While getting stories placed in outlets that drive your business can at times be challenging, the heart of media relations is actually quite simple. At its core, media relations involves getting the right message in front of the right people. Most advisors who work with a public relations professional think a lot about the latter, but rarely do they really concentrate much on the message.
As I wrote about last week, financial advisors embarking on a media relations campaign face an ongoing challenge when it comes to articulating their value proposition. As I'm sure I don't have to tell this audience, much of that lies in the fact that clients don't think of portfolio management as a detailed process; they just want results that beat the market. Advisors, on the other hand, tend to be very process oriented since most have picked a particular investment approach and stick with that approach through good times and bad. Whereas advisors think of the long haul, they face a continual battle in getting clients to think about something other than the current quarter -- or at best a particular year.
In this way, portfolio management is akin to public relations in a sense. In both disciplines, clients need to think in terms of a marathon rather than a sprint. The messages of a well-planned PR campaign may not resonate immediately with the media, especially during boom markets when media outlets tend to be looking for the next hot stock or sector, rather than thinking about the long term. As we all know, there will be times when a philosophy suited for the long term generates results that lag other, more scattershot approaches. However, it's important that advisors think long term when examining their public relations goals because one of the main reasons they're embarking on a campaign is to differentiate themselves from the competition.
One of the best ways to do that is to clearly articulate your philosophy and explain what that entails. As I mentioned last week, that means using more than standard terms like "value investing;" instead, it involves elaborating on specific sectors and companies and articulating why they're a good bet for the long haul. Unfortunately, the market turmoil we've experienced over the last few years has many people questioning the value of an advisor relationship altogether. They mistakenly think they'd be just as well off parking their money in an index fund or a "no load" mutual fund that wouldn't carry the fees of a typical advisor.
Obviously, you can't do anything about the current market turmoil, which makes it imperative that advisors looking to gain clients and assets through a PR campaign talk extensively about their management philosophy and the advantages it holds. Anything that conveys a since of trust and comfort is especially welcome in today's environment, but it's also important to realize that a good client or potential client shouldn't expect their advisor to move mountains either. Any money manager, no matter how skilled they may be, is going to have a bad quarter or year and that fact alone doesn't mean staying the course with an investment philosophy is a bad thing.
Over time, just as a solid approach will resonate with investors who make good clients, that same solid message will resonate with the media, leading to an increased level of credibility and awareness in the industry.