One common method agents may use to position themselves in a particular market is by writing articles for magazines or newsletter that serve those markets. Besides the exposure such articles bring, they also provide the agent with an aura of authority. As a result, agents sometimes publish articles in order to develop a reputation as an authority in a particular field or as a specialist in the needs of a specific target market. Of course, the ultimate purpose behind such an article is to generate business. In light of that intent, the article should be considered an advertisement and judged ethically by the criteria that apply to advertising. As with all other forms of advertising in the insurance and investment business, the information provided must be factually correct, understandable to the expected audience and not misleading.
As insurers and broker-dealers have begun to appreciate the desirability of target marketing and the importance of positioning agents within markets, they have come to realize the importance of providing articles for publication in magazines serving those markets. Many companies maintain a large number of such articles on various financial and insurance subjects that are suitable for many markets. Often, the agent needs only to add his or her name to the article and send it to the publisher. Since these articles are usually written by home office specialists and reviewed by compliance attorneys, they can be expected to be factually correct and not misleading.
The ethical issue for the agent in appending his or her name to an article written by a specialist is twofold: the purported author did not write the piece, and the agent may not possess the expertise and specialized knowledge implied by the published article. The first ethical concern may be resolved through the use of language clearly stating the article is made available by the agent rather than having been written by him or her. The second ethical concern-that the implied expertise may not be possessed-can be overcome by ensuring that the agent not have articles published unless he or she actually possesses the expertise implied.