I was out of bed uncharacteristically early last weekend, volunteering at our local parkrun event as run director.
Since helping to establish this event back in October 2014, I’ve found myself standing in the field on a Saturday morning on 130 separate occasions, 61 times as run director responsible for keeping 100 or more enthusiastic runners safe as they run, jog or walk around our 5km course. I sometimes get the chance to have a run too!
As the event came to an end for another week, I was standing around chatting to the other volunteers, waiting for a walker to complete the course with her daughter. My mobile phone rang and I answered to the ever cheerful Paul Lewis from BBC Radio 4’s Money Box, looking for guest to fill a last-minute vacancy on the programme at midday.
Mentions in the national press form an important part of our marketing strategy. Since becoming an IFA back in 2002, I’ve been a regular media commentator, speaking to 30 to 40 journalists in a typical month. Commentary in newspapers and magazines is my forte; I’m yet to brave a television appearance, but do occasionally show up on BBC and commercial radio.
Getting quoted in the papers or being a guest on the radio is perhaps the biggest credibility boost advisers can receive. When prospective clients read our views in their favourite weekend paper or hear us on the radio, we are getting an unofficial endorsement from that publication or broadcaster. It’s a useful trust builder in a profession which, at a broad level, struggles with issues of trust. PR is also important in maintaining relationships with existing clients and professional contacts, often prompting them to make referrals to their friends, family and colleagues.
My apprenticeship for radio work started way back in 2006 when I become a regular guest on LBC Radio with the legendary agony aunt Anna Raeburn. This involved frequent trips into west London for an hour of answering listener questions live on air, which is just about as terrifying as it sounds. For the past three years I’ve been honing my radio voice with the production of more than 400 podcast episodes, for Informed Choice and other organisations, which is a powerful way to drive out the fear of speaking to a large audience.
But back to Money Box. Sharing the experience, how it came about and what we did with it afterwards is I hope useful for other advisers who are considering the value of PR within their own marketing strategy.
How to get your firm noticed
The phone call from Paul didn’t happen by accident.
Earlier in the week, a journalist from the Financial Times asked me to comment on the recent report from the Work and Pensions committee, which recommended the FCA ban contingent charging. When that article was published on Thursday morning, I shared it on Twitter and other social media platforms, and joined in with a fairly involved online debate on the subject, no doubt fresh in Paul’s mind as he scoured his little black book on Saturday morning.
With only a couple of hours between receiving the call that morning and the programme going out live, a couple of important factors had to fall into place.
Firstly, I had to know enough about the subject and hold some strong opinions in order to be a worthwhile guest. Something I spend hours doing each week is reading press reports of different personal finance topics, so I’m usually well informed should a journalist call for a comment. I helps that I enjoy staying up to speed with current affairs; I’m sure this delivers value for the conversations I have with our clients too.
Secondly, I needed to find a way to actually get on the radio, without enough time to get into London.
Speaking down a telephone line is always a last resort for a radio broadcast. It’s possible, and indeed I was once a guest on BBC Radio 5 from the phone at my kitchen table, but the sound quality is going to be terrible. Having contributed to Money Box before, I knew I could get myself 10 miles up the road to our nearest BBC studio where they have a small contribution room, linked to Broadcasting House via an ISDN line. With confirmation that a BBC Surrey producer could come in on his day off to let me in and ensure the connection to London worked, that part of the equation was solved too.
Arriving with 20 minutes to go, I switched between chatting to the producer and then Paul ‘down the line’ from the London studio, noting down some key points. This isn’t a time to make pages of notes or carefully research hundreds of statistics. Each time I’ve been on the radio before, I’ve had no more than an A4 page of bullet points or soundbites written down in front of me. Sticking to one page also removes the temptation to noisily flick between pages. In fact, the 20-minute car drive to the studio was a good opportunity to rehearse a few things I wanted to say and make sure they sounded as natural as possible.
My interview with Paul was the first item on the programme, over and done with in the space of five minutes.
As important as the preparation and the interview itself is, what's more important is what we do with it afterwards. Walking back to my car, I replied to text messages and emails from friends and colleagues who'd heard me on the radio. With short notice about being a guest, I didn’t have the chance to tell many people to listen in, making the follow-up especially important.
An hour later, the ‘listen again’ page was live on the BBC website. I used the graphic design website Canva to create some social media quote cards, dropping in a selfie I took in the studio before going on air. This quote card, with a link to the listen again page, was then shared on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
To maximise value from the appearance, I posed a question in a popular Facebook group for financial advisers, again sharing a link to the listen again page. Within 24 hours, this forum post attracted more than 120 comments, no doubt attracting the attention of journalists who monitor these forums looking for story ideas.
Using the MP3 download from the listen again page, I sent the interview segment off to Rev.com to get it transcribed at a cost of $5 and used this transcript to write up a 600 word blog post the next day, sharing this again on social media.
The interview and blog post was dropped into our weekly client email newsletter last Friday and gets a mention in our weekly podcast episode too.
Five minutes on the radio became social media posts, blog content, a forum debate, podcast discussion and newsletter item with very little effort or cost. There’s huge benefit from being a guest on national radio, but it would be wasteful not to have a process for using this (and every press mention we get) as widely as possible.
For advisers who want to raise their profile and establish their credibility, PR is a great place to start. The journalists I speak to are always looking for fresh voices and advisers who are willing to share their opinions on topical issues. You never know, you just might like it.