I work for a newspaper – which probably means you already don’t like me, assume I’m ignorant, and have already decided to click on something else.
I don’t blame you.
I’ve got a 2:1 in English Literature for fuck’s sake; I don’t trust what I write.
But I need your help. I used to work at Money Marketing, the adviser trade mag, as its pensions reporter.
These days I’m on the money desk at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, attempting to distill the same personal finance topic for the masses.
In print, the average reader is male, around 65 with a few hundred grand in pensions and savings.
Some of them will be clients of yours.
No doubt you find the personal finance pages of national newspapers at best sensationalist and at worst misleading. Unlike the trade press, we can’t go into a huge amount of technical detail – our readers would quickly turn the page.
We rely heavily on case studies and often won’t publish a story if there isn’t a real-life example showing how someone has lost out or – more happily – succeeded.
So, I understand why advisers feel don’t want, or need, to talk to me.You are busy enough already and don’t need the publicity; your hands are more than full dealing with existing clients.
Indulge me. Here’s a few reasons why I think you should pick up the phone or keyboard.
1. Put providers’ feet to the fire
Financial services firms are no different to other companies – they hate seeing their brands being dragged through the mud. If it appears in the Telegraph that’s bad enough but these things have a way of spiralling and pretty soon a good story will be followed up by the Mail, BBC and others. Once the chief executive is aware, they will expect the problem to be sorted quick time.
You can very easily embarrass providers into action, be that hurriedly replying to a complaint or question you sent months ago – or scrapping an unfair policy. A call from a journalist to an insurer’s press office is guaranteed to be taken seriously.
Take the ongoing exposure of St. James’s Place’s murky fee model. SJP seems to care least what people write about it than anything other company I’ve had contact with. But even its top brass have realised they need to make changes as a result of newspapers’ persistent, and recently published their pension charges online for the first time.
2. Push the government and regulator
We all know how slow and clunky HMT, DWP and the FCA can be when it comes to recognising a problem and acting on it. But one thing guaranteed to accelerate change is a front page story.
Darren Cooke’s petition to ban cold-calling is a good example.
I wrote a very short piece for the Money section the week after it launched and once Ros Altmann, Steve Webb and others backed the campaign all of a sudden the political hacks got interested. A couple of months later a ban became a Telegraph campaign and a front page story. Other papers did the same and soon after, Hammond announced the government would consult on a ban as part of his Autumn Statement.
3. Expand the general public’s knowledge
We’ve all seen the stats about how few people understand percentages and other basic concepts. If your clients are struggling to get their head around something, the chances are millions of other “normals” are. Everyone I speak to in the industry says the government needs to do more to educate people but why wait?
If you help me succinctly and accurately explain how the state pension top-up scheme works and it gets read by 500,000 people that’s far more use the DWP spending millions on a few billboards in an attempt to “build awareness”.
4. Sound the alarm
Financial advice is the canary down the coal mine. You’ll see dodgy investments, bad practice, rip-off providers earlier than anyone else.
If you tell me about it, there’s a chance I can sound the alarm before more people become victims.
5. Boost your profile
A nice perk. If you speak to the likes of Scott Gallacher, Alistair Cunningham, and the Bamfords they’ll tell you being seen as a trusted source of knowledge and someone who can simply explain complex concepts brings the punters in.
As Hargreaves Lansdown will tell you, there’s a far better return on being quoted in our paper as an expert, than chucking a few grand on marketing material that tells people how much of an expert you are.
Cheers if you read this far, hopefully we’ll speak soon. I’m not looking for you provide me pages of dynamite quotes – though obviously that would be nice – just a little nudge in the right direction.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or better yet, give me a bell on 0207 931 2492 or 07729 539323.