A turbulent economy makes for a "pressing" time

By Alana Schofield - Kohl

AdvisorPR


It's currently a financial zoo out there. The economy is in turmoil and is causing ripple effects throughout the country. From the government to Wall Street to Main Street; each time we turn on the TV or open a newspaper, there's a new headline on mismanaged money, bailouts, buy-outs, or corporate fraud, bank failure, bankruptcy... the list goes on -- and is leaving many "Main Street" Americans with a lot of unanswered questions.

The media seem to be on high alert when it comes to corporate and consumer finances, and are covering every story from every possible angle. Consumers are becoming more and more frightened with the pictures being painted; and rightfully so, as neither national media nor Main Street consumers have a full understanding of what the reported news means to an "average consumer's" pocketbook.

The fear of the unknown, the misrepresented, the generalized and the under- or unreported, is causing widespread consumer panic. Most recently, it has resulted in concerned citizens doing what they can to save their money from an economic meltdown, including selling stocks, pulling their savings from banks and cancelling insurance policies -- none of which is helping the situation.

What's missing from the equation, however, is "news you can use."

Each part of the country has different needs and generalized reporting from a national source may not always be the best source for consumer advice. The local economy and demographic makeup in Miami, Fla. varies greatly from Detroit, Mich., for example. One size does not fit all when discussing personal finances. Consumers don't just need reports; they need information and advice specific to them and their personal situation. Who better than a local financial expert (one who is familiar with a city's industry and demographic makeup, and in tune with the needs, concerns and personal finances of local residents) to not only clarify and give explanation of national headlines, but further explain and advise how these headlines impact the local community's residents' pocketbooks, savings and investments?

Advisors across America are receiving an influx of calls from concerned community residents, and are fielding questions one after another. Chances are good that if a few are calling you on such topics, there are countless others who need the same information. While the national media are trying to decipher how we got here, local media is beginning to counsel residents on where to go from here. These media representatives now need localized experts to move past the now and into the future.

Advisors who have an understanding of the current economy, recent changes and, furthermore, how it applies to their community's residents are in dire need. The media are turning to the community experts for help -- and this market volatility is equating to a pressing opportunity.

With the media needing what you have, now is your opportunity to make a difference in your community and abate the fear of all who share in the same concerns, as well as showcase your professionalism, expertise and value as a financial services professional.

In order to set yourself apart in this perceived time of crisis, you must reach out to and make yourself known to the local media, and alert them of your ability to help inform their audiences of ways to combat financial turmoil. To become a provider of sound, localized advice in your community through the media, consider taking the following five steps:
    1. Pick your target. The first step to making yourself and your information available is to find the best platforms. Research your community media, including newspapers, magazines, television and radio. It's important to determine the specific person to contact, as you want to speak with a reporter or editor who deals with topics on personal finance or retirement planning, and not someone who writes about pets or children, or an outlet that caters to college student. If you cannot find a specific reporter to contact, look for one that is very general, such as the editor, managing editor, producer or even a consumer report.

    2. Create your resource or media kit. Before contacting your local media, take a moment to sit down and write out a few items to help state your case. Media, often solicited by many unqualified "experts," can be skeptical of your initial offer and many request information via e-mail or fax. Send a resource kit, often referred to as a media kit, for their consideration. This is the information they would need to make a decision in your favor. A few of the most common questions answered by a media kit include: Who you are? What do you do? Why are you the right person to be offering this information? This can be accomplished through a professional bio stating your expertise, education, years in business, areas of specialty, etc. Additionally, as media are often assigned stories, rather than only stating your specific areas of expertise and how it applies to a niche demographic, generalize and outline your topics of knowledge in one comprehensive list. Categories of topics are helpful for quick reference. And, this comprehensive list can be used to showcase your expertise and how it applies to today's news stories, as well as used as a reference for expert resource consideration with story topics in the future.

    3. Reach out. Now that you know who you're calling -- and have something to offer -- begin reaching out. Call or e-mail your contacts, based on their preference and availability. Keep in mind media are constantly on deadlines so when you call, keep you initial conversation concise. State who you are, what you do, why you're calling and how to get in touch with you. Offer your media kit and ask their preference for receipt. If you are calling with timely information, be sure to share this with the media representative, as there could be an immediate opportunity. Send the kit per the contact's preference, and restate your opinion, commentary or advice on the timely topic in correspondence, if applicable.
Print media tends to lean toward using quotes and opinions on topics, as well as advice on what to do with regard to the new information. Background information is often appreciated as well, as the information can be used in editorial development. Television, on the other hand, prefers a quick and immediate explanation of announcements and news topics, including what it means and how it affects the viewers and the local community. If you can provide information on what to do with announcements and timely news stories, be sure to make that known to your contact.
    4. Follow-up. Follow-up is important, especially today with the increase in breaking news and financial-related stories. Be prepared to not only take a proactive approach to media communication, but also to react when news calls for it. If an announcement is made, you should be the first person to contact your local news station and offer yourself as a resource.
If you have thoughts on the financial markets, products, personal finance topics or other items that relate to the current economic environment, be sure to share this with your media contacts. Follow-up is key, and even if you're not immediately selected as the expert resource on one news topic, the next topic may be more in line with your capabilities and expertise. Be sure to stay in the forefront of your media contact's mind; however, do not be overbearing. As news happens, or once every few weeks is considered sufficient follow-up.
    5. Be ready. Media don't always have the luxury of planning ahead and, as a resource, you should be ready to meet their needs. When news happens, the media react and that means immediately seeking information that is relevant, which could be anything from a phone call with a reporter from your local paper to a live TV interview on evening news. When news happens, take a moment to learn the situation and form an opinion. Be prepared to answer questions and provide information if the media do call.
Don't underestimate a news crew's ability to be at your office within minutes for an on-the-spot interview. Be ready for this mentally and physically. It's usually appropriate to request the questions you may be asked in advance, however, it is still necessary to be able to think on your toes. To do this, it's important to understand what is going on and how it relates to the community in which you live and work.

Being a resource to local media comes with responsibility. When called upon for information relevant to your expertise, be accommodating, make them a top priority; take their calls, call them back, be timely, courteous and grateful. A positive media relationship can have a very positive impact on your business as a whole.

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