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What advisers are saying: Reputation, reputation, reputation

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With enough courage, you can do without a reputation” – Margaret Mitchell. Maybe so, but bravery does not need to be foolhardy.

The fact remains that what is said, thought and felt by others about you (whether accurate or not) has a profound influence.

In the world of tax planning, where the lines between evasion, avoidance and planning are increasingly blurred, reputation is key. Two-thirds of advisers (68%) we spoke to recently feel that provider reputation is important when selecting tax wrapper strategy. 

Only a small minority feel that it is insignificant (9%).

As most advisers (64 per cent) become more cautious in their approach to tax planning, retreating to the tried and tested, risk of any kind (financial, regulatory or reputational) cannot be lived with. Boring is the new exciting and in this environment a trade mark (or brand) is a trust mark.

Controlling reputation, though, is harder and harder today. Businesses operate in a landscape rife with new threats (and opportunities) with potent new-media arsenals at the world and her dog’s disposal (seriously! Check out how many Facebook friends Boo has).

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Going back to 2010 after the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, Leroy Stick (an alias) began publishing the tweets of a totally made-up representative of a similarly bogus BP global public relations division. While crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, devastating the regional ecology and economy, the satirical Twitterer (@BPGlobalPR) tweeted about the division’s lunch menu. 

Tens of thousands followed his updates—far more than the number who followed the real BP Twitter account. Through this low-cost effort, Stick helped keep rage boiling as BP scrambled to plug the well and restore faith in its brand.

The rules of engagement have changed. As a report entitled Bullets and Blogs puts it, “Today anyone armed with a hundred dollar digital camera and a connection to the Internet is a potential Spielberg.” (or those blokes responsible for “What Does the Fox Say” – Google it).

I still believe, and Socrates will back me up, that “the best way of managing your reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear”.

And it is not that the established ways of safeguarding your firm’s reputation are irrelevant. People will still be influenced by traditional media and they will still talk to others about product they have bought and the service they have received. 

But the established strategies alone are not enough.

Phil Wickenden is managing director of So Here’s The Plan phil@soherestheplan.co.uk

Extracts from IFA interviews…

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