Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What do you say to investors when their money has gone?

What on earth do you say to investors who are near retirement and find themselves with half their capital gone thanks to global market volatility? Or worse, poor investment choices?

Fund managers, financial planners and superannuation providers are answering these questions now, and will have to keep answering them in the future.

There's no easy answer. There's no doubling the lost dollars to magically take investors back to where they were.

So how about a simple but challenging answer?

Markets go up and down. When and how they will do that is something you, I, and most professional investors, cannot pick. So invest now for the long term with full knowledge of the short term risk you run. Think very carefully about what you are prepared to lose, or what you can do without for a very long time - perhaps ten years.

And understand a little about investor behaviour - how you might react when it gets scary. We typically buy and sell at the 'wrong' times because we panic - even though we know this basic info about markets.

Forewarned is surely better prepared...although it might be a while before some of us get to use that knowledge.

It's what those with a long term focus have been saying for as long as I can remember funds management marketing...which is since the early 90s.

It's not new. It's not sexy. It's not different to your competitors. But it appears to have been proven right - again.

What can be new, different and if not sexy at least real, is HOW you say that now.

The "how now" is all about humility, understanding and realism. Doing that well takes a good understanding of your audience - the real people you are talking to.

Communicating well now also takes a long term commitment - which comes from deep inside your organisation - because as a company you believe an informed investor is better off as well as being a better client.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ethics in PR (now stop laughing!)

Today the Public Relations Institute of Australia sent out a link to the PRTV edition about ethics.

It's easy to laugh when the concepts are linked - "PR" and 'ethics'.

My second, more sombre reaction (as when interviewed) is that ethical behaviour by PR people is impossible if they don't really know what they're communicating about.

How do I know? Let's call it bitter experience...stories for another time.

The short version is that as so-called professional communicators we have zero credibility if we don't really know what we're talking about, trust the people we work for and ultimately, take extreme care in how we present facts AND nuance.

Yes, we should follow a code of ethics.

Yes, we should "do the right thing", meaning be honest and truthful.

More than those things we should question whether or not what we're asked is right.

And ultimately satisfy ourselves with an answer we can live with.

I certainly can't claim the moral high ground - as a younger PR I sometimes felt very uncomfortable with the "party line". It's career threatening to say "Excuse me Chairman, are you entirely sure we should present things as you've just described?".

More recently we've walked away from several potentially great (exciting, newsworthy) jobs when we felt unsure of the merits of our client's story, or just had a feeling that 'something wasn't right'.

This is not an argument that PRs need forensic accounting skills. However it is reasonable to expect that senior people in our profession can read both people and data, pay attention to the P&L and do a little due diligence on potential clients and employers.

Long term, if we believe our own mantra, our personal reputation is our most valuable asset.

Perhaps in PR the universal ethical guideline is simply enlightened self-interest.