How many times have you watched the news, listened to the radio or read the paper and thought, “I could have been the ‘mortgage expert’ they interviewed.” If your answer is “many times,” this article is for you. As a public relations agent with clients scattered throughout different industries across the country, I would like to pass on five PR tips that will help you position yourself as the media’s local expert. Now, more than ever, our industry needs positive media exposure, so read on and get ready to be the media’s newest star!
Step #1: Find yourself
The first step in getting the media exposure you deserve is to understand your own value and why the media needs you. There are several things you may be an expert in, including:
1. Unique financial concept(s) you implement in your mortgage practice
2. A segment of your local market that you focus on:
a. Investment properties
b. High-end homes
3. Unique referral partners
The list is endless; each of us operates our business differently, and we all have something at which we are so good we could do it in our sleep. Take some time to really find out what that niche is for you.
Once you find out your forte, and where you are most confident in your mortgage practice, go one step further and make sure you thoroughly understand your subject matter and become a student of the market and study human behavior. Examine what others are doing and talking about in the media, see what angles they are presenting on the subject matters you are most qualified in. Be a student of your clients and referral partners—find out what the market is lacking that the media is not providing. Use resources available to you to refine your expertise, and get grounded—be the best in those areas that you can possibly be.
Now that you’ve solidified your corner of the market, you are ready to go out and educate the media.
Step #2: Create your target audience and message
It’s time to create the group of people in the media whom you want to address, and drill down on the message you will be sending them.
Ask yourself questions like:
►Which media outlets are best positioned to get the word out about you and your knowledge?
►What are the current headline stories in your market, and how can you contribute a new voice to those subjects?
►What angles are these media outlets not addressing that you have the scoop on?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you have what you need to start creating the message; now you can start writing your messages down in the form of press releases.
When you tell the local media how a national crisis is affecting the local market (true stories from your clients or referral partners), this gives you the star quality and authentic perspective that others may not have.
I suggest telling your message through a press release format, because it’s something the media outlets are used to seeing; however, you can write a talking points outline, which will also serve a good purpose when you get ready to approach the media.
In writing a press release, you want to make sure you stick to facts and your expert opinion on how these facts affect your target market. Make sure your release is written in story format, spiced throughout with quotes by you as the expert. Many outlets will copy and paste your quotes directly into their print/online media or re-quote you on the radio/TV. You will want to make sure the title of your release is not too long, because they won’t open it with a lengthy title. Sprinkle direct links to your site, graphs, charts, etc., within the release; this serves two purposes—it points the media back to you, and it validates your release. Make sure you do not sell or market yourself throughout the release or you will get “blacklisted.” These releases are strictly a way to get your information to the media—the fact that you are the expert quoted, “sells” you to the media and audience.
What many of us don’t always realize is that, though the media may seem like they are unapproachable, in most cases, they are desperate for new information, facts and story ideas. You will be invaluable to them if you provide them with quality content.
Step #3: Send the information to the media
You are now ready to send your information out to the media. There are programs available that have the direct contact information to local and national media outlets. You can plug into those sources, or you can gather all the direct contact information for your target media outlets and send it to them one by one. You can also connect with a PR agent to do this for you. Many PR agents charge unnecessarily large monthly fees, so make sure you find one who is charging a fair price for the service they are offering.
Step #4: Respond well to the media
Make sure that you and your team members prepare a system to handle the media response. Sometimes, you will get an immediate flurry of activity from the media; other times, they save your release and information and contact you at a future date; and still other times, they reprint your quotes, or talk about you on the radio and TV without telling you first.
Remember, you are helping the media sound smarter—they value that and respect you for helping them carry out their job well. Additionally, you are contributing to the greater good of society by easing clients’ and the public’s fears—so, keep in mind that, although you won’t always know the entirety of the impact you’re having, be assured your message is reaching its audience.
There’s something else you’ll want to keep in mind—the media doesn’t always credit you with its newfound knowledge that you’ve so graciously provided. Yet, whether you are or aren’t getting the credit for the information quoted, keep the big picture in mind—you are affecting more people than you could possibly imagine by passing this knowledge on to the media, and you will get rewarded.
When the media outlets answer, respect their time and questions—remember they are generally working on very tight deadlines. In your phone interview or e-mail reply back, stick to your expert opinion on how the news and the facts in your press release affect the media’s target market. If you don’t have the correct information readily available, do not make the mistake of misquoting an answer to their question; tell them you will get back to them with that particular answer. Then, promptly use the resources available to you to gather that information and send it to them that same day. They will be more impressed with your solution to take more time and effort to find for them the correct answers, than with you making a fool out of them by supplying them with misinformation. This is also an opportunity for you to show that you run a high quality mortgage firm, by having access to resources others may not have available to them.
Remember, once you earn the media’s trust as a reliable source, they will call on you time and again.
Step #5: Repeat
Media outreach is not a one-night stand; you want to repeat these steps over and over in your business practice to get the most effect out of your media campaign. As with everything in life, consistency matters, so stay focused and don’t get discouraged.
Once you’ve earned a good reputation with the media contacts, media professionals will forward your releases to colleagues, save your releases, and put you on their lists so that when they need a certain question answered, they’ll reach out to you, the expert.
Josephine Nicholas runs her own public relations agency, icheadlines.com. She specializes in helping map out individualized media campaigns, and offers a comprehensive array of services to handle the diverse PR needs of her clients. Josephine’s clients have also appeared in other national and local media outlets, including, MSNBC, Fox Business News, CNN, NPR; in The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Advisor Magazine, Financial Planner Magazine, CPA Magazine, and various other outlets. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]