Offshore financial centres have come under a lot of fire for so called tax dodging, as we all know. The Governments of the Isle of Man, Gibraltar and other centres have responded firmly to their detractors, but what of the companies based there? How should you handle your offshore public relations strategy?
Well the first question is whether or not your actual customers have any principled objection to the putative tax avoidance. Unfortunately we have not been able to find any significant research into this question, and it would be a difficult market research brief to meet fairly. It will also vary by company, particularly between B2B and B2C markets.
Anecdotally, we would suggest that most customers (whether the end user or the intermediary who places their business) won’t shift their buying preferences based on the prevailing view amongst onshore politicians. However, companies seen to be on ‘the wrong side’ can still come under fire from non-customers and will undoubtedly suffer if targeted by pressure groups.
So the temptation, given all of this, may simply be to keep your head down and avoid any mention of tax morality in your PR strategy. Our recommendation is exactly the opposite: take a position. People don’t generate affinity and loyalty with invisible brands or those with an unclear position on issues related to the services they are buying.
If you take the stance held by think tanks such as the IFC forum that offshore centres help to boost nearby economies, say so and generate an affinity with clients and introducers who take a cynical view of the ‘tax morality crusade’. Or if your business position is more like that of Warren Buffett, that individuals and companies need to contribute more to society, then raise your flag and attract like-minded customers.
Today’s marketing environment is content rich, and you can’t be content rich if you’re opinion poor. Justify your position carefully, and communicate it gently but firmly – words can be volatile, so it is normally best to have them handled by a qualified professional (copywriter)!