Listen To The Podcast
- The reason your marketing strategy should always start with identifying your why
- Using storytelling versus data to create more impact and build layers of credibility
- The importance of being what you believe is a good representation of you and your expertise
About Suzanne Siracuse:
Suzanne Siracuse is a visionary in the financial services and media space. Leveraging her extensive knowledge in both arenas, she has become a leading consultant for financial advisors and financial services firms, guiding them into creating innovative business strategies, impactful marketing programs, and advocacy initiatives around diversity, financial literacy, and next-gen talent. As the former CEO and publisher of InvestmentNews, Suzanne's trailblazing efforts were instrumental in launching an impressive catalog of initiatives in support of the evolution of the financial advising profession. Today, as CEO and founder of Suzanne Siracuse Consulting, LLC, she continues to share her wealth of experience with advisors. Her unique approach helps advisors and firms discover their why, identify their niche, and forge meaningful connections with the media, ultimately setting them apart in a competitive market.
Featured Resources & Shout Outs
- Suzanne Siracuse’s LinkedIn Profile
- Suzanne Siracuse’s Facebook Profile
- Suzanne Siracuse’s Instagram Profile
- Suzanne Siracuse Consulting
- Heather Fortner’s LinkedIn Profile
- Lori Hardwich’s LinkedIn Profile
- Josh Brown’s LinkedIn Profile
- Jim Pavia’s LinkedIn Profile
- Michael Nathanson’s LinkedIn Profile
- The Net Positive Pledge
Full Audio Transcript
Thank you for being here today.
Well, thank you so much for having me. I'm very honored and I'm excited for our discussion.
I am as well. So without further ado, I feel like you'll be able to give a proper introduction about your journey to InvestmentNews and now to your consulting firm today. Tell us about how you got there. And I want to hear a little bit more, even just your time at InvestmentNews, which I know we'll get into more. But what was your journey to get there and then if you can share a little bit more about where you are today as well.
Absolutely. So when I graduated from college, I thought I wanted to write commercials for a living. I wanted to get a job at an ad agency writing jingles in a very creative field. And that's not the easiest job to get right out of college, let's put it this way. So what I ended up doing is I kind of compromised and I ended up becoming a salesperson in the advertising department at the Philadelphia Business Journal. I grew up right outside of Philadelphia. Go Eagles. And I just got involved in working with clients, and I loved my boss, I loved the people I worked with. In fact the publisher was a woman, the head of sales was a woman, and my boss, who was the marketing manager, was a woman.
And so when I think back and when I reflect back on that time, it was real foreshadowing of really being able to see someone in a position and successfully doing it. And that's actually a big influence of why I wanted to become a publisher, right? When I started out at the Philadelphia Business Journal, I was right out of college and didn't really know what I wanted to do, but after being there for a little bit, that first job experience can either go really, really well or not so well. And mine went really, really well. And that really fueled how I got to InvestmentNews. So I stayed there for eight years and started working with a lot of financial service firms, and then realized I wanted to move to New York.
So I started working at Pensions & Investments, which was the sister publication of InvestmentNews, and the publisher of Pensions & Investments, after about a year said, hey, we're really noticing a trend in the RIA space and in the intermediary space. And we're looking to launch a newspaper. At the time, there were no websites; that's how long ago this was. And I’m wondering if you want to move over and help us launch this? So I absolutely love launching things, new ideas, being creative. P & I was a little dry. So we launched InvestmentNews, and that was in 1998. I was running sales for many years, then became the associate publisher and became the publisher in 2006. And during that time period, I really got to understand the wealth management space and the evolution of it, quite frankly.
So when I think back, there were two major things happening, right? There was the evolution of the financial planning, wealth management business from traditionally broker model investment focused to now much more holistic, focused on an independent model. And at the same time in the media business, which is what I did, it was showcasing that changing or that evolution in consumption of media and consumption of content from traditional print, magazines, newspapers, to digital, launching websites. So you really saw this evolution in both areas I was working on, which was incredibly exciting, especially after being there for so long, seeing the print model.
That top revenue source was continuously kind of going down this way and digital was going up. And so really being able to create so many new offerings and products featuring great content for advisors. So, the website and newsletters and webinars and video, and then we launched a ton of events and award programs and all of that. So those were really important pieces to where I am that got me to where I am now, right? So when I think about some of those, I like to call them the GA, game changing offerings, right? Like 40 Under 40, right? Like Women to Watch, Women Advisor Summit, Diversity and Inclusion Awards, Best Places to Work. Those were all kind of bigger initiatives that encompassed lots of different moving pieces, right?
Not just editorial, not just video, not just webinars, not just research, but just all of the above, to really put on these really important industry events and offerings that are still going strong today. So when I left, which is now four years, I can't even believe it, I was able to take a lot of that information and a lot of that experience that I learned in the 22 years I was there. And translate that now to advice and consulting for firms that are trying to do business with the RIA market or the wealth management space. So I'm very, very specific in my niche, which is working with firms that are trying to work with financial advisors and financial advisory firms. And my three pillars are business strategy,
marketing strategy, and supporting and developing advocacy initiatives that include DEI, next-gen talent development, and financial literacy. So I have clients that range from very, very large RIAs where I'm helping them with their M&A strategy to fintech companies that are trying to get advisors to take a look at what they offer to alternative investments to organizations like the Financial Alliance for Racial Equity. So all over the board, which is the way I operate. I like to have my hands in a lot of different things. And it also really helps me continue to keep an important pulse on what's going on in the industry.
I love hearing your journey, and you're so right about it was such an interesting time you were there, right? There's so many things that were happening within the media, traditional news market versus digital, even the RIA space and that sort of hybrid. What a fun time to really be shaping that out. And then I think also to see where it is today, right? And to be able to say we went through that threshold of growth, right? And in two different avenues to now see all the successes and be able to move with the market from where it's at. So I appreciate you sharing that. Also, something that resonated with me when you first shared your story is just this idea of it is sort of not always about the job, but it's about the boss, right? And be able to have that mentorship. And I feel like that sounds like this sort of guiding light for you as you stepped into where you are today, but now you're also not maybe in a mentorship role, but you're helping to coach and sort of be that guiding light for other folks where you've had that share of knowledge.
Yeah, it's really interesting. I just shot my podcast earlier today with Heather Fortner. She's one of the few female CEOs of an RIA firm. SignatureFD. And we were talking about the evolution, again, I keep using that word, but the evolution of your management and your leadership style and how it really does change with your experience level. And so I feel like I became a much better leader now then I was when I first started. Which I think most people feel. But now because I'm a consultant I do not have employees purposely. That's where I wanted to be in my life. I now can mentor people I choose where they choose me.
And it's been absolutely wonderful. And then most of the people I did mentor at InvestmentNews were people who worked directly for me and just to see where they are now is really unbelievable. So I'm giving advice now to a lot of women who are looking to step out of their organization or have stepped out of their organization and formed their own firms. And that's just so much fun because you learned a lot along the way. And I had some terrific women who jumped in and helped me when I started my firm. Lori Hardwick, who is a mainstay in the fintech space, she had started her consulting firm and shared a lot of great best practices with me. So I always say, developing that network is an important goal for a variety of reasons, not just for business development. Right, right, right. Which is maybe originally how we all start thinking about a network. But really as you continue to evolve in your career and on your journey and what you want to do, part of my business model is my connections with a lot of VIPs in the industry. So that is something to just keep in mind. That's a really important technique when you're growing your business.
Absolutely. I think not just being able to build those relationships, but maintaining them and that sort of thing. So I think it is also rewarding to see folks as they've grown over their career and what they're doing. I know for myself, I have the fortune of being able to see really C-suite from a variety of organizations at different stages. But you can sort of like cherry pick a little bit, kind of the best of the best, or even just learnings for what to do and what not to do. And so it's fun to hear you talk about where you are at the point in your career to be able to, like you said, sort of pick and choose, but then also as you're coaching, to be able to help folks, but then give them kind of the best of the best as they're growing with their professional career.
So, shifting, I want to shift topics a little bit. So one of the pillars you talked about was marketing. You have been at a seat, at InvestmentNews, you've been able to see how folks interface with the media from a variety of angles. And we work with a lot of RIAs, a lot of advisors, and PR always comes up, right? I know trends in PR have obviously changed and there's so many different ways of approaching it, but I'd love to just hear a little bit about that side of things. How do you recommend advisors even go about PR and reaching out to the media? And what's a first step if someone's thinking about just being a little bit louder with thoughts.
Yeah. So this could be a five-part series, right? Because there's so much to it. So we're going to scratch the surface a little bit, but I think what I always would recommend is before you start with anything, you start with the why and why you should make as an advisor this a priority, meaning marketing or PR, and put some money behind it. I think making sure you are very clear on the why, why you wish to pursue a media relations strategy. What are you looking to accomplish?. Because if you just say, oh, everybody says I need to have a media strategy, so I need to have one, you're missing an important foundational step. You need to understand and create a plan and goals of what you actually are trying to accomplish.
And some of those whys, some of those goals, could be I want to do this because I want to establish credibility with prospects and current clients. Because when they see your name quoted in a third party, like CNBC or InvestmentNews or Barron's or Wall Street Journal, it gives the impression that you're an expert on a particular topic. So I would say that's probably the number one why, right? Understanding that and also for branding and an awareness-building tool. I mean, PR is second to none for that. It's also an essential part of an overall marketing mix. It's not the only part. So I always caution if you're only going to go in on PR and not do all the other pieces that are important to that, you're not going to get the most out of it.
And that's where I just say, really understanding what your overall marketing strategy is, in which PR is one of those spokes. And then when you get that PR content, so you get an article posted or a column featured, how are you leveraging that in the rest of your media strategy? That's why having that larger picture strategy is important. The other thing around a why is the Google search relevance. In this day and age, there's very few people who are going to do business with you until they've Google searched you. And so if nothing comes up, that's not great. So having some articles or webinars or quotes, something you're doing, speaking at an event, adds that layer of credibility. And it also increases your probability of appearing during Google search.
It helps get more interviews with other media. So if you jump into your first interview, that will eventually lead to more and more down the road. So I just gave you a couple of the whys, but before that, define what success looks like so you can measure what works and what doesn't. So ask yourself again, what you want to accomplish, and then write it down because you're more likely to follow that plan if you write it down. So that would be first and foremost before you do anything. Then focus on the topics you are an actual expert in. Simply saying you're a retirement planning expert won't move the needle. It’s not going to cut it.
It's way too general. So what are you an expert in, but also what are you passionate about? And I talk about this too, when I speak about niche markets and segmenting your client base. I just interviewed on my podcast an advisor who focuses on the LGBT niche. Actually gay women who have dogs. So that's a big niche, right? But there's plenty of them. But again, when you look at being very, very niche in your client segment, it actually allows you to be much more niche in your marketing efforts. It's much easier, quite frankly. So again, what are you passionate about? What are you an expert in?
What differentiates you from other advisors? And then define if you want to focus on the consumer market, right? So CNBC, Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Yahoo Finance. Or the B2B market, right? Your industry. And I recommend having a plan for both. But it’s probably easier to start with B2B so you can have a foundation that will help you with your B2C plan. Mm-hmm. And I would also say decide if you have a budget to hire a PR person to help you with the outreach and ideas. And if not, create a wishlist of the top three to five media outlets you want to be a source on. What do you watch? What do your clients watch? What do they read?
What websites are they on? Maybe get an informal poll from some of your current clients. So that can help you in determining which outlets you need to focus on, because this isn't a full-time job for you, you're an advisor. Once you determine the outlets, then find out who the right person is at those outlets because various editors cover different things. So know which reporter handles investments or financial planning or the markets, those are a couple of different things. And then you can submit columns as well as being a source in various news stories. So those are just a couple of things you could start out with.
Yeah. I feel like this is fantastic. Give us a quick start guide to just PR. Where do you start and then where do you actually take it to the action steps, which is a great way to get started. Sometimes we have firms we work with and they go, we want to be featured in the New York Times. And I'm like, that's great, but let's get into it— because it can be such a shiny object, you know? I think sometimes it's hard to know where to start and often just reminding folks if they do want to DIY that people are people and it's got to be authentic and it's got to actually add value to their readers, to what they're writing, these kinds of things. So it's a two-way street. And to your point about knowing your target, right? If you're passionate about it, you're probably going to be able to then just naturally speak to it. So it becomes a win-win for what they're trying to work on as well. So they meaning the editor, whoever's writing it.
So, absolutely. Absolutely. And again, having a very clear understanding of what you're trying to accomplish before you start anything. To me that is the biggest mistake—the biggest mistake of those who don't do that.
Yes. And just answering the big picture question too. That why. What's the end goal? What are we trying to accomplish with this? This is great, like I said, a really good quick start guide for where you start with it, right? Because it can sort of be shiny. So I appreciate you breaking that down. And you're also just from your perspective, from where you are as well. So is there anything in the media you feel like is missing? Any stories, any kind of topics you're seeing? Are you seeing kind of an undercurrent of conversations even that you're having with the firms you're consulting with? Do you feel like there's topics that would be valuable in the financial services media landscape to hit on more?
Yeah. So I think, again, step one is are you talking about B2B? Are you talking about B2C? So again, that seems so simple to maybe you and I who play in this space every day. But for an advisor who’s not, this is not second nature to them, right? I have talked to more advisors who are just like, I just need a good website. Can somebody help me do that? My focus is on providing great advice to my clients. Or creating a business to business development strategy for my firm. So this feels uncomfortable. What I would say is start with where are you primarily wanting to get your media attention? Is it in the B2B space, meaning the wealth management industry, like InvestmentNews, wealth management.com, the financial advisor magazines, or is it the mainstream media?
So I think you can create stories and topics based on those audiences. So for example, I think for both of those audiences utilizing case studies and real-life examples to show what your clients are looking for in terms of services, like more and more are looking for tax and estate, things like that. More comprehensive financial planning services, and then product offerings, ESG, crypto alternatives, guaranteed income, whatever it would be. So thinking about it from that way and telling a story through the lens of here's how I helped my client. I think people like to throw a lot of data around but the more impactful thing is when you can actually cite an example of how you as an advisor worked with a client to achieve a particular goal doing X, Y, or Z.
So I think that is a piece that is really, really, really important. And it's also important to show on your website. People want to be able to see, oh, I have that problem too. Or, hey, that's something I worry about as well. So that could be one angle. Reporters and editors right now are seeking out diverse voices, whether it's racial diversity, age, LGBTQ+ or next-gen advisors, but also diversity of thought. And what I mean by that is you need to be a tad contrarian at times. If you're constantly just agreeing with what's already being said, they want somebody who maybe has a unique point of view, somebody who can shed light on something and have maybe an interesting stance on it.
I use Josh Brown as an example. He is very well spoken. He uses humor. He's obviously very intelligent and very knowledgeable, but he uses his personality to really drive that home to the media too. And he's done a great job of it. So again, he's not saying the same thing everybody else is saying. So again, that diversity angle, but also diversity of thought. And then for the B2B side too, maybe best practices in growing your business, a unique way you've advised a client. Those types of things I think are always really valuable to the media. And then finally, I was just on the phone with an editor from CNBC today, and they're always looking for someone who can comment very quickly when immediate news comes out. So if interest rates go up, if there's a meeting with the Fed, if there's the job report, those types of major news cycle things that are happening in the market now. If you can immediately say, I'm always available, here's my cell phone, I can comment—because they're always on a tight deadline—so realizing that, I think that's another way you can really have a good relationship with the media.
Yes. And to that point, I feel like sometimes media opportunities will come in and they don't always come in. And I think it's a good reminder too, if there's a firm that's working with a PR agency when that comes in, it's a critical response time. Response time is very critical. Kind of like when the New Deal would come in, right? You want to be able to respond in a very timely manner as well. But you make a good point—being that trusted resource for really knowledgeable advice and making yourself available is a way to build that relationship.
Oh my goodness. Well, so many great tips. I feel like our time's just absolutely flown here. Any other kind of last minute thoughts or pieces you'd like to leave us with regarding media trends you're seeing?
I would say the most important thing, and you hear this a lot in marketing, is just be authentic. And I alluded to Josh Brown being himself, and that's what people want. That's how people identify and actually want to do business with you, is if you are just authentically you. So don't try and be something you’re not; if you're not super analytical, don't try to be that. Be what you feel is a good representation of you and your expertise and what you bring to the table. The other thing I would say is with the media it's not about what you want, it's about what they need.
Yes. Thank you.
So understand what is important to the media and work your pitch and your angle around that, not the other way around. And then understand who their audience is and what their main focus of content is so you can tailor your angle or your idea to them, right? So I don't know if you follow Jim Pavia on social media, but he's the personal finance editor for CNBC. Jim and I worked together for many years at Investment News, and he's hysterical, right? So he loves to publish the horrible things that come across his email, meaning this PR person sent me a pitch that has nothing to do with personal finance. So again, that's an extreme example. He'll give so many examples of people not knowing what he focuses on. And how annoying that is. So that's just a best practice. Make sure you are very clear about the right person you're working with, what they cover, and make sure you are tailoring your pitch and your angle directly to them and what's important to them and their readers.
Yeah. So well said. And I feel sometimes there's just nothing better than old fashioned personalization, knowing what your interest does, but then just being real, like you were saying too. It's different to just send a cold pitch that's cut and pasted to hundreds of people versus actually, I've been following you and this is something I noticed you wrote a few months ago and, and I love what you said about this, or however it's spun, right? But that's what I think you were alluding to earlier, the passion piece, right? It's just you pulling the thread all the way through, and if you want to say the magic or what have you, I feel like that's where the relationships kindle and the opportunities are built.
Yeah. And you just reminded me of something. The other thing I highly recommend you do to establish relationships with the media, with the reporters, with the editors, is follow them on social media, read their stuff, subscribe to their stuff and comment on their stories. Share their stories. Hey Ryan, Neil just wrote a great story about a new fintech firm that's going to help me with my scale, my holistic planning services. Hey Ryan, this was great. I'm going to look at these couple of companies you referenced. That small, again, personalized approach is going to be so appreciated by that reporter. And will definitely get you a relationship going with the reporter much easier once you are actually showing you're reading their stuff, you're promoting their stuff, you're engaging with them versus just you want something from them. Sales 101, by the way—before you ask for something, why don't you give them something?
Oh, absolutely. So well said. I appreciate your time. So many great takeaways and good reminders, but also things you just keep top of mind—not only for media outreach, but just for outreach in general, if it's sales, if it's building relationships or what have you. But I think those pieces carry across the board so well. Well, thank you so much again for your time. Thank you for all you're doing within this industry and consulting. It's fun to hear. I know we didn't get to get into that as much as I hoped you would today but it's okay.
Listen, I'm so busy and I like leaving an impact. Michael Nathanson, who is the CEO and chairman of the Colony Group, has an initiative right now. I'm gonna plug it because I think it's so important. It's called the Net Positive Pledge. He is looking for RIA firms to come together as groups. To pledge that they are going to leave the profession in a better place than when they came into it. And I think one of the things they're doing is eliminating plastic bottles, right? So they're tallying up how much that is saving the environment. By saving on plastic, each firm can do something.
And so really collectively thinking about how you already as advisors doing such amazing work, I mean, truly amazing work, helping people feel secure to retire in a place where they feel secure. Now what else can you do for the profession that's been good to you? So that's what I would leave with. I'm doing a lot of work in that area. Leaving an impact is incredibly important for all of us. And I feel very blessed to have been introduced to this great industry 25 years ago.
Oh, so fabulous. Well make sure to link to that resource as well below. And I appreciate you sharing that. You're just such a wealth of knowledge and thank you again for your time today and again, all you're doing for this space.
Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
Of course. We'll be in touch.