Wealth Management Marketing's Blog: Presented by Kristen Luke

Six Tips to Work Better with Reporters

Posted in Guest Blog by Kristen Luke on March 14, 2010

This is a guest post from Amy E. Buttell, a freelance writer in Erie, Pennsylvania. In this post Amy provides six tips for how advisors can create better relationships with reporters.

As a reporter for consumer websites and magazines and many trade and association publications, I interview a lot of financial advisors. Over the past 10 years, I’ve interviewed more than 100 planners for stories on an incredible variety of topics. Some of the interviews have been great; others, frankly, were disasters.

I’ve developed lots of good relationship with planners, many of whom have helped me understand a topic in more depth and explain it to my readers. Unfortunately, I’ve had experiences that have left me not quoting a particular planner for a story and/or mentally crossing him or her off my list as a potential source in the future.

If you want to improve your relationship with any reporters you work with in the future and position yourself as a go-to expert for reporters, follow these six tips:

1. Know Your Stuff. Whatever the subject is that we’re discussing, know it. In depth. Please. If you don’t, your ignorance will become rapidly apparent. If you don’t know it, don’t position yourself as an expert in it because you will fatally undermine your credibility. It’s better to be conservative in terms of estimating your expertise – if you aren’t sure you’re an expert, you’re not. Pass on those opportunities and focus on ones where you know what you’re talking about. Or, get some more education on the topic you want to become expert in and know it cold before you start giving interviews.

2. Don’t ask for questions in advance. If I wanted to interview you by e-mail, I would. Trust me. I want to talk to you because I’m hoping that our conversation will spark new ideas and questions from me that will help me write a better and more interesting story. If all you do is reply to questions I sent in advance like you’re reading from a script, it’s a waste of my time and yours.

3. Be there. I shouldn’t have to say this, but it happens more than you think. I pick up the phone and call you, and my call goes to voice mail. If this is absolutely unavoidable, shoot me an e-mail saying you’ll be free in X minutes or asking to reschedule. Otherwise, if I’m sitting at my desk waiting for you to call, I may end up talking to you then or later – or not — but I won’t want to talk to you again. If you’re calling me for whatever reason, be on time – not early, not late. If you’re early, I won’t be ready. If you’re late, I’ll be wondering whether you’re going to call at all. Honestly, if you are more than a couple minutes late, I end up getting the impression that you believe your time is more valuable than mine.

4. Avoid reciting your life’s story. Unless I am writing a story just about you, I don’t need to know anything more about your exact job duties, where you went to school or the history of your firm. Your title is usually enough – if I need more, I’ll ask. I have a limited amount of time to talk to you, so you’re wasting it by droning on about that stuff. Let’s cut to the chase and talk about the subject of my story.

5. Have something to say. There’s nothing more annoying than talking to you and getting answers that are either so generalized that they are meaningless, are completely off-topic or brief to the point of non-communication. It’s no fun to have to repeatedly get you back on point, press for specifics or pull information out of you one word at a time. And don’t hijack the interview by going on and on without letting me get a word in edgewise. I’m supposed to be asking the questions – let me do my job. Keep up this kind of behavior up and odds are I’ll never call you again. Word could get around to other reporters, too – don’t think that we don’t talk to each other.

6. Don’t follow up repeatedly. Most reporters, whether freelancers or staff writers, don’t know when the story will run, whether your quotes will be included or where the story is in the editing process. If you want to know when any article comes out that includes you, set up a Google alert associated with your name or check the publication’s website once a week. Odds are I have no better idea than you when the story will run. And, no, I can’t get you a copy – in the vast majority of cases, I don’t even get a copy. That’s why we have the Internet.

About Amy E. Buttell

Amy E. Buttell is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Journal of Financial Planning, FPA’s Practice Management Solutions, Better Investing Magazine, SavingforCollege.com and many other publications and websites. Her book, Personal Investing: The Missing Manual, co-authored with Bonnie Biafore and Carol Fabbri, will be published in May. She lives in Erie, PA. Her online home is at www.amybuttell.com and you can find her on Twitter at twitter.com/lecreative.

About Kristen Luke

Kristen Luke is the Principal of Wealth Management Marketing, a firm dedicated to providing marketing strategies and support for financial advisors. Kristen works with independent advisors to develop effective marketing plans and provides the back office support required to implement the strategies. For more information, visit www.wealthmanagementmarketing.net.

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3 Responses

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  1. Cathy Curtis said, on March 15, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Amy, Thanks for the tips – blunt and to the point. Good stuff.
    Cathy Curtis

  2. Craig Guillot said, on March 30, 2010 at 11:34 am

    In addition to number 3, advisers should also understand that reporters work on deadlines. You can’t take 3 weeks to return their calls then expect them to work with you. I can’t count how many times I call prospective sources and have to leave more than a few messages over the course of a week before I get a call back. They usually do call back and by then I’ve already interviewed one of their competitors. I’ve come to depend on a few financial advisers not just for their knowledge and experience but because I know they are accessible and reliable.

    And 3 is critical. Once I get stood up by a source and there’s not a very good reason, then I usually blacklist them in my book forever. The journalist’s time is important too.

  3. Martha Spizziri said, on April 1, 2010 at 10:40 am

    If you want a further peek into how reporters work with sources, you might take a look at this post Amy wrote for the American Society of Business Publication Editors blog: Six Ways to Salvage a Bad Interview. It presents the flip side of the same issue — how reporters can help an interview go better.


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