Charm is useless without eloquence

It is a paradox that Deutsche Boerse - rumoured to be considering the acquisition of broker Collins Stewart - has the most sophisticated in-house PR operation of any of the big exchanges, but has a poor public image.

The main reason for this is that a lot of people reacted negatively to the recently departed chief executive Werner Seifert, not because he did not explain strategy clearly, but because he did so too well. Seifert is one of those people who, so convinced of their righteousness, seem to take any questioning of it personally or as a sign of inferior intelligence - his perceived lack of bonhomie and charm counted against him, in spite of his demonstrable competence.

Interestingly, however, you can have an equally difficult problem in reverse. I was lunching recently with the newly appointed chief executive of a business with a lousy public image, but where one understands there is a good transformational story to tell. Prospects for the business should be excellent. The problem is that the CEO was unable to put the story across. He was not shy - quite the opposite. He was witty, indiscreet and engaging - and it made for a most enjoyable and entertaining 90 minutes.

But he proved (to the frustration of his PR adviser who had been rehearsing him for three weeks) unable to express the transformation story clearly and logically. Even more frustratingly, he would not pick up on even the most obvious, and indeed desperate, prompts such as 'Tell me, what else do I need to know to understand where the business is going?'.

This neatly highlights the journalist's dilemma. It is far more useful to be harangued by a Seifert than it is to be entertained by a rambler.

Having fun over lunch is, ultimately, not the point.

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