While there is very little (if anything) indi vidual advisers can do to control the media, the in creased focus on the financial services marketplace impacts us all. Our clients are continually reading stories (or worse still, perhaps just headlines) that call into question the competence, integrity and professional standards of our industry.
Of course, as we all know, the vast majority of advisers are qualified professionals who are truly dedicated to enhancing and protecting the lives of their clients. Unfortunately, all too often it is the ac tions of a very small minority that claim the media spotlight.
However, be that as it may, bad news stories can have an unsettling effect on all clients, including yours. Do you know how your clients and alliance partners have interpreted the latest round of nega tive publicity? Is it impacting on your professional reputation and that of your firm?
As you think about the answers to these ques tions, you may also like to consider the following Business Health tips for managing media fallout.
1. HAVE A PLAN
Quite often when a negative story emerges in the media, there is no time to prepare. That’s why it is important to work out a plan of action before such stories break. Think through the different scenarios that could arise and decide how you want your practice to respond. It is interesting to note that less than a third of the practices that partici pated in last year’s Business Health Best Practice competition had a written plan in place to manage any unforeseen problems with the media.
Also, the better known you are in your com munity, the greater the chance that you will be contacted by a journalist or an interested party for an opinion – make sure you are ready for that call.
2. ARM YOUR PEOPLE
In the absence of any leadership and direction, your staff could inadvertently (and with all the best intentions in the world) escalate an issue with the media.
You should ensure that all of your team are aware of any potential stories currently circulating in the media and explain how you want them to re spond should they be asked by a client or journalist for comment. You may like to consider delegating all such enquires to your senior client service staff or drafting a script for your team to use so that they are comfortable and fully prepared.
3. GET ON THE FRONT FOOT
Do not assume that just because your phone is not running hot, your clients are not concerned.
Look to proactively manage any media stories that you feel could impact on the relationship you have with your clients and centres of influence. In taking a more proactive approach you will be able to pre-empt any potential concerns and ensure your clients have all the facts.
When it comes to personal finances, especially in times of stress, the human touch can never be overestimated. Proactive communication is the first step to maintaining control of your client relation ship.
4. IT IS NOT ALL BAD NEWS
While you may have to look a little harder to find them, there are also a lot of good news stories out there. Positive public relations is a powerful and often “hidden” tool that you can use to promote your business, with wide coverage and in a cost-ef fective way. Credibility is often built faster and lasts longer if your clients read or hear positive things about your business directly from you, rather than via other mediums, like advertising or direct mail.
Make sure you explore all the good news stories that might be available to you and use them to continually reinforce the benefits of being part of your practice.
5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
This can be a specialist area and you don’t have to do it all yourself – no one has a mortgage on all the good ideas.
If you are uncertain about what is right for your business, your licensee/dealer might be able to help and there are a number of professional PR firms who have expertise in managing the media and communicating with clients.
And finally, don’t believe everything you read in the press. Analysis of the Business Health CATScan client satisfaction database (which now contains well over 40,000 individual client responses) shows that 86 per cent of all clients are willing to refer their adviser to friends or family and in excess of 90 per cent expect to maintain an ongoing business relationship with their current advisory practice. While we can always continue to learn and improve, the efforts of most advisers are much appreciated and valued by their clients.