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Pictures of Partners

post # 379 — May 21, 2007 — a Client Relations post

A reader writes in to ask: “I’ve noticed that the Big Four accountancy firms do not profile their partners on their websites – yet almost every law firm does. Any thoughts on the reasons and wisdom of these differing approaches?

I guess it could send the message that when you instruct anyone at PwC etc., you instruct the firm; but when you instruct someone at a law firm, you instruct the individual. Do clients really see a distinction? Or do accountancy firms fear that their staff will be poached by rivals, I wonder?”

Ideas, anyone? Advice?


Krishna De said:

David – I am not sure that the accountancy practices are so different from many corporations or even other professional services firms.

Perhaps there is an over riding sense historically that people are hiring the firm versus an individual.

Many people are also hesitant about having their photograph taken too – let alone it being theor for all the world to see.

What many people do not realise is that one of the most frequented pages on a web site after the home page is the about us.

Personally I encourage all my clients to ensure that their photographs and that of their teams are on their website/business blog.

You see people want to get a sense of who they are doing business with – are they someone they can relate to, respect and trust – we get a perception of that from a photograph.

Adding your photograph, audio and ultimately video (as you have done) both enhances the corporate brand and also the personal brand of the leaders in the organisation.

In a world where it is becoming ever more challenging to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and where people do business with people not corporations, the simple act of adding your professional photograph can make a difference as to whether people might get in touch with you.

And of course it also helps to recognise the person you are going to meet!

One of the readers on my blog commented on an article I had written about adding photographs to your website or blog that subscribers to his blog had dramatically increased when he added his photograph to his blog.

As to whether the photograph will lead to poaching by rival firms – I would suspect that any leader in a professional services firm who is serious about the talent management agenda should make it their business to know the highly talented people in their industry.

One head hunter told me once that actually head hunting senior players was actually very straight forward as it is easy to find out who they are and if they are any good they should have a reputation and strong personal brand in the community they operate in.

Where as more work is required to find talented people in the junior and mid levels of a firm where they are less likely to be well networked and connected externally.

posted on May 21, 2007

alkali said:

The most common reason I have for going to a professional service firm’s web site (and I expect I am not unusual in this) is to find out how to address a letter or parcel to someone who works at the firm. I have noticed this practice at Big Four firms and it is indeed irritating.

posted on May 21, 2007

Richard Steven said:

I have long been bothered by the “facelessness” of many websites and I’m happy to see this issue raised for discussion. Especially in professioinal services firms people are NOT interchangeable and it feels disingenuous to me when photos of pertinent people are withheld. I’m also surprised at how difficult it often is to find out where firms are physically located–as though the people you’re dealing with and where they are should be of no concern. Isn’t the provision of professional services about relationships? Commodities, of course, are a different matter.

I don ‘t think personal pictures are about self-aggrandizement, I think they’re about showing up and taking responsibility for what you’re putting out into the world. David, this is one of things I like best about your website: after I stumbled across it and was able to view the photos and video clips as well as the written content I quickly began to “see” a person behind the words, which makes the ideas more powerfull and engaging for me. I doubt that I’m too unusual in this…

So, if we’re voting, it’s yes from me on pictures and profiles of pertinent people (particularly partners) on the web sites of professional services firms. Thanks for the forum.

posted on May 21, 2007

Francine McKenna said:

The Big 4 firms are putting more pictures and partner profiles of their senior leadership teams on the web sites, but they don’t always show much diversity or depth and breadth of internationalism. However, the nature of the firms, some more than others, has been to put the firm first and your personal ambitions last. I remember being told, “Don’t raise your hand; wait to be called on, ” at PwC. This aversion to “self-promotion” is at odds with the necessity to market the firm’s greatest asset, its people, both within and outside of the firm. I have not had any trouble finding pictures of the most senior people of the firms for my feature, “Meet the Auditor.” If a person is at the most senior leadership levels, they are probably a frequent public speaker and a frequent attendee at other events where photographs are taken. Unfortunately, they all , mostly, look like the same guy…

posted on May 21, 2007

Charles H. Green said:

Wait, wait, wait–aren’t lawyers required to put bios up online? By their profession’s own standards? I think that’s the case, and anyway I can’t imagine lawyers all electing to do that on their own.

But whatever the motive, I think it is great. Whenever you work with a law firm, you get to have a bio and picture of the person you’re dealing with in front of you before and while you’re talking to them. I find that a delightful thing, it personalizes and humanizes the lawyer–quite a good thing!

And if it makes headhunters’ lives easier, great. If a firm has to resort to censoring pictures to keep their people, then the ties that bind weren’t very binding in the first place.

posted on May 22, 2007

Francis Egenias said:

Clients always say that they hire the lawyer, not the law firm.

<>Could it be that accountancy services had become a commodity, that it does not matter which partner will be hired?

Not so in law practice, where the personal trust in an individual lawyer is still a major factor in hiring.

posted on May 23, 2007

Michelle said:

I have worked at an accounting firm and now with lawyers. For years I was asking why, at the accounting firm, we did not put our pictures on the website like lawyers did. I love this idea, and for many reasons. It is more personal, it allows you to know who you are meeting with (what they look like) before a meeting, it gives you some information about that person, it allows you to quickly contact them,… and I could go on.

posted on May 25, 2007

Jason Alba said:

I was at the SOB blog conferences in Chicago a couple of weeks ago and this issue came up, with regard to bloggers. It was interesting how some were absolutely adament about having pictures of the blogger posted, where others totally disagreed.

I like the idea of having pictures … however, be careful how you pose. The real question may be “why do executives have to hold their heads in their hands” for these pictures – see more on my blog post here.

Jason Alba

CEO – JibberJobber.com

Manager Relationships for Your Career

posted on May 27, 2007

David Kirk said:

I read somewhere that “commodity services are sold on relationships and specialised services are sold on skills and reputation”. I’ve probably mangled the original quote horribly, and wish I could credit the originator.

I think there is merit in this – if the service can be completed by any of a number (let’s call it 4…) of firms, then personal relationships may provide the edge. I would have guessed that these businesses would be keen for photos. Big 4 accounting firms fit, by and large, into this mould, so it is surprising that they aren’t more focussed on the photos. Maybe in the final equation a photo doesn’t build a relationship so its existence won’t have an impact.

posted on May 29, 2007

John Churchill said:

The choice of a lawyer still remains largely one of picking the individual.

In the Top 4, you buy the brand and if you ask most people who their auditors are at this level, they will give you the name of a firm or on my rule of thumb, 75% of the time, it is a brand buying decision and 25% an individual. In the case of the law firms at the top end of the market, my view is that it is the reverse of this percentage.

In the case of lawyers, clients like the reassurance of the resources and depth but at the end of the day, particularly in disputes, they want to know the person.

The power of the brand and the promotion of the individual raises some unique differences when it comes to managing accounting firms as opposed to law firms and in my opinion, it goes to explain why top lawyers are so mobile and remain fiercely independent, the latter being one of the attributes that a client always looks for, if not, demands in a lawyer.



posted on May 30, 2007