(This story corrects the location of adviser Casey Martin. He lives in Mason City, Iowa, not Iowa City.)
By Jennifer Hoyt Cummings
NEW YORK, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Becoming a local celebrity has been good for business for Raymond James adviser Casey Martin, who hosts a weekly financial news segment at his nearby CBS television affiliate in Iowa.
In his three-minute “Finances at Five” spot, Mason City-based Martin talks about topics like the latest jobs report and energy prices.
While Martin’s coworkers may give him a hard time - one day he walked into his break room and found a picture of his face taped to an ad displaying the local TV news team - he credits the show with increasing his visibility.
Martin’s assets under management are up roughly 15 percent in the last year, growth he attributes to both the strong equity markets and the show, which started airing in April 2012.
“It’s really made opening doors a lot easier for me,” said Martin, who is 56. He says the show is giving him leads with larger accounts - $500,000 and above.
Many advisers want to use the media to promote their business - either by getting a set gig like Martin or simply becoming the go-to expert for reporters seeking quotes - but do not know how to get the ball rolling.
Media-savvy advisers suggest three key break-in strategies: (1) develop connections with local media outlets; (2) build an online following, and - if the media world really is a giant mystery to you - (3) hire a publicist.
Don’t expect magic - it could take years before your media presence can attract new clients.
“No one is going to pick up the phone because they come across your name once in a New York Times article,” said adviser Josh Brown, a prolific financial blogger whose site, TheReformedBroker.com, gets over 700,000 hits a month.
The easiest way to raise your profile is to become a go-to source for reporters when they need to quote a financial expert.
Come up with a few story ideas such as where to park cash in a low-rate environment and send them to your local news outlets and the wealth management reporters who work at trade publications and national news organizations. Of course, journalists won’t quote you simply because you write to them, but if you prove knowledgeable, they might grow to depend upon your expertise.
Get to know the reporter’s coverage area in advance so you can make sure your ideas will be relevant to them. And if you have a niche - like working with divorcees or airline pilots - emphasize that, because it may spark an idea for the reporter.
Many budget-squeezed local news outlets welcome the chance to get free content, like a personal finance column or radio spot, from a financial adviser.
Martin got his start by contacting the station and offering to call in a daily report about the markets. To his surprise, they countered with an offer to give him his own in-studio gig. Martin’s firm also advertises on the station.
A blog can help you grab the attention of reporters, but it is crucial to update it every day so that it becomes habitual for readers to check in. Brown’s blog on the markets and the economy along with a big social media presence (54,000-plus Twitter followers) attract several interview requests a week.
Brown, however, scoffs at advisers who try and take a “short cut” by hiring a publicist. If you think you can just give somebody “$2,000 a month, and they’re going to make you influential, you can kid yourself,” Brown said.
Publicists have a lot of institutional knowledge that can’t be quantified, though. They often know what reporters’ beats are, what their pet peeves are and what stories they have in the works, notes Jason Lahita, a managing partner with Los Angeles-based public relations firm FiComm Partners.
Publicity firms can range from one-person shops that charge a couple thousand dollars for a single project, like publicizing a survey your firm produced, to large firms that charge thousands of dollars a month in retainers for ongoing media training, introductions to reporters and writing services.
Experience is key. Michael McCormick, an adviser with Bozeman, Montana-based Cascade Financial Management Inc, said he once hired one of his clients, who had dabbled in public relations, to help him get press for a research paper he wrote about how children can talk to their parents about money.
He declined to say how much she charged, but said it was much less than professional firms, who wanted as much as $2,000.
The partnership ended up being a disaster - he was so frustrated with the edits she made to his paper he decided to just ditch the whole thing, wasting about 10 hours worth of work.
That said, he would still consider hiring a publicist in the future, but would look for someone with more experience.
So is all the money and time spent on getting more press even worth it?
Adviser Michael Kitces gets about half a dozen interview requests every week, which he credits to his financial planning industry blog Nerd’s Eye View and his social media presence.
Kitces can only think of about six clients who came to him as a direct result of comments he made in a news story.
That said, those media appearances have led to many invitations to speak at conferences, and that, in turn, has led to new business, said Kitces, who is a partner and director of research at Columbia, Maryland-based Pinnacle Advisory Group.
“The more you do, the more inquiries you tend to get,” Kitces said.
Reporting By Jennifer Hoyt Cummings; editing by Linda Stern and Andrew Hay