Growing up in a Scottish family, my siblings and I were often admonished by my parents and urged to stop showing off.
Our youthful exuberance was encouraged but often tempered by deeply held Presbyterian beliefs of hard work, respect towards others (particularly your elders) and never getting "too big for your boots". Self-promotion was firmly seen as unwelcome in my home.
Fast forward to a business career and while I still adhere to many of my childhood lessons covering manners, hard work and putting others before yourself, the one I had to tackle head on was self-promotion.
All businesses, unless incredibly lucky in terms of enquiries, need to get the word out there. A well-crafted press, public relations (PR) and awards strategy seemed to me the best way to go about it.
We live in an age of 24-hour news. Within our own sector there are lots of different magazines, websites, forums and social media outlets, all looking for interesting comment or content to keep their subscribers interested and engaged.
Many of these also share freelance journalists with the money pages of the national press and this helps popular writers in the trade press cross over into the nationals. Thought leadership and writing which aims to help our peers consider their own offerings are also very popular.
Being published is also useful as a hook with clients and professional connections. Rightly or wrongly, many clients and professional connections take the fact that an adviser has been published, particularly if on a regular basis, as a validation of their choice of adviser. In the case of professional connections, working with an adviser who appears in the media can help to justify their decision to refer a client for advice.
The process of working with journalists and building up coverage takes time. The value of helping on a particular request has to be ascertained, and there are many other competitors seeking the same limelight.
Yet I found over my tenure at Investment Quorum that the time and effort was well worth it. Over time we built something of a reputation for informed and thoughtful comment.
We sought to back this up with award submissions and eventual hard-fought award wins, which saw a stream of new enquiries begin to build. By being specific in our marketing, and tying this in with our external communications and with the types of clients we were seeking to attract, the rewards quickly became clear.
Delivering on a PR strategy takes a lot of commitment, both in terms of time and in regularly writing articles and commenting. When seeking comment journalists are usually in a hurry. They won’t always wait until you get out of a client meeting, they will generally move on to the next commentator they like and can get hold of.
Having an opinion and knowing enough about any given subject matter takes time. What's more, being able to give informed, concise comments without waffle takes a lot of practice. Actually having an opinion as opposed to following the herd is also incredibly useful.
However, it is easier than it has ever been to get published. LinkedIn is a great way to start and a perfect showcase for sharing opinion and ideas within your personal network. Let your network know you are willing to share knowledge and best practice. Publish content that's useful to those who already know your planning skills and watch your network grow.
You can either try being proactive with journalists or, for a less direct approach, follow them on Twitter and comment on their articles. It is amazing how quickly relationships can form.
As I mentioned earlier, entering awards is an incredibly interesting and rewarding process.
There are a huge number of awards both within our sector and outside of it, with categories spanning achievements at both the individual and the practice level.
There are professional awards covering financial planning, marketing, investment management, education and business skills, to name but a few.
However, it's not just about the possible win at the end of it. The whole process is incredibly useful in that it helps you think about your business, your approach, what is working and what could be improved. To have what is effectively a peer review of your advice process through being judged alongside other entrants is a great way to battle test your client offering.
If you're successful in being shortlisted or winning, the gains in terms of your firm's profile are substantial. The resulting coverage is likely to attract attention from clients, professional connections and other interested parties. Entering awards is all done with the aim of positively promoting your business, attracting new business enquiries and ultimately helping you and your team succeed in growing the business.
Despite the time and effort involved, I commend the whole process to you. I am happy to share lessons along the way if you need any help.