Maintain a high profile in a crisis

On one of the recent business programmes about the global economic turmoil, the presenter said they had tried to interview some fund managers on stock markets but had experienced great difficulty finding anyone who was willing to come on the programme.

Anthony Hilton
Anthony Hilton

Almost all those who were asked said they preferred to keep a 'low profile' until things calm down a bit. All credit therefore to the two they did eventually find - one from Schroders, the other from Legal & General - who were thoughtful and frank about how they thought investors should behave.

But what does it say about an industry that cannot get enough media exposure when markets are high and where so few fund managers communicate with their customers when times are difficult? Why do they feel that hiding is an acceptable business strategy?

It is not just fund managers who have become hard to find as the going gets tough. The BBC did not acquit itself particularly well when it struggled to find a spokesperson to talk about the Jonathan Ross row. More generally in the corporate sector as share prices tumble, there are notably few CEOs or spokespeople willing to say so. Instead there is a sense of resignation. Why try to communicate if no-one is willing to listen?

Yet that is an unacceptable cop-out. There is a parallel here with marketing. Past case studies suggest the companies that emerge best from a recession with customer relationships enhanced are those that have maintained their marketing and advertising spend during the difficult times. They may change the way the money is deployed because clearly different techniques work better at different times, but the fact is that customers appreciate firms that stay focused on the longer term, and resent being abandoned by those that do not make an effort. Surely the same goes for PR.

Companies that show a willingness to maintain their profile must surely emerge from this recession with a better image and stronger relationships than those who have spent the crisis months skulking under a stone.

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