Get your press policy in order
While the best activism campaigns might be those nobody hears about, you need a clear policy – agreed upon in advance – detailing how to handle press queries. As well as developing relationships with the press during good times, a company could prequalify PR firms it wants on its side, as mentioned above.
‘Being unresponsive to journalists is never a good thing, and you can bet the activists are conveying their message to reporters behind the scenes on a daily basis,’ says Zach Kouwe, vice president at Dukas Public Relations. It’s also wise not to ‘dig your heels in’, as this ‘not only looks unbecoming and defensive but also draws the media’s attention to the conflict aspect of the story rather than the validity of the actual ideas about long-term strategy.’
Know your activists – and listen
As well as explaining how their current strategy is creating value for shareholders, ‘companies should be open to dialogue with activists, which often have interesting ideas and can be a catalyst for value-added change,’ says Kouwe. ‘This is important even if only to know how best to counter an activist’s proposals.’
Action against Activism (Corporate Secretary - Feb. 13, 2015)
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Source for top 25 - Institutional Investor Magazine
If you want to see one of the best rollouts of a fairly complex business book, witness Michael Lewis’ extensive PR campaign for Flash Boys. He started with a “60 Minutes” exclusive where he said the “U.S. stock market is rigged”—not exactly earth shattering, but it got a debate going on Twitter among Wall St. columnists and other pundits. (Here’s a good one) The splashy “60 Minutes” debut then basically steamrolled into an all-day debate and coverage of high frequency trading on all of the business networks and the main networks (including CBS, of course).
The New York Times had no less than four pieces from the book including an excerpt in the New York Times Magazine, a DealBook column by Andrew Ross Sorkin, an official review of the bookand a piece about all the hoopla. The Wall Street Journal had its own review and so did other major outlets. A search in Factiva yielded 385 mentions for the book in the last 24 hours, and that doesn’t include blogs.
Then, a BNP Paribas executive wrote to all of his clients and told them Lewis was invested in IEX, the platform to combat high frequency traders that he wrote about. That prompted Lewis to issue a strong rebuttal on his Facebook page calling out the BNP executive by name. Twitter went nuts in the afternoon just as the whole Lewis frenzy was beginning to die down. BuzzFeed obtained a copy of the email (the post got 58,000 views in less than 24 hours), which fueled the fire even more.
To top it all off, in a highly unusual move, the FBI reached out to media outlets to let them know they had been running an investigation of high frequency trading for over a year.
AND THAT’S JUST THE FIRST DAY!
The book is of course No. 1 on the Amazon Best Sellers list right now.
By Zach Kouwe
Zach Kouwe is a Vice President at Dukas Public Relations.
By Zach Kouwe
Of all the things that could go wrong during or leading up to a wedding I never anticipated having to deal with a government shutdown. I guess that's something you need to take into account these days when planning a wedding in Yosemite National Park, or any national park or monument for that matter.
Once it looked like the park was going to be closed, we marshaled the forces of public relations....(BuzzFeed, a trade publication and the BBC.)
But as the wedding date approached, it was clear the Congress wan't going to get its act together in time. Well, in the end it actually ended up working out in our favor. We had the ceremony in the park anyway - the park Rangers didn't seem to care - and nobody was in the park. That made for some amazing pictures and a cool story. I can't wait to tell my kids mom and dad snuck into Yosemite to get married!
By Zach Kouwe
Ray Dalio on YouTube – A Great PR MoveRay Dalio, founder of the largest hedge fund in the world, the $150 billion Bridgewater Associates, has decided it’s time to really come out of the shadows and begin sharing his pearls of economic wisdom. Mr. Dalio, who has been called a “hedge fund cult leader” and “the world’s richest and strangest hedge fund,” has slowly been engaging with the media over the last few years, most likely to combat and explain his unusual management style. But he never looked that comfortable providing a 30-second answer to a TV reporter’s questions about his outlook for the markets.
Now, instead of dealing directly with the media to demystify his theories on the economy, he’s taken his message directly to the people through YouTube. (As of this writing his video already had over 350,000 views.)
Mr. Dalio explained his move to YouTube to the New York Times:
“While I kept it confidential until recently, I now want to share it because I believe that it could be very helpful in reducing big economic blunders, if it was more broadly understood,” he wrote in an e-mail. He explained that, “I believe that most influential decision makers and most people cause a lot of needless economic suffering because they are missing the fundamentals.”
There’s no doubt Mr. Dalio wants to influence policymakers, regulators and academics. But another benefit of sharing his message on YouTube is that it humanizes him a bit and shows the world he’s a serious and transparent thinker – not just the billionaire leader of some hedge fund cult.
This is great PR for Bridgewater – it will help the firm recruit the best and the brightest thinkers from around the world and will likely attract investors as people from Asia to Africa learn about Mr. Dalio’s successful strategies and theories on the economy. (We wouldn’t be surprised if Bridgewater decides to open its strategies to retail investors at some point.)
Just a few years ago, you would never think one of the world’s best hedge fund managers would be appearing on YouTube. Most managers over 50 think YouTube is a service for funny videos or music. They’ve never thought about it as a way to actually reach the public, express their views and build their brands. But reaching out directly to the public and bypassing the media filter, even if the media does pick up on it later, is sometimes the most effective way to get your message out. Big and small asset managers should pay attention.