What does it take to find success as a new financial planner? A big part of it is understanding your own personal brand and what you can offer to your clients and your firm. To communicate your value well, you need to know how to differentiate yourself from the rest. 

That’s what we talk about with Haley Rosa, account supervisor at PR firm Gregory FCA. In our latest episode of YAFPNW, Hannah and Haley discuss how new planners can work with reporters and media, leverage social media to raise their value, and find their niche in the profession.

Finding your audience and your niche

Haley has worked with clients in the financial services industry, helping them hone their communication, content, and social media strategies. One piece of advice she has for new planners: decide who you want to speak to. Know your audience, and find your niche or niches. That’ll help you develop your messaging and figure out how to get your messages out. Are you going to start blogging? Podcasting? Using social media? Answering those questions gets easier when you understand your audience.

You are a new planner though, so what if you don’t know who you want to serve yet?

“Start working for somebody else and just see the clients that you click with, that you just like to work with,” said Haley. “Often that’s a really good place to figure out…who you really want to serve.”

To further define your audience, talk to your clients. Ask them where they get their news, which media figures or hashtags they’re following, and what trends capture their interest. Figure out how they like to be communicated to. Not only are you defining your audience, you’re connecting with your clients as people on a deeper level. It’s a double win.

Putting your voice out there

Now that you’ve found your niche and your audience, how can you start sharing content? There are so many ways you can get your voice out there, from using social media to engaging with local and national news. It’s worth it because it demonstrates your value as an individual planner and adds value to your firm building a practice.

If you’re comfortable with social media and enjoy using it, leverage it to your advantage, Haley says. Show your personality with tweets or posts. Be topical and follow trends. Engage with other people, post comments, retweet, and be positive. You build up your personal brand and your network that way.

If you prefer other means of sharing content, try your hand at working with local and national news. Local news often covers local businesses and local events. Haley used the lottery as an example: not the most common topic you’d talk about with your clients, but there are lots of opportunities for planners to share their wisdom. You could serve as an expert source, speaking about taking the distribution or taking the lump sum, how you’d work that into your financial plan now, important tips you need to remember, and so on.

National news, in comparison, leans heavily on investing, paying off college debt, saving for a big expense like a house or college, and joining finances when you’re in a relationship. Of course, the topics that local and national news cover can all get thrown out the window when something like COVID-19 happens.

Sharing content thoughtfully and appropriately

When something like the coronavirus is dominating the news, how can you communicate with your audience as a new planner? You can still share content, because there’s still demand for commentary on what’s happening, if not more so.

“People maybe are losing their source of income for an unknown amount of time, and people are a little bit wondering what’s going to happen with the economy, their finances, and things like that,” Haley pointed out. “There’s a…need for sources to comment on what the future’s going to hold, what people should be doing right now, and how to mitigate fears alongside all this stuff that’s going on with the health fears too.”  

Be mindful of what your audience needs. Now is not the time to overly promote your services, as Haley put it. But if you’re being a valuable resource for people, going out of your way to help others, and answering questions that people need answered right now, you’re doing the right thing.

Haley has lots of excellent advice to share in this episode of YAFPNW, so please tune in to the full episode!

 

 

What You’ll Learn

  • How you can stand out as a new planner
  • Finding your niche
  • Building out client personas
  • Working with reporters and media relations 
  • Using social media to your advantage (and your firm’s)
  • Engaging with local and national news
  • How COVID-19 is affecting communication
  • FCA’s media training resource

 

Show Notes:

In this episode of YAFPNW, Hannah Moore, CFP®, and Haley Rosa, CFP®, discuss:

Follow Haley on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @HaleySRosa.

 

 

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Episode Transcript


Hannah:

Well, thank you for joining us today, Haley.

Haley:

Thanks for having me.

Hannah:

I am so excited to have you on the podcast. Everything we do is really focused on new financial planners, and how new financial planners can be successful in their career. And so this month we’re really focusing on media, and putting yourself out there. And you’re an account supervisor at Gregory FCA. That is a PR company, and you really focus on helping advisors, and helping firms really get their message out to the world. I am so excited to have you on here to really be talking as what can we do as young planners that can help differentiate ourselves, and help us really communicate well with our clients, and the media and the world out there. So thank you for being with us today.

Haley:

Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited to share.

Hannah:

From your perspective, how can a new planner start differentiating themselves right away?

Haley:

Sure. I think that the first thing that they have to do as a new planner is decide who they want to be speaking to. The first rule of communication is always know your audience. If you’re trying to develop a niche, or a few different niches, it’s really good to hone in on that. And then from there figure out how you want to get your messages out. Are you going to develop a blog, or a podcast or leverage social media, connecting with reporters, and getting in the media for thought leadership. I think all of those things come once you define, I want to be focusing on people who are medical professionals, things like that.

Hannah:

One of the really interesting questions I get often is how do people find their niches? Is it something that you just say using your example of the medical professionals and you just say, “I want to work with doctors.” And you just put that stake in the ground and go from there? How do you find that people really develop those niches?

Haley:

I think that it comes from their network, and their life experience, and maybe even past experiences. So we have some advisors who came from a background in law, or maybe worked in the sports world, and that’s why they have professional athletes as their clients. I think it comes from previous experience, and seeing the need of who you can develop a network around, and those relationships.

Hannah:

Yeah. It’s so interesting because when I started out, I am almost, I’m about a decade into my career right now, and when I started out I was certain that I would be working with widowed women. That was where I wanted to be. And I found that that’s not really where I ended up. Do you see people switching over time or is that something that you eventually discover really where you want to be?

Haley:

You know, it’s an interesting question, and I think that it definitely can evolve depending on your practice and your life stage. I’m about five years into my career, so it’s definitely been interesting to see the types of clients that people work with. And the firms that we work with, different advisors that develop different niches.

Hannah:

The other thing that’s been really interesting and I always give this as a piece of advice for new planners, if you don’t know who you want to serve, start working for somebody else and just see the clients that you click with, that you just like to work with, and often that’s a really good place to figuring out what that group or that niche, who you really want to serve.

Haley:

Yeah, that’s a really good point. I think that it comes as you develop your, your practice and your skills and who you connect with. I think that’s a really good point.

Hannah:

Tell me, when you talk about knowing who you’re going to serve, do you build out, I know in the marketing world the word personas is a big deal. Do you build out those personas for clients, and if so what do they look like? How in depth do you get, do you just say, “You work with doctors,” or do you get even more specific than that?

Haley:

A lot of the time when we’re working with clients, they have some of that developed already, and we like to dig deeper and hear specifically who they’re working with, whether it’s personas or actually their clients. And then we can extract from there who, and how we can target things. I think that we can come up with characteristics from the actual client base that they’re working with.

Hannah:

When you’re working with your clients, and you’re really trying to figure out these niche, who you want to work with and building out these personas, what are questions or things you can be asking your clients, even if it’s not your own firm, even if you’re trying to figure out who you want to work with.

Haley:

I think good questions to ask are where they’re consuming their news, what things they’re following, trends they’re seeing, where they, where do they consume things to see how you can match what they’re looking for, and how they are being communicated to, and what they like and what they look for to to match that style, and the tone and connect on that level. If they say, “I only get my news from Twitter,” and then you know, you see some things on Twitter that you want to send them. I think it’s really interesting way to connect on a deeper level and also figure out more about them as a person, and just not just as a client.

Hannah:

It’s almost like there’s psychographic demographics as well. It’s not just age and type of client. It can be what they’re like as people.

Haley:

Yes, absolutely.

Hannah:

When you’re working with a firm, you have this marketing persona, what do you do next? How do you know what to do next?

Haley:

From there I guess you want to look at the problems and the issues that that persona faces, and likely that’s what other people are facing, and what your target is going to want to know about. If you come up with maybe a few main issues that they’re seeing and how you as a planner can solve for them, then you can develop content and communication, and your brand around those sorts of things to really help.

Hannah:

You’re just talking about blogging and different items like that?

Haley:

Yeah, media relations, getting in front of reporters, and especially from a reporter standpoint. We typically ask advisors that we work with, “What issues are your clients facing today? Because likely the general population has those same questions.” And that’s a really good connection point because if you’re hearing it as an advisor straight from the horse’s mouth, other people are definitely going to be asking those same questions.

Hannah:

I hear reporters, and my natural inclination is to be like, “That seems really hard and really difficult.” So I’m curious, is that true?

Haley:

No, it’s not. I mean, I can understand how it’s intimidating, or maybe a little bit of a question mark in terms of how to approach it. But the reporters that we work with are typically really nice, and are trying to provide information and a service, and news to their audiences. They’re looking to connect with experts all the time about issues going on, whether it’s investing, or retirement or college savings. Once you can develop a relationship with a reporter, and if you’re helping them, they’re going to really appreciate the time that you take to talk to them if that’s what you’re interested in, and you want to go down that path.

Hannah:

How do you work with reporters? Are you pitching them ideas? What does that process look like?

Haley:

Sure. That’s the main core of a lot of what I do, and what our teams do at Gregory FCA, I am pitching proactive story ideas a lot from the ideas that we talk to our clients about. A lot of times they can be reactive to the news environment that’s going on, and once we develop those relationships it can be reactive too. Reporters are coming to us, “Hey I’m working on this story. Do you have a good source who would be a fit to talk about these angles?” Things like that. At the start it’s a lot of outreach, but then once you have that built in relationship they look to you and your sources because they know you have that expertise.

Hannah:

I’m thinking for a lot of new planners who are working in firms and then maybe they’re not the lead advisor, the owners of the firm. They can really be at any level, you can just be building these relationships.

Haley:

Yeah, absolutely. I think social media is a really good way to connect with reporters. Most of them are on Twitter, LinkedIn, and looking for people to connect with, and looking for new voices and different things that maybe the legacy advisor might not have that same perspective. I think as a new planner it’s an interesting time to connect with people as long as your firm’s okay with it, to really get out there and connect.

Hannah:

Tell me more about Twitter and what new planners should be… As they’re engaging in Twitter, how can they show up well, so the reporter is going to want to be engaging with them?

Haley:

It’s really important to follow trends first of all to make sure you’re on topic and on trend in your discussion, and things that you’re posting. Showing your personality and being, funny or sarcastic or however it is that you show up using visuals, gifs, and things like that I think can help you develop your mark, and your brand. Being nice and reactive, and all the things that everybody should be on social media, and not anything negative, and you know, dismissive. And re-tweeting reporters, if you like their articles or quote tweeting them, making sure to connect with them on that level to see that you’re interactive and you’re engaging.

Hannah:

Do a lot of planners do that, or is there really a lot of space for people who want this to be, they want to be in this PR space? Is there a lot of room for them to do that?

Haley:

I think that there is a lot of room. I think that there is an active presence in one way, but I think that the social media world is so vast that there is an opportunity to continue on that path. I think especially for new planners and maybe the next generation of advisors who are really grew up in that space to leverage it to their advantage, because they really know how to use it like it’s second nature.

Hannah:

It’s also important to note that, I know we were talking about new planners, whether they’re starting their own firm or they’re working for somebody else, getting your name out there helps your firm. This is a value add. This is something that you can do for your firm. We’ve talked in the past on this podcast about how creating a personal marketing plan is really important. And I see this PR as a piece of that, if this is something that you’re interested in, that will serve you and your firm well, but it will also serve you later really well.

Haley:

Yeah, absolutely. Getting your name out there alongside your firms, both creates a net positive for you as an individual planner, and for your firm building a practice. I think that a firm that promotes you being a thought leader. It’s definitely going to do well if you’re speaking positively, and getting this positive reinforcement from reporters, and endorsements that you’re a valued source, and a thought leader, an expert, both as a net positive.

Hannah:

If you’ve decided that you want to do this PR strategy, how can you better connect with reporters?

Haley:

The first thing that you really want to do is hone in on publications that you want to be in. Whether it’s publications that your clients are saying that they’re reading, or prospects, or friends that are different, finding a few that you want to connect with. Then looking to see if there’s a reporter or two that you really identify with, you like their articles and that you can create a connection with.

Haley:

I treat it like prospecting a client, and get to know that reporter’s work and building a relationship with them, and then ultimately becoming a resource for them. I think that if you can think about it as building a relationship, I think that that is the first step. There’s so many publications out there, there’s new ones popping up, there’s newsletters, and you know, podcasts, and radio, and however you’re getting your news and people you know are getting their news. I’d focus in on that.

Hannah:

Let’s talk about local news versus national news. Is there a difference in your approach and how you engage that?

Haley:

There is a big difference, and local news is different in that it’s maybe a little more seasonal and less frequent when it comes to meaty personal finance topics. I think that if you can tie in themes to what’s going on in your community, and how you can tie in topics that you want to talk about, that’s great. Local news is a lot covering local businesses, and news stories around local things happening, and there’s not always that robust appetite for personal finance topics day in and day out versus national.

Haley:

There’s so many publications that are dedicated to finance, retirement, investing that there are reporters with dedicated beats in that realm versus local. It might not be at as many reporters that are specifically covering those topics. So while the local news is great and important, I think it’s definitely timely things that are going on right now versus national, which is always covering these topics.

Hannah:

Can you give me some examples of what you’ve seen work on local news of maybe pitching an idea to a local news network?

Haley:

Sure. So one thing that comes to mind is the lottery. And it might not seem like the most everyday topic that you talk about with your clients, but when it comes to somebody winning the lottery, if there’s a big jackpot, local news might cover how to handle your winnings if you come into a windfall. That can be broadly applied to anybody that gets a windfall. But we can center that topic around the lottery, which the local news would cover if this is the highest number that the mega millions has had ever. They’re going to be covering it. And then we have an expert on talking about how to, if you take the distribution, or if you take the lump sum, and then getting into the planning elements of coming into a windfall of money. That’s one big topic that comes up every now and again.

Hannah:

That’s a really great point. When you work with the local media, the national media, what should be your expectations? Are you talking being on camera, or are you talking about, I guess you could be on a podcast for local media too. Or getting quoted. What does that usually look like? Are we just doing an interview? Are we typing an email with responses to questions? What does that look like?

Haley:

It’s all of it. All of what you just said. I guess it’s really what you feel most comfortable with. Maybe at first you only want to do written comments because that’s more of a controlled setting. You can review it, and you can make sure your comments are buttoned up if that’s what somebody is asking for. A lot of local and national would be phone interviews, I’d say probably 15 or 20 minutes. Sometimes they’re longer, but it doesn’t take too much time. Reporters are looking for a quick pithy soundbite to add some color and expertise into their article. I guess from a time standpoint you wouldn’t have to dedicate too much on the interview and the phone call.

Haley:

Then there are opportunities for TV. I’d say for local it’s that lottery example that I mentioned, somebody could go onto the local evening news to talk about that fun topic of if you catch a windfall from the lottery. Then from a national perspective for broadcast, it’s a lot more investing topics, I’d say. The markets, and those CNBC, and Fox Business, and Yahoo Finance and Cheddar, and the like, talking about investing topics. And some personal finance topics, too. But I’d say it’s heavy on the investing.

Hannah:

So you said national is going to be much more heavy on that investing side. Are there other examples of what would be better on the national versus the local news front?

Haley:

From TV I’d say it’s an investing for national but, I think from a print/online, which is I guess probably moreso than people getting their actual Wall Street Journal, physical copy, it’s both. It’s personal finance topics, saving for kids college, paying off your college debt, saving for a house, or if you are getting married, and how to join your finances together as a couple if that’s something you’re going to do.

Haley:

If there are topics that you’re talking to your clients about, their probably topics that the media would cover.

Hannah:

We’re recording this towards the end of March, and the coronavirus is everywhere in the news right now, obviously, and for good reason. I’m curious when you have something that’s just really dominating the news like this, especially when it’s a medical, I mean it’s more of a medical issue.

Hannah:

What are you doing right now with your clients to position them in the media?

Haley:

Right now with the coronavirus it’s critical time in the world, and we’re seeing a lot of coverage around the economy. Businesses are shutting down, and going on lockdown, and people maybe are losing their source of income for an unknown amount of time, and people are a little bit wondering what’s going to happen with the economy, their finances, and things like that. So those same reporters who are covering on a national perspective, finance, personal finance, retirement issues, we’re seeing them covering it. It’s all surrounding the news of coronavirus and Covid-19, but it’s definitely, there’s a lot of appetite for the need for sources to comment on what the future’s going to hold, what people should be doing right now, and, and how to mitigate fears alongside all this stuff that’s going on with the health fears too.

Haley:

But if someone’s nearing retirement, and that the markets are down, and maybe their portfolio’s down. People are covering what should a pre-retiree do facing that issue? And then even we’re seeing this on a local perspective too, the local economy. How can we help from a local perspective, what businesses are doing, and clients that are in the local economy, how their businesses are handling these issues.

Haley:

Some people want to comment on it. Some people don’t want to comments on it, and I think it’s a difficult time for everyone. We’re here to help guide our clients, and our advisors on what they can do to reach out to their clients with communications, as well as if they want to be proactive with the media talking about these issues.

Hannah:

I love how you’re framing this as there’s a huge need for our expertise, for financial planners’ expertise in these spaces. One of the things that I question at times like this, what’s appropriate, and then what’s not? I’d be curious to get your perspective on what would not be appropriate to be sharing during this time? What would be tacky?

Haley:

It wouldn’t be the most appropriate to say, “Now’s the time to work with a financial advisor because you obviously don’t know what you’re doing if your portfolio is down.” Overly promoting your own services, maybe now’s not the time to do that.

Haley:

But I’d say that overall, if you’re lending help, and I think that financial advisors is a helping profession, and being a resource for people, and going out of your way to help people who maybe aren’t your clients, and lending a hand, and helping reporters out with things that they’re working on, and really answering the questions that they need answered is probably the best way to go about it.

Hannah:

You know, we’re on the coronavirus, and who knows, I know we’re recording this a couple months ahead of time from when we’re going to air it, but how are… I know a lot of what the work that you do also includes client communications. How are you finding that planners are communicating with their clients about this well?

Haley:

Advisors are doing a really good job being proactive with reaching out to clients, and I think we’ve seen it across the board in any industry. There’s been so many emails I’ve gotten personally from every industry on how everyone’s handling Covid-19, and I think that having that proactive approach is really good, and being humanizing. I think that we’re all in this space of, we’re all human, and everyone’s facing this together. And having a little bit of a tone of, “I’m a person and we’re a firm that’s here for you,” has been really good.

Haley:

I think that’s what we’ve been seeing a lot of being handled well. I think we’ve been seeing a lot of our planner clients doing videos, and that is really an extra element to humanize them. We’ve been producing quick hit videos for them to send out to their clients to help them see their adviser, and quell fears, and it gives that opportunity to have a one-to-one conversation even though you’re not having an in person meeting because nobody seeing each other right now.

Haley:

But then having that as a first touch to get everybody on the same page maybe before doing that one to one outreach, and speaking to each client or the phone if that’s an approach you’re going to take.

Hannah:

Yeah. And you talked earlier about how on social media, new planners are just more comfortable with it. I think the same is true with video as well. We can just be more, it’s more of just the way we operate.

Haley:

Absolutely. Yeah. Those Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts and everything from that front has been a good change for communication. I think for everybody that’s sitting at home right now.

Hannah:

If people are unsure of how to approach the media, FPA has a really great resource out there on their media training. Can you talk a little bit about what that training is, and what planners can get from it?

Haley:

Absolutely. The media training is a really great resource as you said, and it’s basically a lesson, and it’s a guide for how to approach the media, best practices, things that the media is looking for. And it is a really good resource to learn how to approach the craft of refining your message and fine tuning the points that you want to make, and learning the media landscape. It’s not first nature for everybody, and that’s why a lot of firms use us to do it, and it can be time consuming. Having this media training resource can help you learn, and dip your feet in. I believe that there’s also a resource that they send out to the planners who have gone through this media training, media opportunities that you can participate in, that reporters source through FPA. So that can be a really good first way to get to touch point with a reporter. If they send out a topic that they are covering, and that’s something that you want to talk about and something that you’re developing a niche around, you can maximize on that after you go through that media training, and having the skills from media training is really helpful, and as you get more practice in the interview experience, it helps you fine tune.

Hannah:

Oh that’s great. And we’ll have a link for that media training. It’s a really, really great resource to get started. And if somebody wants to get in touch with you or has more questions, where can they reach you at?

Haley:

Anybody can send me an email. My email is Haley, H-A-L-E-Y@gregoryfca.com. You can also go on our website. It’s GregoryFCA.com, and just one other resource that we have too is the financial services marketing blog. It’s just financialservicesmarketing.com, and that has a lot of great resources for anybody at any stage of their planning career on how they can use PR and marketing to their advantage, and help differentiate their brand.

Hannah:

Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Haley.

Haley:

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

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