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The media is the message

Rachael Adams reports on last week’s unbiased.co.uk Media Adviser Awards, which recognise the vital work IFAs do in raising the profile of our industry through the media

Last week was the presentation of the eighth annual unbiased.co.uk Media Adviser Awards.

The awards aim to recognise the contribution IFAs and mortgage advisers make in raising the profile and reputation of financial advice through the work they do in the media.

But what is in it for the IFAs that get involved in this work?

Evolve Financial Planning director Jason Witcombe, awarded the Judges Choice award for outstanding contribution, says: “Getting positive media interest builds brand loyalty for our existing customers. Featuring in the consumer press opens a lot of doors, too, for prospective clients as well as other planners who might be looking for a new home.

“It is a fantastic way of cementing our credibility. We are not a national brand but we punch above our weight.”

Witcombe says a good working relationship with the press is mutually beneficial but concedes that it is not necessarily an easy one for IFAs as it requires a degree of effort.

Witcombe believes his willingness to work with the media is part of the reason for his success. He says: “I suspect there are a lot of people on the blue book who put their name down and do not expect to do anything. You have to be responsive to the press week by week or you will not get off the ground.”

Despite the media demands on his time, however, he makes sure his clients continue to come first. He says: “I should stress that my job primarily is looking after clients but if a journalist calls I will reply quickly and pull out all the stops to get it done.”

Unbiased.co.uk chief executive Karen Barrett says the key to being a successful IFA in terms of working with the media is being willing and able to respond to enquiries quickly and succinctly.

She says: “The media team that deals with Jason on a day-to-day basis say he is always available and understands what a journalist wants. He provides succinct comment and does not waffle, which journalists appreciate.”

She also says that bringing unique angles to stories contributed to Witcombe’s win. She says: “The media wants to make stories fresh so a different insight is necessary. Beyond that, Jason also has the knowledge, because he actually does the job of being an IFA. Our judges say he is a fantastic role model and is helping to raise the industry’s profile.”

Witcombe says: “What drives a good IFA is strong interpersonal skills. I do not think there is any fundamental difference between being a good media IFA and being a good IFA full stop.”

The last few years have seen financial matters take centre stage in the news and Barrett believes the economic crisis has been to media IFAs’ advantage.

She says: “The news has focused more on personal finance than it does when things are going smoothly. There has never been a greater need to promote IFAs to consumers. The savings gap, remortgaging issues – people need advice and with media IFAs shouting about it, more people will seek advice.”

Witcombe believes the retail distribution review also offers the opportunity for IFAs to promote both their own businesses and the wider industry of financial advice and planning.

He says: “None of us really know what effect the RDR is going to have. Being realistic, not everyone will be able to take advice but, from a press point of view, there might be more focus on getting across the value IFAs can add.”

Witcombe says IFAs need to be aware of the press’s tendency to focus on negative stories but getting involved in media work offers a chance to put out a more positive message about the industry.

Witcombe says: “There is always going to be press that focuses on negative rather than positive stories but it is up to us as a profession to get the positive stories across and not allow consumers’ views to be tarnished by stories of one person who is churning investment bonds.”

Unbiased.co.uk Media Adviser
Awards winners

Pensions IFA of the year
Tom McPhail, head of pensions research, Hargreaves Lansdown

Investment IFA of the year
Andrian Lowcock, senior investment adviser, Bestinvest

Protection IFA of the year
Lorreine Kennedy, head of care fees, CareMatters

Responsible Investment IFA of the year
Ruth Whitehead, principal, Ruth Whitehead Associates

Mortgage IFA of the year
David Hollingworth, head of mortgages, London & Country

Bluebook Newcomer of the year
Alastair Cunningham, director, Wingate Financial Planning

Social Media IFA of the year
Alastair Cunningham, director, Wingate Financial Planning

Best blogger of the year
Martin Bamford, managing director, Informed Choice

Media IFA of the year
Dennis Hall, managing director, Yellowtail Financial Planning

Judges’ Choice award
Jason Witcombe, director, Evolve Financial Planning

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