Wishy-Washy Won’t Work


Wishy-washy just doesn’t sell. If you want to be a quotable resource for the media, the worst mistake you can make is to fail to take a stance. Journalists look for these hooks all the time to draw readers in and catch the attention of the public. In a compliance-filled environment such as financial planning, stating an opinion without caveat is challenging to pull off and may make you uneasy. Maybe the media is not for you, or maybe you need to adjust your approach a bit.


When it comes to public relations and engaging the media, I have tried many different strategies. By far the most successful for me is to clearly take a side.  Trying to cover all the bases to show you understand the different sides of things may be tempting, but it’s the journalist’s job to paint the full picture.  You want to be quoted saying something intelligent (and responsible) that establishes your position as an expert.  To do that, you need to have an opinion.

I recently spoke with a Forbes reporter about new parent finances. We chatted for a bit, then the tone switched to ‘serious’ after saying, “The biggest mistake new parents make is…”  I provided practical financial advice, but also took a firm stance.  This posturing creates an opportunity for the journalist to find the opposing view and create a controversy…and controversy sells!  Few people are interested in learning more about something if it is unambiguous common knowledge.  Controversy always beats boring, even if you are just reframing sound financial advice as something that goes against the flow.


What is particularly notable in this interview is that the writer was able to create so much controversy that she generated thousands of views and dozens of mentions in social media  This led to a second story where I was again extensively quoted as an authority and then a third story where, again, I get to be a quoted expert.  So, for one 30-minute interview, she could leverage out the conversation three times, gaining me triple the exposure in stories that have now been read by over 20,000 people in one of the pre-eminent personal finance publications.

How can you be ready when the media calls you?

  1. List out three strong opinions you have about financial planning and the market you serve.
  2. Draft out declarative statements that you feel good about — statements that you would tell a client. This part is important — you have to truly believe them and be able to back them up.
  3. Run them by your compliance officer.  If he resists, find out what you can say.
  4. Once you are clear, practice your declarations with confidence. Be succinct and suppress the urge to spit out the nagging clarification points.

Remember, when you try to cover all opinions, you really have none at all.  And that just won’t make the editor’s cut.

Kristin Harad, CFP®
Next 10 Clients
San Francisco, CA

3 thoughts on “Wishy-Washy Won’t Work

  1. Kristin,

    Your advice is on target.

    When I’ve written for financial trade publications, I’ve looked for well stated, strong opinions backed by evidence. As you say, it was my job to also seek out the opposing point of view from other folks.

  2. Susan – always good to hear reinforcement from writers! Thanks! ~Kristin

  3. Thank you for sharing, Kristin.

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