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Letting your communications drift

So you finally decided to start sending out a regular email newsletter or regularly updating the blog on your website. Well done to you! The first issue of your newsletter is full of promises about your new newsletter keeping clients and other contacts informed and educated. And then the newsletter delivers this in spades! Roll on to a month or two later and the next edition is due to go out. You’re busy, it’s the middle of pensions season and the markets are in turmoil. You just about manage to cobble the newsletter together, everyone moaning about not having enough time. And then that’s it, the next edition never see the light of day…

Unfortunately this happens a little too frequently among financial advice firms. So apart from a bit of a gnawing sense of failure within your own firm, what messages does letting your communications drift say to your audience?

You don’t have an opinion

Your clients and prospective clients want to hear your opinions about current events. Whether they are about how they should (or shouldn’t!) react in the current market turmoil, your views of any changing legislation that will impact the personal finance world or indeed developments within the life and pensions market. Your opinions may reassure investors, allow you to demonstrate your expertise and show that you have your finger on the pulse.

Of course if you’re not sending out these opinions, exactly the opposite applies. And then your clients don’t know where you stand on these topics. And of course then there is the very real risk that they will find their way on to the email database of another Financial Broker who provides them with this expert opinion all of the time. Who will they want to deal with – the person with their finger on the pulse or the person without?

You’ve run out of ideas

Of course email newsletters also offer you the opportunity to educate your clients and prospects. You can remind them of the value of getting advice from a Financial Broker, set out the benefits of having a risk appropriate investment portfolio, remind them of the importance of having the right income protection plan in place and how to ensure that their legacy on death is not a worrying tax burden for their loved ones.

But then when you stop, have you demonstrated all that you know, that you’ve shown the breadth of your knowledge? So what about the topics that are worrying your clients that you haven’t covered? You don’t want them thinking that maybe you just don’t have knowledge in that particular area…

At the end of the day, your clients can be a rich source of content ideas. Ask them for topics that they would like covered and then write about them!

You just don’t care

Of course this is the real worry… that your clients will think that you simply have lost interest and don’t really care about your marketing and your business. That you have simply slowed down a bit and are coasting…Of course this will set off alarm bells in their heads about your approach to your wider business, your clients and their personal financial affairs. Are you just punching in time there too?

At best, your clients might just see all of this as a bit unprofessional – starting a marketing initiative that you’re unable to continue. Is this how you want them to view your business?

StepChange provides content to Financial Brokers who don’t have time to write it themselves and a newsletter service to manage the whole process of sending out regular fully personalised and branded communications to your clients. And we’ll deliver these on time, every time!

How do you get more PR Coverage?

With the huge attention being focused on social media these days, some of the more traditional marketing tools can get forgotten. Which is a terrible shame, as many of them continue to be extremely relevant for Financial Brokers today. One of these is coverage in local or national newspapers.

PR coverage is still an excellent medium for brokers. Many of the national newspapers and indeed some of the local papers still have widely read personal finance sections, with some very credible business journalists covering a range or topics that regularly feature in the advice given by Financial Brokers. These journalists are constantly on the lookout for original news stories and thought provoking opinion pieces, and there is a relatively narrow cohort of financial brokers who help them fill their columns, gaining really valuable coverage for themselves.

So how do you break into this group and establish yourself as a valued source of content by journalists? Well here are a few thoughts…

Think of the Readers

Don’t see PR as a sales route. That’s not to say there can’t be subliminal sales messages in there. But a journalist won’t react to an advertisement for your business! It needs to be “newsy”. Your pitch for coverage needs to be about a development in the market that will affect consumers, the impact of changes in legislation on consumers, maybe a new angle for consumers to consider about their personal financial affairs. Or maybe you’re about to hire a big team of advisers – now that’s a good story too!!

Know the journalist’s preferences

So you have a story that you’re very sure is interesting to the population at large. The next critical step is to point it in the direction of the right publication and individual journalist. Many a mistake has been made by just picking up the phone to the first national journalist that comes to mind. Unfortunately this may result in your story being taken and then given only a tiny feature, if at all.

Instead, start reading the business columns carefully yourself. Get a feel for the type of content that individual journalists write about and also use from outside sources. This should help you decide who offers the best opportunity of you achieving the coverage that your story deserves.

Make your story unique and interesting

Your news story or opinion piece needs to have a novel twist to it. It needs to pique the readers’ interest. You also have to make sure that it’s timely; it can’t be old news! So spend time working on communicating the real difference in your story – as this is your hook in getting the story placed.

Then add some colour to your story. Include some quotes from the leader / public face of your organisation  – these should be written in a conversational style, as if they were actually spoken and recorded.

Finally, think about the placing of your story. Are you going to issue a blanket press release and hope that a few publications will pick it up and use it? If so, your story had better be extremely strong! The alternative is to give the story to a single journalist, and aim to get them to cover it extensively as they were given exclusivity with it.

Be concise

No matter what, keep your story brief. Have a clear headline that will encourage the journalist to at least scan your article. Then get to the point quickly. Journalists are not going to have the time to sift through padding to get to the nub of the story. Help them get there quickly!

Make it Easy for the story to be carried

Once a journalist is interested, you then want to make it as easy as possible for them to use the story. Have ready any other information that they might want. Start by providing them with a short bio of yourself and your company. Make a photo available too – if this is a little bit unusual or quirky, all the better! Be available also for interview at a time of the journalist’s choosing as they might have some follow-on questions. Make sure to include all your contact details.

Be resilient

How do you best pitch a story to journalists? There’s no doubt that building up relationships over time is extremely important. At the end of the day, this is where a PR agency will add value, as they will have already built up strong relationships with the relevant journalists and know how best to approach them. But that’s not to say you can’t do it yourself… you’re just going to have to be willing to put in some hard yards, building up relationships with individual journalists. And this might take time, so resilience is needed! But there are many Financial Brokers who have proved that this can be done!

A journalist may not bite now – but if your name keeps cropping up in front of them in relation to interesting stories or angles, you just may be someone they’ll contact when they’ve a slow news week.

So “traditional” PR can play a really important role in your overall marketing mix and can really help you to become recognised as an expert by your clients. It takes a lot of work, but if successful will deliver a really valuable dividend.