Choosing a public relations agency to represent your financial services firm is an important decision that will have a lasting impact on your brand, reputation and future growth. There are endless factors and nuances to consider during this difficult process, but here are four recommendations to help you narrow your search to the best match…
Find a specialist
In the highly regulated financial services industry, it is important to find a PR partner with a specialty in this space to guide you through the unique obstacles you will encounter. In comparison to a general PR agency, a finance-focused shop will have stronger relationships with the reporters and publications you want to connect with, which means they are more likely to produce a steady stream of impactful coverage. In years past it might have made sense to choose a local “generalist” firm over a distant niche firm, but technology now makes proximity a non-factor.
Make sure they practice what they preach
You can quickly find out if a PR agency believes in their offering by looking at their own PR efforts. Do they have an active company blog? Does the company and its executives have a meaningful social media presence? Do they generate steady news coverage and recognition for their actions and achievements? If the answer to any of these is “no,” move on. You have to think, “Why on earth would I want to take social media advice from a person with 50 Twitter followers?” and “Why should I take PR advice from someone who never talks to the media as an expert source?”
Examine their digital capabilities
The traditional PR model does not cut it for financial services firms in the digital age. Your customers and prospects no longer want to be sold to. They want to be engaged, educated and entertained through social media and other digital channels. It is crucial to find a modern agency with a sophisticated digital offering. Be careful with this. Most agencies now claim to have a social media offering, but very few are able to deliver a meaningful impact on those channels. Also, media placements have a much more powerful impact when they are funneled to your digital audiences. Find a firm that uses an integrated approach to get the most out of the media exposure they produce.
Don’t hire a vendor, hire a partner
Hire a PR agency that will become an extension of your team and not just a vendor. You do not want an agency that asks you what you would like them to do. Rather, you want an agency that is not afraid to tell you what you need. When your PR agency is truly part of your team, they become invested in your overall business success; not just your PR success.
Brian Hart is the founder and president of Flackable, LLC, a national public relations agency supporting the communications needs of registered investment advisors (RIAs) and other forward-thinking financial services firms. To learn more about Flackable, please visit www.flackable.com.