One of the most common dreams of anyone in the financial services industry launching a PR program or considering one is getting interviewed on a well-known television outlet. While attaining that goal certainly is possible, it takes a bit of methodical planning to get there.
During the bull markets of the late 90s and earlier this decade, CNBC journalists were akin to rock stars and asset managers were clamoring to get airtime on the network in an attempt to raise their own star power. While the euphoria has certainly declined a bit and there's more competition in the space than there once was, the major financial TV networks are still a great place to be. However, the competition's fierce, so it's important to remember you've got to differentiate yourself from the get go.
Independent advisors can be at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to major TV networks, because booking staffs often look for someone who's willing to serve as either a sort of "cheerleader" for a stock or who's issued the still rare "sell" rating on a particular issue. Understandably, most advisors are unwilling to get into that fray, since their job is not really to serve as a champion or critic of a particular stock, but rather to develop an asset management strategy that works for each particular client.
The fact that TV outlets often go for what some perceive as a negative story makes it vitally important for advisors seeking TV coverage to try and frame the conversation when they approach producers, making it less likely that an interview opportunity will go completely different than originally anticipated. The best places for advisors to be are shows and segments that are geared toward general investing advice for individual investors portfolios. CNBC's "Power Lunch" program and "Your Money" on Fox Business, as well as the program of the same name on CNN are all suitable targets. While it faced a bit of tough going following its launch due in part to distribution battles with Cablevision and other cable operators, Fox Business has recently gained additional distribution and is now available in the New York City suburbs and most major markets around the country.
Although the anchors are the most familiar faces to viewers, they're not suitable contacts for anyone seeking coverage on a TV outlet. Simply put, most of them just read prepared scripts and aren't really that involved with the actual content of the show. There are exceptions, especially at higher-profile programs where the host also serves as the managing editor or executive producer and is in charge of all operational aspects. Still, the best contact is almost always the producer or booker/booking producer. In short, the producer determines the story lines the show will feature and either handles the booking of guests along with his/her assistants or has a booking producer who handles that task.
The best way to approach these contacts is to send them a trend-oriented story suggestion, along with data that makes the case for your suggestion. While you may be thinking that coming up with a completely new story idea is the only way to success, in reality there's only so many of those. This means the same stories will often be repeated yearly, or sometimes quarterly, so it never hurts to try a time-tested idea.
If your story idea is well received, chances are you'll either be part of a "package" -- basically TV's version of a newspaper story and accompanying photos -- or be scheduled for an on-camera interview about a specific trend. In the former situation, a producer will usually ask questions on camera and will pull selected segments of the interview for video and sound bytes. On-camera interviews often go a bit different, as there's usually a pre-interview of guests to give anchors and producers a good idea for what a guest is prepared to talk about. Basically, they want to ensure the interview goes smoothly and features a lot of useful information.
Lead time for TV can vary greatly, depending on whether you'll be part of a daily show or a weekly broadcast, so don't be surprised if it's a few weeks before you find out whether your suggestion is positively received. While you can certainly do all this on your own, many advisors find it cost effective to engage a PR professional to handle these tasks for them, as they can usually do it faster and have specific expertise that can be beneficial. Rates for PR pros can vary widely, depending on the level of experience the PR pro possesses and the market in which they operate. Sites like www.linkedin.com, which has an Answers section that's very useful, can be great places to get additional counsel and suggestions on hiring a consultant.
Following your segment, be sure and ask the producer whether the show automatically gives copies to all guests or if you have to secure those on your own. There are several good sources for video clips, such as Video Monitoring Service, although the price for these clips can run a few hundred dollars.