A News Piece Just Tore Your Firm to Shreds, Now What?

A few weeks ago hedge fund luminary Paul Singer, founder of Elliott Management, was the subject of a negative piece written by Quartz that derided his “boldly bare-knuckled” model. To be sure, Singer’s aggressive tactics have earned him an infamous reputation in some circles, but to be fair, this article lacked any sense of balance and clearly had one goal in mind – to produce a hatchet job on one of the most successful funds, and thus easiest targets in the asset class.

While there is nothing spectacular about this article itself, it does bring up an interesting question about what successful investment firms should do when thrust into the limelight as a result of a biased news piece. There are a variety of strategies managers should consider deploying in response to unwanted media coverage.

For starters, managers should give serious consideration to whether or not the coverage even deserves a response. Will a retort simply serve to further enflame a situation that probably would die out on its own shortly as a result of the news cycle? It could very well be that any push back, especially one that is particularly aggressive, could serve to only keep the story in the press and in front of current and potential investors. Perhaps the best response is not to respond at all.

If remaining quiet is not where a manager wants to be, then taking a thoughtful and carefully executed approach to reaching out to the reporter in question is a must. That means getting your talking points and key messaging tightly set beforehand. This can be accomplished with a simple statement, but if you are keen to engage with the reporter directly, executing this strategy perfectly becomes even more crucial. Know what it is you want to get across to the reporter and anticipate follow-up questions. Also remember, everything is on the record. Even if he or she says the conversation can be off-the-record, do not take any chances. Better to play it safe than to be sorry, so be sure to say or email only what you would be comfortable seeing in the press.

One of the most important parts of any response is to always keep your cool. This can be very difficult to do when confronting a reporter whom you feel has treated you unfairly in a very public manner, but remember what and how you respond will most likely appear in some form of a follow-up piece. Do not be combative; instead always be civil, respectful and courteous.

Figuring out if, when and how to respond to negative news coverage requires surgical precision. Having a communications expert on hand to help manage the process and possibly run interference with reporters goes a long way to mitigating both the short-term and long-term impacts of unfair coverage, particularly when it comes to the news about your firm that investors will see.