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Hear from the media: What they need to hear from you now

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Read the transcript and Q&A below:

On air and print journalist join us to share the inside scoop on how to get their attention, the kinds of expertise they need and how to build an ongoing relationship.

Teresa Rivas, Financial Reporter, Barron’s
Alexandra Hincks, Financial Reporter, Talent Booker, TDAmeritrade Network
Hibre Teklemariam, VP, Partner, SunStar Strategic | moderator

Transcript and Q&A 

I am Hibre Teklemariam, vice president and partner at SunStar strategic. I am very excited to moderate this next panel, hear from the media what they need to hear from you. Have you ever wondered what does it take to be quoted or featured in Barron’s, and how do I get invited to be a guest on TD Ameritrade network? I myself have pitched these two panelists many times, and now we get to hear from them what they’re looking for.

And with that I’d like to introduce our two of the most respected and talented media experts, Teresa Rivas. She is with Barron’s, and she’s been covering financial markets since 2007. She is based in New York. And we also have Alexandra Hincks. She goes by Alex, and she’s with TD Ameritrade, and she is a lead talent Booker and she’s based in Chicago. So why don’t we start by having you will give brief introductions. Teresa, why don’t we start with you?

Teresa Rivas:             
Sure. Thank you so much for having me. As you mentioned, I’ve covered financial markets at Barron’s since 2007. And prior to that, I was at the Wall Street Journal. So it’s been a long time covering the market, but there’s always something new to discover. I have done a number of different beats at my time at Barron’s, but currently I cover a lot of consumer-related stocks, so that’s consumer staples, discretionary, like retail and restaurants. Definitely an interesting area to talk about in the time of Covid.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Indeed. Indeed. Alex?

Alex Hincks:               
Yeah. Hi. So I’m Alex. Thanks for having me as well. I’ve been talent booking with the TD Ameritrade network from its inception in 2017. Before that, I didn’t really have a background in financial news media or at all. So we’ve got a lot of learning this way. I also wanted to give an introduction to the Ameritrade Network just in case people don’t know so much about it. We launched in 2017. It’s a financial news, media streaming network, kind of like CNBC. Fox Business, Bloomberg, any of those outlets. But we just stream online. We are live every single market today from 7:00 a.m. central time to 5:00 p.m. Central time.

And our unique advantage, I would say, is that we have both TD Ameritrade and now Charles Schwab clients combined, and direct access to those clients. So with the surge of like retail investing, especially during the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge spike in interest for sure.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Great. Great. Thank you. Thank you both. So, Teresa, why don’t we start with you? A lot of folks we talked to in financial, they want to know how do I get into Barron’s? And so could you tell us what are the characteristics that you look for in an ideal source?

Teresa Rivas:             
Well, ideal sources are a little bit like children’s stories on happy families. Right? They’re all ideal and not always. [Laughter] But that being said, there are some common characteristics. What comes to mind is being flexible and available. Barron’s is of course known for analytical value added takes, but we’re still hoping to address fast-moving items that happen in the news. So sources that are willing to talk about things that are happening, and are aware that we have deadlines just like any other news organization even if we’re not typically the first ones out with the story.

So flexibility and availability come to mind. And then also nobody expects you to be a toastmaster. It’s our job to do well with words. But just avoiding one-word answers and too much jargon when you’re speaking to us is really helpful when we’re looking for quotes.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Oh, sure. Sure. And then let me follow that up, you know, once, you know, it’s very difficult to even be considered, but then once you do interview a source, what are the expectations that they should have afterwards?

Teresa Rivas:             
For sure, I really do try to help my sources understand what I’ll be doing with the information. If I am reaching out about a specific topic or specific stock, there’s a good chance that I’m working on a story directly related to that, and, ergo, there’s a greater chance that you’ll see your quote in Barron’s. Of course stories can be killed, or altered, or changed without my control later on, so it’s certainly not a guarantee.

                                   
But a lot of times, I just want to reconnect with an old source that I haven’t talked to in a while, or establish a relationship with the new source. And in those scenarios, there might not be a logical place to fit a quote in, in terms of what I’m working on at the moment. But just because we talk and I don’t have a record of that quote, I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to think that it wasn’t productive on my end, or that I’m not looking forward to speaking to them in the future.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
And I imagine it would help with relationship building?

Teresa Rivas:             
For sure. And it’s also nice just idea gathering source, and I can always talk those ideas away for later even if they don’t make sense [crosstalk].

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Great. Great. Great. And, Alex, I will turn the question to you. What do you look for when you’re booking the ideal source, what do they look like?

Alex Hincks:               
I would say there’s like a fundamental good source, and then there’s like the content behind the source that both matter at least in TV. There’s a reliability definitely that comes into play with responsive, kind of the same thing as Theresa saying. If they’re well-prepared, on time, all those things are like for me, as the booker, some of the most important things to be reliable. And then I would say for content-wise, it’s people who, again, are kind of flexible in what they can talk about and are willing to discuss.

For us, specifically on the TD Ameritrade network, we really like specific, unique, and actionable ideas and content from our guests. So if they can talk about, I mean, ideally, if they could talk about stocks. They can talk about sectors. They can talk about this headline that happened today in the news. That’s ideal. We know compliance and things get in the way. But it can have a unique perspective. And then keep in mind that it’s also not a monologue conversational [crosstalk].

Hibre Teklemariam:   
[Laughter] Understood. And then how did they get invited back? What do you look for there?

Alex Hincks:               
I would say for me, it’s the unique perspective is what I’m usually looking for, and the actionable ideas. A lot of times, people come on and they say the same sorts of things across news media. So when we can get something new, and a new idea, and a new investment perspective, that’s what makes us wanna bring some back. Especially then if things that they’re speaking about come to fruition, a follow-up interview is always great. And I think that that makes for the most exciting continued conversation, too, if it’s not just the same over and over.

Hibre Teklemariam:
Understood. Understood. And then if I could follow-up, you know, the smaller fund firms that may not have the ginormous assets, you know, and they’re, you know, they’re having to compete with really large firms with large assets under management, what advice would you give those smaller firms in terms of trying to get in front of you and be considered?

Alex Hincks:
Yeah, for us, I think also another unique thing is we’re not – I don’t really, I mean obviously it’s great when you get a big firm on your show, it’s great, but it’s not something that I’m like – it’s not a deal breaker for us. I would rather have a guest who can come out with an idea, or a new investment strategy, or an ETF that they just launched, or a trading idea, or something like that, and give us something actionable. And those are the segments that do the best rather than have some big firm come on and try to talk, beat around the bush and just have this talk vaguely.

But that being said, I would say it is the actionable content that gets us. And if they, especially in a pitch, if they have like a unique idea or new stock they’re watching, whether it’s a huge one or a small one, it doesn’t, we kind of, some of our best segments are even the stocks that you’ve never heard it before.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Oh, wow. Okay. So undiscovered companies?

Alex Hincks:               
Yeah. I mean both. The spectrum, right, people like to talk about Apple and Amazon, but [laughter] some of our best performing segments are surprisingly when it’s some idea we’ve never heard before.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Okay. And Teresa, for the smaller firms, what recommendation would you give them and helping them to stand out from the larger firms who are in front of you when they want you to highlight them?

Teresa Rivas:             
Gosh. I feel like flexibility is the word of the day here. I’m going to second with Alex that flexibility is great because I’m often working on a deadline, and news changes quickly. And also I would say for me, personally, I always prefer to talk to people on the phone. But in terms of tight deadlines, it’s not always possible. So it’s also valuable to really talk via e-mail as well just so I can shoot them a quick question, hop on a Zoom call, and then something waiting for me in my inbox when I get back. It’s very helpful. So knowing a source that is flexible and available is incredibly helpful for me because I know I can call on them if I have a tight deadline.

And then also it’s just helpful to know, to have a bullet point list of what their expertise is in terms of companies and specific sectors. So if something is particularly happening in the restaurant space, say, and I know a source that owns a number of restaurants so that’s their expertise, it’s good for me to just be able to go in and quickly hone in on that and know that they’re a good person to call.

Alex Hincks:               
I would also just reiterate that for sure. If I know that someone is an expert in this, or they like this stock name, or they’ve really made a point on our show before, and something happens in the news that comes up, and I can think of their name, that’s an easy way for us. And if they’re reliable on top of that, it’s for sure, it’s an easy pick if somebody can be reliable and we know that they can talk about something kind of on the go.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
That’s really good information from both of you, and you kind of touched in on my next question. And I pose this to both of you, where do you all go for sources? Do you leverage existing relationships or how does a new firm you’ve not talked to be considered?

Teresa Rivas:             
I’ll take that first. I love to build rapport with sources. Over the years. I definitely have sources that I talked to for years, and I am more comfortable knowing that they can provide quotes, as I said flexibility and quickly if I need to. And I know that they aren’t just going to repeat the same jargon that they would write in a report to me because we like to have that kind of – I like to know someone that I can talk to like a human. So that’s [crosstalk] be in their report.

But at the same time, you know, new sources become old sources. So I’m definitely interested in hearing from news sources. And you know, there are any number of reasons I would talk to someone of course if they’re in the consumer space, which might be great to know. I also like to know if they have, you know, a long track record in the industry. If they have a particularly large fund. There are a number different, they are a number different strengths that a source can have that can appeal to me. And they’re not looking for just one specific thing. But I am always looking to build out new relationships.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Got it.

Alex Hincks:               
I’ll say some more along the same lines. I mean obviously when you build a relationship with someone, it’s easy to trust that they’re gonna either bring you a source that is reliable or have good content for you time and time again. And those are the types of sources that I go to look for the ones I’ve used before, for like the breaking news type segments, the ones that are more flashy and exciting because that’s what is happening now.

But I will say we love having new guests. I think these days, some of the guests across media and print are kind of, you see a lot of repeats. So it’s always exciting to get new faces, and new guests, and new perspective. I would never ever tell someone to not send a pitch basically on a new guest. It’s worth it at least to get it in front of our eyes.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Got it. Got it. And then if we could peel the layers a little bit. For example, I’ve worked with both of you and I’ve had wonderful experiences. And so I’m just curious as for our audience, if we could peel the layer. If you’re looking for more specific things, are you looking at performance, assets under management, industry expertise, which you touched on a little bit. What are the key areas where you focus on as you look at a pitch, say, I would send you or someone else, or you know, looking at sources.

Alex Hincks:               
I can start this time. [Laughter] I would say, like I said kind of earlier, like the AUM, and the name of the firm, and how huge they are and all that stuff is obviously somewhat important. The perfect guest is somewhere in the middle. But I would say in a pitch, if they had clear and concise, and our whole buzzword, our network is the actionable things that we want to hear about that our clients can then use as an idea for their own investments.

I would say definitely that is the most important to me is the content behind it, not so much the big name, or their AUM, or how many – yeah. I mean I would say it’s the actionable content for us for sure.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
So you’re willing to go outside of that assuming they have good information to share…

Teresa Rivas:             
Yes.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
…and good [crosstalk].

Alex Hincks:               
Honestly, to the extent, we have to make sure that a credible source somehow, or they just watch ETF, whether they’re a smaller firm. That’s everything. We’re always interested in getting new perspective. So I would say for us, we’re pretty flexible on who can come on our show as long as they’re credible and have something new to say.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Okay. Teresa?

Teresa Rivas:             
I’m gonna piggyback on what Alex said again. But I mean I’m sure there are unicorns out there that check every single one of those boxes, but I don’t expect it to happen every time. Again just there are – everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Right? So just like Alex, we have to vet and make sure that there are legitimate reasons to listen to a specific source, but if they have more industry expertise than assets under management, it’s fine to highlight one over the other for me.

And, again, it’s really more about understanding how they fit into my resource pool. And by that I mean that they can talk about sectors and specific stocks that are relevant to my beat. And I know a lot of companies, especially larger companies can struggle with talking about specific stocks vis-à-vis regulations, but it’s just really helpful for me to be able to talk about that just because that’s the bread and butter of what we do.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Right. Right. And then what about the timeliness of what they have to say in terms of what’s going on, you know, in the news, how does that play a role in how you’re covering – going to sources/

Teresa Rivas:             
Sure.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Go ahead, Teresa.

Teresa Rivas:             
Sure. As I said earlier, Barron’s, of course, isn’t a straight news publication, but we do like to be timely and address things that are happening in the news. Because our readers are obviously aware of the headlines, and we want to make sure that they know that we’re on top of the news, and what’s happening, but we can also add a Barron’s slant to it. So as I said before, of course it’s fantastic when I know that someone can speak intelligently about a topic.

And if that topic comes up in the news, I will of course think of them when I have to write something about it. And just knowing that they can speak intelligently without jargon is very helpful for to me, and to be able to just ask them about a specific news story without having to stop and wonder if the interview will be a waste of time or not.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Understood. How about you, Alex?

Alex Hincks:               
Yeah. I would say so throughout our daily programming it’s live all day long, all week long, we actually intentionally leave little holes. Like every day, we have two holes that are the news of the day. We’re kind of waiting to see how things pan out, and then scheduling guests at the end of the day based on that breaking news. And we leave holes throughout the week so with the intent that there are breaking stories that are gonna happen and we’re going to need to look for sources who can comment on them.

So I would say if guests are able to discuss those types of things on a breaking news, especially specific stock stories, or the fed, or whatever, it’s huge. And if I get a pitch about it, it’s even better because then I have the source come to me and I can, you know, if there’s something happening in the market, and someone has something to say about it, and they come and tell me they have something to say about it, that’s like my favorite kind of e-mail to get.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Uh-huh. And that makes sense that you are looking for sources that are reliable if you’re having these holes that you leave in case there is breaking news. You do somebody to just kind of jump and be able to do an interview.

Alex Hincks:               
Yeah. And that’s timeliness, too, like how responsive someone is. I like know this person will answer, and I know they’ll get back to me soon. That stuff is huge.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Great. Great. Great. So, lastly, I’m curious if you could share with us how have things changed for you all in terms of how you’re reporting or reaching sources post-pandemic. Alex, you want to start?

Alex Hincks:               
For us, yes, it’s actually been, at first it was bumpy with all of this happening, but it’s actually turned out to be kind of a positive for network at least because what happened was people’s schedules cleared up and they were available all of a sudden to do interviews more often, and from their house and in a timely manner. So I think one of the biggest impacts it has is people are more flexible with interviewing now because they can just do it from wherever they’re at rather than have to go to a studio.

It’s kind of brought about the death of the phone interview, too, which I appreciate for live TV [laughter] because now it’s like, come on, you have to have Zoom. You have to have Skype or something to get your face in front of the camera. But, yeah, I would say it’s honestly open up doors for more people to be on TV because it’s just more accessible for us to get them on.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Sure. Yeah, that makes sense because as opposed to maybe having to travel to Chicago or have to travel to a studio, now they just go to their home studio or home office. Yeah, that makes sense. How about you, Teresa?

Teresa Rivas:             
Well, I mean, it’s funny. I like to tell people I actually went on maternity leave pre-pandemic. My last day in the office was Halloween 2019. And I think back in the spring of 2020, and I was like, hey guys, did I miss anything? So I mean when I had a baby, I knew my life was gonna change. I didn’t know that everyone’s life in the entire world would change. But that’s what happened. [Laughter] But it was nice because it was nice to have an icebreaker to ease back in with everyone. I wasn’t the only one at home in sweatpants, so that’s always nice to be able to [crosstalk] about.

And, again, as Alex said, people have generally more availability which is really nice. I know some people have trickled back into the office, but generally everyone is at home not really having a lot of plans. So it’s good to know that they’re more available and accessible in that sense. And I have also found that while I missed meeting sources in person, of course it’s fantastic to meet people and build a rapport. This is definitely an experience we’ve all gone through together so it’s nice to be able to connect to people that way even if you are only doing it virtually.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
So true. So true. Well, that concludes the panel, but I will open it up to Q&As. And we already have many questions waiting to be answered. So I will start with, let’s see here. Oh, that’s a fun one. I’ll start with this one. So someone asked: “Is there anything I can do or say to be asked back?” That’s sort of kind of, you know, makes it solid, you know in terms of being asked back.

Alex Hincks:               
I would say for us, it’s usually if they’re making some sort of call or like saying something about the market and it comes to fruition, then we like them to come back almost for a victory lap or like a what’s next. Like you got that right. What’s coming up now?

Hibre Teklemariam:   
So their crystal ball. They need their crystal ball. [Laughter]  

Alex Hincks:               
Yeah. Even if they come back and maybe what they said last time wasn’t correct, it’s kind of – at least I know one of my host favorite things is when someone is like, “Hey, I was wrong about that.”  But, “I was thinking, and here’s,” you know, basically owning up to being a realist.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Right. Right.

Alex Hincks:               
But I would, yeah, basically if they come back and they give a new idea, but also are able to talk about what they previously were talking about. That’s our favorite. Yeah.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Okay. Great. Let me ask a different questions to Teresa just to expedite things along. So someone asked – oh, this is for you, Teresa: “If you think about the best story you ever wrote about a fund manager, what stood out about the interview?”

Teresa Rivas:             
Gosh. [Laughter] I’m going to sort of repeat myself a little bit, but one of my favorite things is building rapport with the source and having that personal connection. So one of my favorite things to do is grab the reader something unexpected in the beginning. So we all know that we’re here to talk about stocks, but I feel like it’s always interesting if you can get something personal, something interesting about the source in the story. It sort of humanizes them, and I think it really brings the reader in and has them paying attention in a way that they might not if they’re just skimming for stock picks.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Okay. Understood. Okay. And then, Alex, can you think of one of the best guest you ever had and what is it that made them so good?

Alex Hincks:               
Yeah. We used to do these specials back when we were all together at the Nasdaq MarketSite. I mean we have a show there every – well, we had a show there every day. But we used to do these specials all day long where we would have all these guests that would come in for these like big special shows. And I remember it was probably like a year and a half ago, we had Cathie Wood on, and she was just exciting in a way that obviously she is exciting right now, but she had ideas that she liked and that were off the beaten path.

And then obviously like she’s very innovative and was empathetic, and also was passionate about what she’s talking about. It was clearly obvious. And then also very exciting sectors that she talks about, too. So one of more engaging interviews I’ve ever seen because she’s – it was clear that she was passionate about what she was talking about and she had ideas that she was just kind of off the cuff, like here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what we’re thinking. This is why and that’s what I believe. And it was inspiring.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
So the conviction behind it?

Alex Hincks:               
Right. And she has an energy about her – you know, a good interview has a good energy where you believe what the person is saying because they believe it themselves.

Hibre Teklemariam:   
Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. I believe that to be the case as well. Teresa, someone asks: “What does it take to be featured in Barron’s?”

Teresa Rivas:             
Well, as I said before, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. And, personally, my answer might vary from some other reporters of Barron’s as well. So I wouldn’t want anyone to take my word as gospel or applicable to everyone. But as I said, it can – sometimes it’s just a little bit of luck of the draw. If a source has expertise in an area that I cover a lot, or whether it’s breaking news, there’s just a little bit of faith there that that brings us together.

But the most important thing is being, as I said, flexible, well-spoken, able to explain things without jargon, which makes the best interview. And I’ll say my favorite phrase is when someone ends an interview and says: “Reach out anytime.” That’s my favorite thing to hear because I never know when I will need to reach out to you.