According to the FA Insight Study of Advisory Firms: Growth by Design, sponsored by TD Ameritrade, only 50 percent of surveyed firms developed an annual marketing or public relations plan. Furthermore, the study found that just 32 percent of firms had an outside agency dedicated to public relations or new client growth. That group understands what hiring an outside agency can do for your financial firm.
Hiring an agency comes with a cost, so many advisors attempt a do-it-yourself or “DIY” public relations strategy to save money, but rarely do those efforts result in a tangible impact. Just as most people will visit a mechanic for auto advice or hire an attorney for legal council, when your public image needs work it’s best to turn to experts. Let me explain why:
The financial services industry has been slow to adopt social media for marketing and branding purposes. Subject to strict regulations regarding stakeholder communication, many financial firms and advisors have opted to stay away from the world of social networking.
By hiring the right outside public relations agency, particularly one specializing in financial services, you will have a partner to assist with developing compliant digital strategies, and you are also getting access to professionals who can implement effective social media strategies for your brand. With a unique ability to build an online audience, professionals with digital chops will embrace social media as an integral ingredient in your firm’s overall marketing mix.
It’s important to note that not all public relations agencies offer sophisticated social media guidance. You can measure the depth of their abilities by examining their own social media presence, or lack thereof.
Search Engine Optimization
While on the hunt for a financial firm or advisor, potential prospects are heading online first. They want to explore a firm’s media coverage, social media platforms and client testimonials. Public relations experts have studied the online user experience and understand what today’s consumers are searching for. They can implement a digital strategy unique to your firm, including search engine optimization (SEO).
A public relations agency will help your firm climb the SEO ladder. Experts will help create opportunities to build SEO value through quality links to a site or specific content on a site. PR agencies have the unique ability to establish these quality link backs from high authority sites – bolstering SEO and referral traffic.
Creating, building and maintaining SEO does not happen overnight, it requires a certain amount of time and attention. Google is constantly changing the rules. If you don’t have access to experts staying up to speed on these, your old SEO strategies could possibly get you in trouble and knock down your page rank.
Similar to social media, it is important to consider that not every agency is going to offer a digital strategy including SEO. Many traditional agencies have been slow to adapt to the new digital age. When you are searching for the best agency for your financial services firm, make sure you grade their SEO – after all, a good agency should practice what they preach.
While many advisors are capable of doing of their own media relations, it would require an enormous amount of their time to build rapport with journalists. That time could be better utilized doing what they do best. Agencies generate earned media coverage for their clients on a full-time basis.
We live in an age where one sound bite can change a company’s reputation, making it crucial to have expert communications council when engaging the media. An agency will ensure your campaign is properly composed, well pitched, newsworthy and directed to the right reporters, editors and producers. They know how to effectively follow-up to ensure reporters have all the information they need to craft a story about your firm and its services.
An earned media placement, such as being quoted as an expert in a news article, establishes third-party credibility for your brand. As Flackable’s president, Brian Hart, describes in his Linkedin post, third-party credibility has become crucial for advisors. A recent update to the SEC guidelines highlights the “importance, and scarcity, of third-party credibility within the advisor space,” Hart explains.
Enhancing awareness is essential as firms look to validate their position in the market and attract new prospects. An outside agency will target reputable news outlets and arrange interviews opportunities with reporters at publications that require a public relations person to act as a liaison.
Prospective clients will discover these third-party articles while researching your firm. Third-party credibility shows that the publication views you as a knowledgeable and credible source. Ultimately, it will separate you or your firm from the competition and expand your sales pipeline.
If you are serious about taking your financial services firm to the next level in the media and digital world, you’ll want to explore professional help. A reputable public relations agency can take your firm to new heights and leave your competition in the dust!
Alexa Miller is an Account Coordinator at 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.