Financial Planners, Want Free Marketing and Publicity? The Key is Understanding the Media

The media need you. Need the information and expertise you offer, that is. But they are not encyclopedias. They don’t serve up information. They serve up stories.

That heap of paper that thuds onto your doorstep early each morning – it’s called a newspaper, not an information paper.

And that evening broadcast you watch to catch up on the day’s events? They call it the Evening News, don’t they? Not the Evening Information.

The media take the huge mass and swirl of information out there every day and spin it, by a process that seems magical but isn’t, into what we all call news. Into stories.

Simply put, news is what’s new. It’s what everyone’s talking about today. Whatever that may be. Or, it’s whatever the news media, in their judgment, think we need to know today, so we can all talk about it tomorrow.

First, let’s just get our arms around this key distinction between news and information. It’s critical to getting meaningful publicity.

News and information: two different things.

The media take a raw ingredient – information – and condense, distill, sort, and package it into a product called news. News, whether in print, on TV, or the Internet, is delivered in tidy little packages called stories.

Compared to your financial planning knowledge, news stories are unbelievably short, simple, and – sorry to say–usually shallow. (That’s not as cruel as it sounds: the audience – your prospects – usually don’t need to know huge amounts of information, to decide they may need your services.)

But those stories sure do pack the powerful punch of immediacy, urgency, and relevance to daily life.

Examples:

Information: a financial planner devotes an entire career to mastering the intricate details of investing and managing a 401(k) retirement account.

News: Congress passes a far-reaching retirement savings law. Suddenly, millions of Americans face a deadline to make financial decisions that may affect their quality of life for decades. The financial planner explains the new law succinctly and clearly in an interview aired on the local TV news, and guides viewers through the choices they face. The entire story is two minutes long, just right for the general public. By contrast, when the financial planner speaks on the topic as an expert before an audience of her peers, she will present for an hour.

Information: Dr. Jones is a leading authority on certain rare infectious diseases, lecturing and writing on the subject in the world’s most distinguished medical journals and colloquia.

News: The Governor of Dr. Jones’s state contracts one of those diseases, and uncertainty over his ability to remain in office swirls. Dr. Jones does not treat the Governor, so he cautions that he cannot comment on the specifics of this case. But calmly and objectively, he explains to reporters in lay terms the general facts about this kind of illness, pointing out that 90% of people with it recover promptly with treatment once diagnosed.

Information: broad, deep, and evergreen.

News: narrower, shallower, but timely and topical.

The knowledge within it is no less true, real, or important. It’s just been distilled into bite-sized bits that fit the space in the paper, the time on the show, or the audience’s attention span. Distilling that information into news, and then assembling it into appealing packages called stories, is essentially what the news media do.

So don’t be like one of those characters in an Alfred Hitchcock movie – getting in trouble because you know too much. Instead, learn to slice and dice your topic into many narrower, manageable offerings.