Hibre Teklemariam, VP and Partner, shares insights and PR tips to help asset managers prepare for media interviews in the current market environment.

How are you helping clients prepare for media interviews given the volatility brought on by the coronavirus?

We’re connecting with clients and helping them position their strategy in the face of such extreme market volatility. We’re exploring how the coronavirus is impacting their portfolios, and what message they need their clients to hear about how they are investing. We’re also urging them to address how the current political climate is factoring in. Our questions are aimed at stimulating their thinking from an investor’s perspective and urging them to proactively get the word out. We suggest they consider the following questions:

  • What are you doing differently and why?
  • What is the impact of the virus on the companies you hold?
  • How are you handling calls from clients?
  • What is your take on the virus and its impact on the market?
  • Do you believe politics and the election cycle are making matters better or worse in this situation?

Asset managers look at the big picture when managing money and putting portfolios together. It’s important they keep that top of mind and say so even in times of volatility.

During media interviews, asset managers have the opportunity to help put things into perspective. They can share details on their strategy and share historical data to quell panic and emotion, reminding their audiences that they’re in it for the long-haul.


How does this preparation differ from your “typical” pre-interview coaching?

During non-volatile times, as we prep clients for a media interview, we review and practice vocalizing their investment process, and review current stock and sector picks. We work with them to speak succinctly and consistently about where and how these stocks or sectors work within their process.

In the current climate, our coaching has shifted focus a bit, with urging them not to shy away from broader economic comments because investors are interested in hearing their perspective, especially in times of volatility. While at the same time, we are coaching them to dig into their specific portfolios to comment on how well-positioned the companies are to withstand this fray – or if they are hurt – like transportation or entertainment – how long-lasting they believe the effects might be. It’s all about quelling investor fear and meeting their clients/investors where they are emotionally.

I’m happy to say that the managers I’ve been working with all take a broader, more rational approach to the news of this epidemic and are talking to their clients about how to see a bigger, less catastrophic picture.

Even when the market is “stable” we work with our clients to fine-tune their messages. For example, we might suggest a client talk about what is happening that is out of the ordinary in a specific sector they have expertise in, like biotechnology or fintech. They can address the questions:

  • Where are you seeing the most activity in terms of M&A or supply and demand?
  • What does that mean for your portfolios?  

Or they can discuss recent events such as a merger between mid and large players in a given industry, and comment on what that might mean for that sector and for investors.

Our coaching is always aimed at helping our clients more fully develop their story and key talking points. It’s our job to help them link the themes and current events to their process and portfolios. Even if the market seems humdrum, there's still movement within sectors and M&A activity in various industries.

If it's earnings season, that might be the focus-- a good time for managers to talk to the press about expected earnings. Did the companies they invest in beat or meet expectations? What does that mean for the companies going forward?

As PR professionals, it’s our job to uncover themes and current trends. Volatile times could make it an exciting time, or in the case of Coronavirus – it offers opportunities to talk about risks, give perspective, as well as discuss the overall picture.  Currently, of course, the major theme is coronavirus, so we encourage clients to elaborate on what that means for their clients and their funds. It’s important to get the message out-as many of our managers are-that acknowledges what is happening, but then discusses their time-tested investment process and why the ups and downs of the broad market don’t affect their long-term approach.


Are there any topics asset managers should avoid?         

Yes, we always suggest managers avoid discussing politics. It’s okay to comment at a high-level about elections and political uncertainty, but we recommend clients avoid getting into political discussions.

We also advise clients against discussing performance. How a fund is doing at that moment in time isn’t indicative of how it’s performing over the long-term. Instead, we advise clients to focus on telling their story. They want people to invest for their story and process rather than short-term performance. If an investor believes in your story, your management, and tenure and your overall history of success, they’re less likely to balk at the first sign of volatility.


How important is it for asset managers to be out in front of the public addressing the current volatile environment?       

This is a great opportunity for asset managers to help clients, prospects and the investing public understand the need to remove emotion from investing. They can help them understand the facts and look at historical data. A manager's job is to help put things in perspective and it is our job to encourage them, guide them and offer them good opportunities.

For asset managers, times of volatility can present prime opportunities to solidify existing client relationships. It opens the door to reach out and help calm an investors’ fears reminding them you’re “in it together” so they view them as a trusted partner.