“You’re not allowed to talk to the media.”
Sound familiar? It should, because even if you were an enormously successful financial advisor at a large name-brand firm or broker/dealer, chances are you were told that it was corporate policy that advisors were not permitted to speak with the press. And that’s because the firm was much more concerned with building its brand than yours. I should know, I had the job to enforce that policy when I worked at a large firm.
But now you’re independent. Now you have your own brand to build, your own story to tell, in order to help drive your growth. Now, you have the freedom to speak with the press, to become a valuable resource to the media that reaches your target audience, this way driving your brand to new heights. There’s only one problem: Thanks to that oppressive policy from your past employer, you have no experience dealing with the media!
Over the past nine years, I've spoken to hundreds of advisors considering independence. Here are their top questions and concerns about going independent when it comes to dealing with the media:
1. I've never spoken to a reporter before and I'm nervous.
Most advisors at large financial services firms are banned from talking to the media.
As a result, large firm financial advisors have no experience in dealing with the media and no knowledge of how the media operates. It is normal to have trepidation when speaking with the media—but if you approach with caution and thoughtfulness, you may find working with the media to be very satisfying and fruitful.
2. How do I make sure I get my message across?
Preparation is the key to announcing the launch of your new firm. It's important to be able to articulate key messages about your new firm and how you will work with clients as an independent advisor. Even if you are an experienced public speaker, it is always a good idea to prepare and practice your key messages. And be brief—you should have only three to four key messages. Any more than that will get lost.
It’s important to differentiate your RIA in a competitive market. Some advisors choose to emphasize their niche practice – whether it’s working with people going through divorce, professional athletes or targeting executives at one large firm. Other advisors choose to focus on an aspect of practice management – with specific expertise in tax planning, specific family office services or retirement planning. Many advisors lead with investments – specific portfolio management capabilities. Others have a geographic focus – with a focus on oil& gas in Texas or real estate in California.
Reporters want specificity and concrete examples. They are interested in unique angles – they are not interested in generic topics and general comments. For example, stating ‘we do financial planning for our clients’ can mean any number of things. You need to get more granular when dealing with the media.
3. What about my former disgruntled colleague who may be talking to reporters?
You can't control what your former firm or former colleagues say. I recommend always taking the high road regarding your departure from your prior firm. It's much better to focus on your new firm, not on venting about former firms or colleagues.
One advisor was concerned that he and his team had left one team member behind at his large financial services firm and was concerned that the former teammate would cause blowback. We prepared a response highlighting that he would miss his former colleagues and wished them well. The reality is that the firm refused to let him speak to the media so there was no issue.
4. What are the top questions that I will get asked?
Reporters are most curious about why you made the decision to go independent. They will also ask how your business might change as an RIA, a description of your client base and how your clients are reacting to the move. Typically, there are also questions about investments, technology and plans for expansion.
Sally Cates is managing director PR & Communications with Dynasty Financial Partners.