How to Become a TV Star- Advisor Style

October 15, 2010

October 15, 2010 – (Dow Jones) Financial advisors who have tried and failed as media personalities know that being smart about money and being an engaging presence on camera are two distinct qualities.

So what is the formula that works? To succeed as a TV talking head, says Doug Scott, president of advertising and marketing giant Ogilvy Entertainment, an advisor should offer a unique perspective on finance or have a uniquely appealing personality. Or better yet, both.

In other words, advisors needn’t be perfectly manicured but must have something that makes them stand out–”a burr of singularity,” as Scott calls it, borrowing the phrase used by his company’s founder, Madison Avenue legend David Ogilvy.

Scott used that standard in his latest project, “The Invested Life,” a Web-based reality series hosted by MSN Money and sponsored by TD Ameritrade. The show tracks seven advisors––all picked after a nationwide talent search of sorts––as they work with clients on establishing a financial plan.

The “Invested Life” advisors freely admit that they’re not necessarily “pretty.” But they recognize their appeal on other levels.

“It was a combination of the grey hair and the New York accent,” says Ben Tobias, president of South Florida-based Tobias Financial Advisors.

To go along with what might be called his schlep-like charm, Tobias offers up a brand of common-sense financial wisdom: In dealing with a free-spending client, Tobias suggests she limit her discretionary purchases to one day a week. She still can shop, just not compulsively.

That knack for clear advice––and a colorful delivery of it––is key, says Seth Linden, a media coach with Dukas Public Relations, a New York firm that specializes in representing financial professionals.

“If you can use a metaphor that everyday folks can understand, it helps,” says Linden.

Ed Butowsky, a Dallas-based wealth manager who also appears on “The Invested Life,” takes a client out to steak restaurant to illustrate the point that a balanced portfolio is like a balanced meal: meat here, potatoes there, and don’t forget the veggies.

What if an advisor isn’t such a natural on air? All hope may not be lost.

“I believe being a TV star can be taught,” says Bruce Serbin of South Florida-based Reeves Laverdure Public Relations, another firm that works with financial professionals.

Some basic lessons do seem teachable: Advisors need to be well-groomed and dressed to look professional. “Men cannot got on TV with ties that may distract or even look strange,” says Adam J. Segal of the 2050 Group, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

And a little practice can go a long way. Media coaches often stage mock interviews with their advisor clients, so they can get a feel for being under the lights, and also learn to lose what Jim Goyjer, Vice President of Los Angeles media placement firm Carl Terzian Associates, calls, like, um, “stop-gap speech.”

The key then may be getting that big break. If an advisor is ready for prime time, chances are that cable-show producers will likely notice it. Getting on air for even a short interview can result in a second and third invitation––sometimes even before the first set of questions is finished.

“Successful interviews can lead to more,” says Segal.

Copyright (c) 2010, Dow Jones.