The media always like to have a business bogeyman. At any one time there’s at least one sector of British business that’s demonised and painted as unscrupulous and slippery. At the moment it’s payday lenders (or loan sharks as the tabloids would have it). Before that it was bankers, and before that: who remembers the days of the ambulance-chaser?
It’s not that long ago that personal injury lawyers were the nation’s hate-figure du jour. Media coverage of their activities tended to be very one-sided, with much hand-wringing about how this industry was single-handedly destroying our country.
Payday lenders are getting a similar kicking today. But I’ve been particularly impressed at how one brand has squarely taken on all this negativity: Wonga.com has, I firmly believe, risen to the heights it has thanks to its excellence at PR. It operates in a controversial space, and is regularly pilloried as a shark and a usurer; but instead of rolling over it tackles the issues openly and head-on.
Positioning itself as the “straight-talking” lender, Wonga does not patronise its customers. It firmly sticks to its convictions that it simply provides a service that people benefit from and are willing to pay for. It responds to criticisms and participates in debate, and as a result it’s the first name that comes to mind in this crowded market: it’s expected to hit the magical billion dollar mark within a few months.
I’m keen to see who in the field of personal injury law is going to step up and follow this example. 2013 will bring serious disruption to that industry in the form of legislation that prevents lawyers paying referral fees to claims management companies or insurance companies. With their introducer channel shut down overnight, how will a law firm pick up business over all its competitors?
The answer, again, is in good PR and marketing. If you can no longer buy business then you need it to come to you.
There’s currently no single big brand that truly dominates the controversial world of personal injury law. Most of the ads you’d see on TV were for the brokers – but with them gone, who will have the honesty and courage to walk into the void, take the flak, tell their side of the story and be the name on everyone’s lips?