For most PR Pros, someone widely known as “Dr. Doom” might not be the most desired client. Then again, Andrew Schiff, director of communications at investment firm Euro Pacific Capital, finds himself in a very unique position.
Dr. Doom is his older brother Peter, president and chief global strategist for Euro Pacific. He is best known for having foretold the economic meltdown while most other financial experts were talking up the boom times in the real estate and financial markets.
Bringing that once-controversial point of view to the media has been the younger brother's job. In 2005, Euro Capital was a client with Andrew's firm, MacMillan Communications. In December 2007, the younger Schiff began working in-house.
“Peter was very right,” Andrew says. “He took a minority opinion [and]... was used as comic relief on CNBC and places like that. Now, he's taken a lot more seriously.”
At times, Andrew sought “to soft-en Peter a little,” asking him to tone down the pessimism. But part of their plan was to stay on message.
“I realized that... journalists are... going to get the majority opinion, and we were taking the minority opinion,” says the younger Schiff. “We just stuck to our guns.”
When the economy began unraveling in 2007, Peter began to gain what his brother calls “cult status.” Andrew continued his media relations work, but was aided by social media, like YouTube, where Peter Schiff fans have made tons of videos. One in particular, “Peter Schiff was right,” has gotten more than 1.2 million page views to date.
“We didn't do it... but... we let the database know it was there,” Andrew says. “It started to snowball.”
That video led to stories in outlets including The New York Times and NPR. In fact, says Andrew, Dr. Doom appeared on TV “over 120 times” last year, has gotten further media hits in Fortune and other national outlets, and has authored six Op-Eds in various publications. Going forward, the Schiffs are working on a vlog, submitting content to online financial sites, and creating their own corporate Web site, with new content added regularly, as well as an Internet radio show.
Yet, both Schiffs note how hard it is to get the media to pay attention.
“It's still difficult to get my views to be regarded with the same credibility as economists from government and universities, despite the fact that I've been so right,” says Peter. “The media, quotes, and airtime I get is because of an outgoing call. I have to be a squeaky wheel.”
The elder Schiff has gotten some negative attention as well, with other YouTube videos appearing, such as “Peter Schiff was wrong 2008,” and a January story in The Wall Street Journal questioning his advice.
“When we got wind that the Journal was doing something, we came back aggressively,” says Andrew. “We got them a lot of information, gave them as much transparency as we could. I wasn't happy with the piece, but it was much more balanced than it could have been.”
Overall, the PR effort benefits from their sibling relationship, but it can still be tough for Andrew.
“Peter trusts me and I know him very well,” says the younger Schiff. “[But] it's hard to please your big brother.”
Director of comms, Euro Pacific Capital
March 2002-Dec. 2007
Vice president, MacMillan Communications