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Neil Liversidge: Advisers shouldn’t shy away from the media

IFAs should be brave and take up opportunities to build their profile

Rowley Turton director Scott Gallacher’s recent article in Money Marketing encouraging advisers to build a media profile called to mind my own experience of working with the press.

When I set up West Riding in 2004 following my redundancy I had no clients and no spare money for advertising. Buying in term assurance leads kickstarted our cashflow but I always saw our future as being the wealth management business. Some protection clients would become investment and pension clients but I knew we needed more than one prong to our strategy.

Anticipating my redundancy (looking forward to it, actually) I had a PR and media strategy already formulated. I implemented it from day one and it has been a key element in our success. I did not then – and I still do not now – have any formal media training. But from an early age I had a keen interest in current affairs. By 16 I had participated in phone-in debates with politicians on regional TV and radio programmes.

My interest in current affairs coincided with my love of motorcycling and I became involved as a lobbyist with the Motorcycle Action Group. Writing MAG press releases soon resulted in a steady stream of broadcast interviews around MAG events.

Though unrelated to financial services, an interview is an interview. It was all good experience. And experience breeds confidence. I did my first financial services broadcast while working at DBS in research and technical support. The head of PR came into the department one day, fuming that the BBC had offered DBS a slot but nobody on the board would take it on. She was faced with refusing the interview and was convinced the offer would never be repeated.

The format was to be a retired IFA versus a spokesman for current advisers; the retired guy taking the position that current advisers were all overpaid (a subject DBS’s board was apparently leery of discussing). I volunteered, the board agreed and I duly wiped the floor with my opponent. I was “in” financial services broadcasting and it certainly did not do my career with DBS any harm.

The next opportunity came a few years later after I had set up West Riding. I was using SimplyBiz for my compliance and a former DBS colleague now working there remembered the work I had done and called me offering the opportunity to do a spot on BBC Radio Leeds. Another SimplyBiz member had been lined up for it but had bottled out: a similar scenario to that which got me my earlier opportunity.

Fortune favours the brave so I grabbed it. The broadcast with local presenter Steve Bailey was a great success and resulted in further invitations to go on the programme as an ad-hoc contributor whenever financial news was in the headlines. That developed into a 15-minute weekly slot, which later became 30 minutes and is now a regular 45-minute weekly afternoon appearance with BBC Radio Leeds veteran presenter Andrew Edwards.

Spin-off gigs have involved Budget and Brexit comment plus work with the local and national print media. Next month I will set out my rules and tips for other advisers interested in developing their profile by this route.

Neil Liversidge is managing director of West Riding Personal Financial Solutions

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Comments

There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Richard Carne 5th May 2017 at 11:33 am

    Well written Neil – sound advice, as ever! Regards. Dick

  2. Many advisers are fearful of the press. Indeed, I know many who assure me that they all hate us.

    In truth most journalists see both the good aspects and the unsavoury underbelly and are grateful for informed and timely comment. If you can provide real life cases for them then the national will also be interested.

  3. Some very valid and useful points, but a few words of caution:

    “When you sup with the devil, use a very long spoon’ There are ever present dangers of being misquoted or having your words twisted to suit the story or the editorial.

    Too much exposure is also something of which to be wary. Of course how much is too much?

    But you only have to look at the likes of Ivan Massow, Trevor Deaves and Roger Levitt etc.. to see how a surfeit of publicity can bite back.

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