Should the PI be using the term «professional investigator» in preference to «private investigator»?

I share my own provocative thoughts for discussion.
Some people in the industry might prefer the term «professional investigator» because it can convey a wider and more professional scope of work. Here’s why:

  1. Avoiding stereotypes and media portrayal: The term «private I» often brings to mind stereotypes and clichés fuelled by movies and television series – the hard-boiled detective in a trench coat, working in shady circumstances, and in my experience, it is the preferred term used by the Walter Mitty, and we have all come across a few of them in this industry. «Professional investigator» on the other hand lacks these pop culture overtones and might therefore be seen as a more accurate representation of the work that investigators do.
  2. Broad Scope: «Professional investigator» could cover a wider range of investigative work, including corporate, insurance fraud, background checks, and legal investigations. It doesn’t limit the perception of their work to individual or private cases.
  3. Professionalism: The term «professional» inherently implies a level of competency, training, and adherence to ethical standards. It conveys a sense of legitimacy and seriousness, which can be important in legal and corporate settings.
  4. Emphasis on Specialisation: The term «professional investigator» can be seen as a more generalised term that allows for a range of specialisations. For example, you might specialise in areas such as cybersecurity, financial fraud, or other types of specialised investigations. This term allows for the inclusion of these various areas of expertise.
  5. Client Perception: From a marketing perspective, the term «professional investigator» might be seen as more appealing to potential clients even though harder to find, so «private i» may be a better choice if your agency struggles to secure repeat business or gain referrals. «Professional investigator» can give the impression of a higher level of professionalism and expertise, important in attracting the better clients.
  6. Respectability: While this is related to avoiding stereotypes and media portrayal, it’s worth noting that the term «professional investigator» can lend a certain degree of respectability. This could be important in contexts where working alongside lawyers or corporate executives.
  7. Setting Expectations: The term «professional investigator» sets certain expectations about the nature of the service provided. It suggests a formalised, systematic approach to gathering and analysing information, which might be more in line with what clients are looking for.
    Both terms are valid and it ultimately depends on the specific nature of your work, business model and possibly even need for search engine ranking.
    Lastly, whatever term you prefer, the important thing is to maintain a high standard of professionalism and ethical conduct

Tony Imossi – IKD

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