Twenty-six of the 35 FTSE 500 directors interviewed for the firm’s 2004 Insight report of the top issues facing UK plcs said communication was the key pillar in dealing with expectations and tensions caused by balancing long-term needs with the short-term demands of the City.
Of these, 12 said that communication could, in some way, buy them time to invest with the City. Fourteen of the 35 believed that the City would have a worse reaction to a surprise than to a negative, but expected, announcement and highlighted consistency as one of the most vital elements in communication with financial investors.
Other directors said that the City saw the use of ‘long term’ as an excuse for being vague with 25 saying that the City and shareholders demanded short-term satisfaction, particularly during or following volatility and another 16 saying that the City was becoming more short term.
Twenty-eight of those directors surveyed said that it was crucial for an organisation to set overall long-term direction.
Baker & McKenzie head of corporate Bernd Ratzke said that companies’ general counsel (heads of legal departments) could ‘add value to any communications strategy’ by helping to ‘accentuate the positive, checking for compliance requirements and, in a crisis, helping minimise the downside risks represented by shareholder and market activists’.
Baker & McKenzie’s study found that in the next three years of economic growth, how to remain or become competitive and the burden of doing business with increasing government intervention would be the main issues influencing decision-makers.