Accountants caught lying on their websites

I was shocked to read about “Accountants Caught Lying To Clients In Desperate Quest For Authority” on the website of marketing expert Ian Brodie.

He suggests that more than a dozen accountants seem to be falsely claiming to be co-authors of a book titled:  “Why Businesses Stop Growing And What You Can Do About It”.

You can get a partial list of them here via google: the book with the most co-authors in the world >>

Each of the accountants’ websites claim that the book has been co-written by the accountant and a third party (the same one in each case: “one of the world’s leading marketing and business growth experts”). It seems much more likely that the third party is the real author and is allowing multiple accountants to reproduce the book as if they had co-written it with him. Or maybe they did each write their own section and the costs of production have been kept down by retaining the same title and cover for all of the variations.

I seem to recall other copyright free books which accountants can rebrand and promote with their firm’s name on the cover and which could be helpful for clients.

It has also long been possible to outsource the production of client newsletters which can then be personalised with an accountancy firm’s branding. Many firms also promote booklets that contain generic advice for clients and which include the firm’s branding even though the written content was provided by a third party publisher. And a whole industry now exists providing generic advice and tips for inclusion on accountants’ websites too.

The only real difference here I think is that the accountants’ websites are actively promoting them as the co-authors and claiming that their co-authorship evidences that they are experts in the field. Some of the accountants appear in a very professional promotional video on what I expect is an effective ‘squeeze page’ to drive traffic. I am sure the whole package requires a decent investment upfront. In each of the videos they seem to address variations on the same script as each other and invariably claim to be co-authors of the “Why Businesses Stop Growing” book.

As Ian says:

It’s not just something that’s slipped into their marketing by accident. They are deliberately fooling their clients and potential clients and claiming expertise they may not have and an achievement they didn’t do.

Ironically, many of them have a bio which reads “…so-and-so is the co-author of “Why Businesses Stop Growing And What You Can Do About It…” and a trusted authority on helping start up and small business owners achieve success”.

Do you agree with Ian that such behaviour brings into question whether the accountants can really be ‘trusted’? Or do you think it’s simply an acceptable marketing tactic? Is it ethical to blatantly lie to prospective clients re your achievements and expertise?

Much as I admire the professionalism and the likely impact of the campaigns I am not comfortable with the co-authorship claims unless they are justifiable. What do you think?

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>,

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Mark Lee

Mark is a speaker, mentor, facilitator, author, blogger and debunker. Mark Lee helps professionals who want to STAND OUT and be remembered, referred and recommended using his 7 fundamental principles to create a more powerful professional impact, online and face to face.
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6 replies
  1. Paul Eaves
    Paul Eaves says:

    I agree completely with the idea that people should be ethical and honest in all dealings with clients and prospective clients. If there is evidence that this is not the case, should it not be a matter raised by the respective Accountancy Institutes?

    Reply
  2. James Green
    James Green says:

    There are quite a few of these “co-authored” books going the rounds. Like most things the trend started in the US but soon followed over this side of the pond. It isn’t just accountants who have been persuaded by some pretty slick marketing material – other professionals have been too.

    There are a few variations of the theme but most seem to consist of just one chapter by the “professional” and the rest by the “real” author. The fact that no two “editions” are exactly the same (albeit just one chapter differs in each) is claimed to be enough to make each a totally different book. This sounds a bit like tax avoidance which sticks to the letter of the law but not the spirit.

    I’m afraid these accountants are likely to have damaged their reputations rather than having them enhanced.

    Reply
  3. Lou D
    Lou D says:

    This company’s advertising reached us over in New Zealand. I contacted the business and said that I wasn’t at all comfortable with the co-authoring of the book and suggested they should leave it out of their pitch. They replied that the programme was an “all or nothing” deal. You couldn’t just opt in or out of certain things. Alarm bells!

    Reply
  4. Ian Brodie
    Ian Brodie says:

    I agree with Ian 😉

    Since writing the article I’ve heard from accountants who were offered the package and – like Lou – were uncomfortable with the fake co-authoring. And I’ve managed to find their marketing brochure for the system thanks to google. It looks like the system itself has a lot of good things in it of benefit to both the accountant and their clients. But the book thing is ugly. There’s no “write one chapter” thing – here’s what it says:

    “We ghost write the book on your behalf, establishing you as co author together with
    XXXXX… all you have to do is add a short bio and photo to it and our designers and printers do the rest…The book really is a very powerful asset and gives you prominence in your local area, instantly giving you expert status which the NNN takes full advantage of. We personalise and tailor the book to you, your firm and your country. It really is a powerful tool for you”.

    There’s no content input at all from the accountants who then go on to use the book to proclaim their expertise.

    Ian

    Reply
  5. James Hellyer
    James Hellyer says:

    I don’t like the “co-authored” book at all. It’s positioning someone as expert on a subject using deception. Now, the accountant may well know all about keeping businesses growing, but plastering his name on somebody else’s book doesn’t prove that. It’s a cynical marketing ploy, nothing more.

    Reply

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