The Money Media: Assets on the Airwaves

ProutWhile the finance industry was called out earlier this year for its insufficient presence in social media, two local companies are doing quite well, thanks, in part to the traditional media presence of the principals.

Dennis Prout of Prout Financial Design and Michael Reese of Centennial Wealth LLC, both certified financial planners, have built a media presence in radio and television, respectively, that has helped consumers with understanding the finance world and their companies alike.

Neither Prout nor Reese has a performance background – in fact, both came to the idea of creating their shows based on someone saying, “Have you ever considered…?”

For Prout, other financial advisers suggested it after several had commented that he had a “radio voice.”

“I have a radio face as well,” Prout said with a laugh.

The live weekly radio program on WTCM’s Ron Jolly Show also grew out of an interest in education.

“I have taught at Northwestern Michigan College since 1990, and I love the education process and I thought radio would be a great venue for people to listen in on what’s going on in the financial planning area. Much of the talk on radio was about zeroing out debt and mutual fund benefits, but little was being said about retirement planning.”

Meanwhile, Reese’s TV spots, “Retiring Well TV,” started with being called in to be interviewed about financial matters by 7&4 news anchor Melissa Smith.

“While I was there, I was asked if I had ever considered doing my own show. As time became available, I began filming my episodes each week at the 7&4 studio, then eventually recording it myself.”

The topics covered on Reese’s TV spots are based on what clients ask when they visit Reese and his staff. “Clients will come to the northern Michigan office with questions about their financial circumstances. We meet later to discuss what are clients’ common questions and then build shows on that,” Reese said.

For Prout, the questions come from call-in listeners. “We never know what we’re going to get,” he said. “Some days it’s quiet, and other times the phone is banked and we can’t get to each call fast enough. We have covered topics such as estate planning, nonprofit work, cottage law, Social Security updates – and we often have experts, including attorneys, psychologists, and Social Security Administration representatives who come on the show to discuss these topics with us.”

Both programs have grown since they began. Prout’s show, on WTCM-AM, began in 2004 as a half-hour Thursday program, which was later expanded to an hour-long show (10-11am) that is now also re-broadcast on Saturdays and is available as podcasts (dating back to January 2014) available on his website. Reese’s TV spots began airing in 2011 on 7&4 News and has since expanded to the ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliates in Traverse City, as well as the CBS affiliate in Austin, TX (Reese’s company is still operating in Traverse City, but he is currently residing in Austin, where he opened a second Centennial office). Some spots have also aired in the Des Moines, IA, Greensborough, NC, and Birmingham, AL, markets.

“Not a lot of the local finance companies do the business that we do,” Reese said. “And much of that is related to the TV presence. It certainly has made quite an impact.”

Even though both have extensive knowledge of their field, presenting that information on radio or TV is not without its challenges. “I have no TV background – I’m a finance guy – and so I just get in front of the camera and talk, while we’re always thinking about ways to make the show more interesting, more polished,” said Reese. “And, I also have to be careful about how I say certain things because of regulations.”

Prout agreed. Because the law, and good practice, requires that he use general examples to convey his points, it prevents him from getting as detailed about financial concepts as he’d prefer. Plus, with radio listeners, the audience may be tuning in and out or, if listening in the car, may reach their destination and miss the full story. Yet, he said, keeping the audience in mind is also as much a reward as it is a challenge.

“I lean on specialists in the industry, including attorneys and certified public accountants, as advisers to provide us with information every couple of months,” said Prout. “It energizes me to share that information in my office and on the radio while maintaining that educational focus. The discipline of having to do this every week has kept me more in touch with what people’s concerns are. I listen to people for two reasons: To hear their story, and to serve as a backstop to what I’m talking about on the radio, to make sure I’m addressing the things that people are worried about right now.”