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Neil Liversidge: Advisers need to be straight with the media

Last month I wrote on how I became invol­ved with the broad­cast media. This time I want to offer some tips for other advisers interested in similarly developing their profile.

Responding to my last column, Harry Katz warned about the “dangers of being misquoted or having your words twisted to suit the story or the editorial”, citing the examples of “Ivan Massow, Trevor Deaves and Roger Levitt… to see how a surfeit of publicity can bite back”. Alan Lakey commented that: “Many advisers are fearful of the press. Indeed, I know many who assure me they all hate us.”

Advisers who think that way are all wrong. I generally find journalistic standards very high, particularly in the financial press, radio and TV. BBC compliance is fearsome and the quest for balance relentless, despite what its politically motivated haters may say.  The media, in reality, was not responsible for the downfall of any of those Harry named.

Call me naïve but I take the view that, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about. If you are a crook or incompetent and you attract media attention with disastrous results, more fool you and well done the journalists. Perhaps they have just cut short the next big scam or disaster.

So, tip number one: do not negatively pre-judge journalists in general and financial journalists in particular. If you are honest and fair with them, they will reciprocate, especially if you are giving them usable copy.

Tip two: give straight answers. You are not a politician. The listening public hates those who dodge questions. A well-known journalist once asked me on air what he obviously thought would be an uncomfortable question. I gave the straight answer he was not expecting. The resulting fan mail came not only from advisers but also from soon-to-be new clients. Come across as evasive, though, and you are dead.

Tip three: be an investor. A former adviser in my firm once told me I was mad “wasting” 10 per cent of my week on my media work.  Now around half our new clients come to us as a result of it. But he could not see it. If an exercise did not put cash in his pocket in the next five minutes he was not interested. Building a media profile takes time and the hours you spend doing so is certainly not wasted. It is time invested.

Tip four: never plug. BBC compliance is rigorous and that means strictly no advertising; there is no surer way of guaranteeing you will not be invited on air again. Anyway, using an interview for marketing comes across as desperate and tacky. Commercial broadcasters are much less strict but the BBC is the gold standard and public service broadcasting means just that: public service.

Respect it, approach the opportunity altruistically and give the audience something of value to take away from the moment.  Achieve that and you will have done them some good, along with our profession and your own firm.

Neil Liversidge is managing director of West Riding Personal Financial Solutions

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