I had a peak behind the curtain at how the Willis Towers Watson Media Awards work. As I told the organisers at the end, I couldn’t see the point of them when I submitted this blog for an award and I can’t see the point now.
For the record, a lot of very good journalists were rewarded with a glass tombstone for their work in the past year. Anna Devine, Charlotte Moore, Claer Barrett. Stephanie Hawthorne and Jessica Beard got the pension awards. Professional Pensions and Pensions Expert were rewarded as publications.
In this article, I argue that some of the right people are getting the awards, but not for the right reasons! Meanwhile the people who are most influential in pensions , are not even recognised as journalists.
I’d tried in vain to muscle in and present a different style of journalism but felt out of place. Ironically, I couldn’t even get a signal in the room we were in so could not congratulate the winners or commiserate with the losers (me)!
Indeed , these awards seem to reflect an ordered world where journalists produce copy for the approval of consultants who then validate the process with a ceremony that revolves around canapés , drinks and networking.
Meanwhile the influence of journalism is now through social media. Social media did not get a mention last night. Paul Lewis, Martin Lewis, Jo Cumbo, the people who talk to the outside world on the big issues that effect our personal finances are considerably more relevant to “explaining pensions” than anyone there (me included) . They, by the definition at the top of the blog, are the media.
To be fair, the aforementioned know that too!
THREAD🧵@MartinSLewis is effectively our patron saint of personal finance. He can see the emergency that’s coming, and speaks up for millions of terrified consumers – why won’t our zombie government wake up, and listen to him?
My @ftweekend op-ed tomorrow https://t.co/lAWGYRMczi
— Claer Barrett (@ClaerB) August 12, 2022
Claer’s work on twitter has earned her 20k+ followers and is – to my mind – as important as her published articles.
Progressive organisations such as the PLSA are now looking to these “influencers” to attend conferences to promote the conference for good or ill. This is about making their work relevant. WTW has the budget and human resources to adapt to this new world but what I saw last night could have happened in 2000 rather than 2022.
When I asked “why was I invited”, I got the reasonable reply “because you entered for one of the awards”. Many who won awards, didn’t show up in person so I guess that the awards have a cachet beyond the night, but I was left wondering if this isn’t a little self-referential.
👸 Pension journalists of the year! 👸 Me for DC, the fab @HawthorneSJJ for DB (if you don’t know what these terms mean, you need to read our articles) 😉 Thank you to @WTWcorporate #WTWMediaAwards #alwaysapensionsangle pic.twitter.com/hh0oIpPCQj
— Claer Barrett (@ClaerB) September 7, 2022
This cosy relationship between consultants and journalists looks in need of disruption and I don’t mean that in a mean-spirited way. I mean that the awards need to correspond to how influence is generated – truly reflecting “the media”.
I hope that next year , rather than restricting pensions to DB and DC reporter of the year, they review the categories and look at “media” in a broader way.
WTW’s own David Robbins, LCP’s Steve Webb and the Lang Cat’s Tom McPhail are asking important questions around crucial issues such as state pension age, state pension administration , the role of MaPS and indeed the role of pension consultants. In doing so, they use social media together with established publications. LCP is closing in on a million hits on its website helping people get redress where the state pension is underpaid.
David Robbins seems to have an archivist’s love of holding politicians to account. Both are achieving influence in different ways but both recognise the value of the authentic voice. It was good to see David at the event last night, I call him out for this micro-blog which says so much so succinctly.
New No10 spads liked raising State Pension Age with life expectancy, but one queried whether target % of life in retirement was too high. (In fact, it was never as high as described and has since been cut, but latest target still wouldn’t be expected to take SPA to 68 until 2056) pic.twitter.com/hictdNkbYI
— David Robbins (@David_J_Robbins) September 7, 2022
Tom McPhail and Ros Altmann bring the worlds of retail consumers to the attention of those in power (and vice versa). Both have created positive impact way beyond the power of the pension trade press.
Surely it is time that we widened the view of “pension journalism” away from historic notions and recognised that the way we read ,listen and watch about pensions, investments and insurance has changed.
Next year, I hope that social media will be recognised as a branch of journalism and that traditional journalism must compete with the more anarchic but equally effective work of those who use their own platforms – rather than those of the big publishing houses.