particularly do.
Andrew: The other thing too and those are great points is that let’s say a firm like yours or they just stumble upon being able to get a media appearance. You have to know within you and I know practice makes a lot better performance but maybe not everybody is cut to be on live TV. There’s recorded is different than live. So, one of the things that I think could hurt you again is that if you do get that spot, if you haven’t prepared and you haven’t gone in knowing your stuff, it could ultimately crush you where you’ll never get that opportunity again. And there’s never any first to have that first impression so that’s going to be part of your reel. Google doesn’t forget. You’re going to want to promote it and if you kind of crap the bed then that’s going to hurt you long-term. So, what do you have for advice for somebody who is going out there for the first time, has never really done something like that which is being on live TV? Give us one, two, three tips that they can utilize to prepare so that they can be as good a guest as you could be in your first live appearance.
Alana: That’s a great question. So, I would say don’t let it be your first interview ever like you should at least have done some phone interviews with print reporters. That would give you that experience of the back and forth, having the conversation with the media person, what are they asking you to clarify for them. You also not all businesses but the financial industry, there are some limitations to what you can and can’t say when working with the media and I think you just need to have some experience in being in an interview and knowing how to respond that’s appropriate based off of your regulatory restrictions, financial advisors. For those of your listeners that are in the financial industry, that’s all I’m alluding to. But having that just that experience once or twice with the print reporter on the phone prior to going into studio, I think that’s key. When you’re ready for the TV, I don’t think a lot of people realize this but many of these interviews are highly scripted, not word for word per se but the questions that are going to be asked of you in the interview are prepared in advance.
And so, it gives you the opportunity to lay out what those points are that you want to make. Don’t memorize them. You still need to be conversational in a TV interview, not a robot but at least you can work on how you would respond to each of those questions. And then from there, I would just advise people just practice. I mean, practice, practice. You’ve got video cameras on your computer, just practice yourself delivering the answers to those questions and go back and watch yourself and see like, “Oh, maybe I fidget too much with my hair or I shouldn’t wear those dangly bracelets when I’m on TV,” things like that. You’ll be able to pick up very easily if you just give yourself a little time to prepare at least before that first one.
Andrew: Yeah. Preparation is key. I think I’ve done now seven or eight and I still always have the, I think it’s normal, have the little butterflies beforehand but I still remember three or four years ago my first one. It was Good Morning Arizona and Saturday morning and it was live. I still remembered there are three cameras, the lights are coming down and, boom, we’re live and you could tell from watching that video for the first question that’s asked me, you could tell I’m nervous but then you kind of from my side I just relaxed. I knew my stuff. I started wrapping with him and you could tell when somebody’s relaxed on there. And that’s when it’s more than anything knowing your stuff. You’re not going to be perfect. You don’t have to say everything to the tee. Nobody’s going to know that, but you’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be confident.
The other thing too is understand, on the camera, what you should wear, and I know you guys have some great stuff on that for the clients that you work with. Those of you out there that don’t have a PR firm, you can google it but definitely make sure you know what to wear and what not to wear because no matter how good your conversation is with them or your points, if somebody’s fixated on your tie because it’s the wrong color and it’s bringing out with these HDTVs they’re going to not listen to you at all. So, that’s something that I think every time you go in just make sure that you understand your wardrobe as well as your talking points.
Alana: Very good point. Yeah. We, females especially, the earrings, the jewelry can be a distraction. Don’t wear too short of a skirt because when you cross legs, shows a lot of your thigh. Just things like that you have to think about in advance. It may look great for a client meeting but on camera, it’s not going to put you in the best light. So, yeah.
Andrew: One thing too that I recommend and I don’t always get this done but if you have somebody there with you or if you could just borrow somebody who’s at the TV studio is try to get a shot of you in front of the camera but from them behind the camera so that they can see and that’s a great social media post is to kind of see you in action there versus just using a snapshot or a thumbnail of the actual interview itself. So, those are the type of things that you want to, as you said earlier, make sure you get the full result of what you’re putting into it and get the full promotion of it, be able to put it out.
Once you do something like that, it can be used multiple times. You could take little snippets and you can post it at a different time. It could even be even a year later. Nobody’s going to really know that it was just shot one year ago if the topic is relevant which normally the topics are going to be relevant unless it’s something in particular like last week’s market volatility or the changes due to the Tax Cut and Job Act, things of that nature. So, those are things as you said earlier, leverage, leverage, leverage. Don’t forget about that leverage.
Alana: Yeah. Before, during, and after an interview.
Andrew: One other thing is as we talk about this credibility is from the standpoint of it doesn’t have to be a financial advisor but what’s your take on writing a book, getting your message out there, getting published? Is that something that a business owner should look at doing if they have the dedication to it and they have a clear concise message that they want to convey out?
Alana: Yeah. As long as they have a unique message that they can communicate in a book, it’s an expensive and time-consuming process. Most advisors that I’ve seen have gone the route of hybrid publishing. So, there are three different ways you can do it. It’s self-publishing, hybrid publishing, or working with an actual publisher. The publisher retains the rights to your work if you go through a publisher, but they pay for all the printing, the promotional fees that go into getting the book out on shelves. A hybrid publisher can assist you with the distribution of it, with some of the marketing, some of the benefits that you get from a traditional publisher but you’re paying for the production cost, the shipping, the storage, things like that associated with the book. And then self-publishing is you can print on demand really and just have that available just to your point if you choose to do that. All of them have benefits and drawbacks. I actually wrote a blog on this. If anybody is interested in comparing the three different ways to publish a book, there is a blog on this topic on our website.
Andrew: And we will have that in the show notes, everybody, so there’ll be a link to not only Alana’s page but a couple of other items there especially this blog as well.
Alana: Yeah. So, I think if somebody has a unique story to tell or a thoughtful process that they take people through and has the time or has the ability to be able to illustrate that in a way that’s compelling and people want to read your book then sure, yeah. I think it’s great. Do I think it’s necessary if you don’t have all of those pieces? I wouldn’t just try to create something just for the sake of creating something if it’s not going to do any substantial benefit to your business. I mean, it is very expensive.
Andrew: And it’s time-consuming. Once the product is done and the other thing is you got to be proud of your product because if you put that time in and you spend the money and then you kind of do a half-ass job where you’re not completely confident with it, you can’t take that back. That could almost be a negative. You’d think it’s only positive. I’m a published author but the fact is if it’s not up to par then it actually hurts your credibility even though not everybody’s going to read it. You and I both know on those kinds of standpoints is that, “Hey, they’ll look at chapter 2 but they may not read the whole thing.” So, just be careful there and really set the standard of dedicating yourself to it and if you have a good message you get out and maybe it goes right or that can help you put it all together. Just make sure that you’re not doing it just to do it.
Alana: Yeah. Be thoughtful about it. For sure.
Andrew: So, as we wind down today, I just wanted to get your thoughts on real quickly the changing or the evolution of what social media has done and what businesses need to look at and what are some of the things that maybe you do to help your partners stay top of mind and to kind of unclutter themselves in this cluttered environment with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. So, real briefly, what are some tips or some things that you’ve seen that have been beneficial for companies to be able to get their messaging out and separate themselves from all the other messages that are out there?
Alana: Well, I think it’s kind of a comprehensive approach here. I mean certainly, all of the social channels are important tools to distribute information. I would tell people to not be 100% promotional of the content that they’re distributing through the different social platforms. You certainly want to have some promotions within it. Maybe 10% to 20% of all post that you put out can be an offer or promoting an event or things like that, but valuable content is good to share especially if it’s applicable to the people in your network. I always love when you’re in that content, even better, but the idea here at least mostly in the financial, every business is different. It has a different take on social. My husband’s business is an example to music technology company. Social is a huge component of their business because it fits their demographic.
In the financial services side, we’ve seen it be effective more so as a mold to do additional background to maybe they connect with your firm and they just continue to see the types of things that you’re putting out there. So, using it as a platform to stay connected to illustrate your expertise, to share insights on maybe worthy causes or other things going on in the community and to occasionally promote an offer or an event. If you’re doing blogs, if you’re doing like a regular column or anything like that, it’s a great way just to have that consistent channel of getting that information out, promoting it beyond just the people that are coming to the site in order to gather it. So, I mean there’s a lot of different things you could be doing with the different social channels. I’m seeing video be more and more effective. I’m also seeing a lot of advisors putting the text within the videos. You’ve probably seen that being a popular trend on social these days. We don’t have time to push play on their videos, but they will sit there and watch the words scroll across the bottom of the video for 60 seconds.
Andrew: So true. And when I think also that same point of video and the power of let’s say your Facebook network and in our industry, we kind of look at those channels and we’ve looked at, we tried Instagram that didn’t make any sense. It’s not going to really fit our target which was financial services. So, Twitter, we have a company page I enjoy to have my own individual page which helps kind of put personal stuff as well so that’s always been fun for me. But I think Facebook for a lot of businesses is still the holy grail even though they’ve changed some things around. I mean, you think about the power you said earlier of these videos that you’re starting to see more and more of.
Market volatility in our industry last week, well, the old way was what? I got to get on the phone and call my 75 clients and make sure that they find out, to get their pulse, keep them from jumping off the bridge and just know that we’re here for them. And we still want to do that. But think about the power of being able to do a video on our side, making sure it’s compliant but being able to get that one-minute video out through your network, through email and get out to your 75 clients, that’s the kind of thing that they now know, “All right. I didn’t talk to Andrew, but I know his team is watching over us,” and that’s so critical in a service business especially when there are certain areas like in our business that can change on a dime and our clients want us to know that we’re here for them. So, I think that’s just going to get from that standpoint better and better and I think that technology is there which is really easy to be able to create those and if you’re an advisor out there and you’re not doing that, it’s something you should definitely be looking at as a way to expand your reach both the clients as well as prospects.
Alana: Yeah. Well, different messages for different types of people in your network so like you just shared, it was client driven versus something that you’d want to put out for the public. So, just keep that in mind too like anything on the social. Most businesses have it open for anybody to be able to see. And so, if there are videos that you’re creating and pushing out that are intended just for clients then you may want to consider a private group on Facebook versus just opening it up to everybody like if there is sensitive information that you’re sharing or advice before somebody hires you in that instance.
Andrew: And do you recommend then with the technology of whether like an email technology for your advisors as you’re trying to help them get their systems in place, what’s been kind of the top choice there for you to recommend for companies to get their messaging out there on a systematic basis to clients, to prospects, to niching it out?
Alana: Infusionsoft is certainly the most robust email marketing system that we’ve used. They are headquartered there in Phoenix but most I think financial advisors, specifically, it really just depends on the volume of digital marketing that you’re doing like a Constant Contact or an iContact can work just fine if you’re just getting communication out on a less frequent basis. And then Infusionsoft allows for you to build sequences. So, when A happens then B happens then we automatically send an email and then we’re triggered to give them a call and etcetera. It gives you all a lot of segmenting abilities. I mean, by anything that you can think of, there are all these custom fields but I used to pull a list and reach out to people but it’s involved and I would probably only recommend it for like a marketing company or somebody that is very tech-oriented on any sort of like communication that involves a lot of digital components to it versus just you’re starting off small business if you will.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, it sounds like client journeys or prospect journey where you can have them go down these different paths. I think that is the wave of the future as well as automating it so it’s not on your team to be able to remember to send prospect A this email and then three days later he needs to get this email and then if he does one thing and replies to it, he needs to get that. That’s impossible. So, Infusionsoft or I think Pardot is another one. They’re the more robust ones. Funny, you mentioned, I have a call with Infusionsoft this week to learn more about how they can tie into our system. So, I’m glad you mentioned them because we’ve heard good things about them.
Alana: It’s very robust though.
Andrew: Hey, we like robust.
Alana: Yeah. I think we’re using 10% of the capabilities with it. No, not really but it’s got a lot of different functionality. And I only say this because I don’t want people to get overwhelmed. So, like I find that a lot of companies don’t take the steps for to put more efficient processes in place or automate some of these things because it’s bulky like it’s time-consuming. It’s intimidating upfront and so if you don’t have that level of need, there are more simplistic, less expensive technologies that you can implement that would be maybe an hour of your time to set up versus a few days. So, don’t get caught up in being overwhelmed with it all.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, Constant Contact, MailChimp, they can work perfectly. Just don’t use Outlook. Constant Contact is maybe what? $50 to $100 a month. Well worth it. Get your template setup and then get it on autopilot because if you get an Infusionsoft or if you get something that’s sophisticated and if you don’t spend the time then you’re just wasting your money. You’re not going to use it.
So, I know we went through a lot of great stuff today. I could probably have you on for another hour so thanks for spending the time here. So, as we recap, the key is before you can go off promoting yourselves, business owners, is define your message, define your brand. Whether you do that on your own or you work with an outside firm like AdvisorPR, it’s probably beneficial to work with an outside firm that maybe knows your industry but isn’t in the weeds with you to make sure that you’re making good decisions, you’re framing your wording and your mission and everything from that to the colors, to the pictures, to the tagline. So, I think from that standpoint, define the brand, your messaging, and then it’s time to get the messaging out there and doing that in a manner of lots of different things that we talked about which was a lot. And I know we have, there’s a white paper that you have that the listeners will be able to download from our episode page. Walk us through what that would look like or what the basic just to that white paper is.
Alana: The white paper is my four-step process, so this is what we’ve built upon over the last 13 years. It explains really what’s involved in each of the four steps we talked about. So, the defining, creating the unique message, the brand, the support so what do you need to tell your story to support your brand so your websites, one-pagers, brochures, things like that. And then step three is promote once you have all that in place. The last thing you want to do is go out and promote your company or an offer and then not have anything to back it up like where people can interact with your website or there’s nothing for them to download. There’s no call to action for them to take so that’s why you want to make sure you have all that support material in place.
And then once you go out, you’re promoting, you’re building your database, you’re getting interest. Now you need to capture them. So, this is the ongoing marketing communication. So, we talked a bit about this social media profiling or the channels. We talked a bit about the Infusionsoft or that ongoing email marketing. Those are just a couple of components associated with that capture process. So, the white paper is a good resource, give you some guidelines whether you’re in financial services or music technology, it’s still the same process that you would need to follow to be most impactful with your marketing communications.
Andrew: Awesome. So, listeners, that will be in the show notes as well as the ability for you to put your email address and to download that white paper. And the nice thing is that although you’re segmented in your niche is in most cases the financial advisor, I think this process rings true for any business. So, use that as your baseline and as always, Alana and her team will be there if you have questions or if you do have somebody that’s maybe not in your industry but you know somebody who’s in the financial services industry that could really just use a second opinion on their branding, their messaging or just going through some of the goals that they have to continue to build their messaging out there. I know firsthand that her team will be there every step of the way to offer good guidance and if you do partner with them, they will show results which is the key in everything.
So, Alana, awesome stuff today. I think the listeners got a lot out of it. I got a lot out of it which I always do and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you at some industry events here soon. So, thanks for joining us.
Alana: Of course. Thanks for having me. It’s fun.
Andrew: All right. We’ll talk to you soon.
Alana: Great. Sounds good.
Thank you for joining me for today’s episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. To get access to all the resources mentioned during today’s podcast, please visit Bayntree.com/Podcast, and be sure to tune in later this month for another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond.
Investment advice is offered through Bayntree Wealth Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor. Insurance and annuity products are offered separately through Bayntree Planning Group, LLC. Bayntree is not permitted to offer and no statement made during the show shall constitute legal or tax advice. You should talk to a qualified professional before making any decisions about your personal situation.