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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Handling Quarter-End Materials Mid-Crisis
Guest Column by: Benjamin Bishop

Anytime the markets shift dramatically near quarter-end, communications teams at investment firms face a time crunch. Commentaries and fact sheets have to get out the door, both to meet shareholder statement schedules and to support investors' confidence in how well the firm is coping with volatile conditions.

Benjamin Bishop
Lowe Group
Vice President, Managing Director
Right now, those communications professionals are dealing with a double whammy: communicating corporate news relating to COVID-19, plus communicating their firms' investment perspectives about ongoing market volatility. (See my colleague Jody Lowe's post earlier this week on what we see working in these communications now.)

Quarter end is always somewhat of a fire drill, but this quarter is in a category of its own. Portfolio managers may be up to their eyeballs managing portfolios and handling inquiries about separately managed accounts. Then, layer on the fact that most everyone is working from home. The result is a tough situation for both content creation and logistics management.

Here are a few suggestions for getting through it:

  • Record conversations with portfolio managers. Take notes but also get an audio recording. You’re less likely to need to circle back.

  • Keep investment commentary on the shorter side. Don't try to cover all the ground — as the ground itself is shifting fast beneath everyone’s feet. Acknowledge the volatility, mention any portfolio changes and reiterate your strategy. Be short but specific.

  • Emphasize your core messages. Your clients want to know you continue to believe in what you're doing. Reiterate your strategy.

  • Be modest about any relative outperformance. This is not a time to celebrate. If your product has outperformed on the downside, say so, but take care with the tone. Be conservative with the language; you don't know what's going to happen next. Your current outperformance could turn on its head in the next period, even prior to your Q1 commentary actually reaching your readers.

  • Solicit extra people to help with the review process. If you have an internal proofreading process, take steps to beef it up now. Tap people who may have been involved in past roles. Ask them to be ready to support during the "get it out the door" phase; you never know when work-from-home or health issues might get in the way

  • Reference firm communications already sent about COVID. You may find these helpful in getting the tone right.

  • Lean on your external partners. If you work with outside writers or communicators who have experts on staff, you can look for assistance there as you shape actual market commentary in addition to broader crisis messages.

  • Best wishes to all the marketing and communications professionals out there working hard to reassure investors and get out their firms' required communications. May you be safe and well as you do so.

    Ben Bishop is vice president and managing director of the Lowe Group, a financial communications company serving mutual funds, investment advisors and financial services firms. 

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