Scott Gallacher: Why advisers should build a media profile

When I first joined Rowley Turton I knew little about financial advice. I quickly realised my boss, Alan Turton, was one of the good guys. He focused on providing excellent advice, never “sold” anything and trusted business success would ultimately follow.

I fully agreed with his philosophy but the rewards did not follow quite as quickly as one might have hoped.

A reluctance to be sales-driven meant we did not pursue business in some of the traditional ways, and perhaps we were a little too reactive. Despite referrals from our clients and professional connections, other less qualified advisers and firms seemed to be doing better than we were. Our phone was not ringing as often as it should have.

Something had to change, so we decided to implement a PR strategy to improve our profile.

We consulted PR professionals but it was clear there was no magic solution. It was more a case of hard work.

So I started writing and submitting press releases, and contacting industry, local and mainstream journalists to offer our expert knowledge.

Over time, we built up a number of journalist contacts, mainly in industry publications, and gained a regular financial advice column in a legal magazine.

Some of those industry contacts went on to work for the national press and, remembering those IFAs who had always been willing to provide a quick quote or comment, brought their contacts book with them.

For a small Leicester firm we have now established a great media profile, regularly quoted in both industry and national press.

Did it work for us in terms of improving our business? Well, yes, eventually.

Despite all our hard work, it still took at least three years before we saw any real benefit. Then, almost overnight, the phone started ringing with enquiries from great potential clients.

Unfortunately, this PR work is not something you can just turn on and off. Journalists are normally working to strict deadlines and it is important to get back to them quickly with a relevant quote or comment.

As such, it is sometimes a case of juggling client work and press work. At times, when helping journalists, I wonder if this is really “work” but Alan is quick to remind me it is.

The benefits for our business have been clear – although hard won – and it is worth pointing out our clients also benefit from this.

Given our profile, we are often get approached by product providers and fund managers with early news of the latest developments or requests for feedback and assistance developing new solutions. This means we, and our clients, are often among the first to know about things.

We have also been known to occasionally leverage our press profile to help persuade providers to sort out problems for clients.

My favourite was a widow who had struggled to access the joint online bank account due to the late husband having set up the passwords.

Eighteen months of letters and phone calls had got her nowhere. Exasperated, she asked us for help.

One phone call to the bank’s PR team with a request for a comment on our “bank leaves widow penniless” story had the money in her own bank account the very next day.

Scott Gallacher is director of Rowley Turton