Taking time to learn the characteristics of the Japanese media and how to handle Japanese journalists will go a long way in helping you adapt and ensure the best outcome when arranging interviews for C-suite executives who are visiting Japan or for spokespeople who are already based in Tokyo.
English is not the language of business
The biggest difference between Japan and other countries that our financial services clients have the most difficulty accepting is the language barrier; Japanese journalists at domestic media simply do not speak English well enough to conduct interviews in English.
Tokyo is not like Hong Kong or Singapore. English is not the language of business. You will need to arrange an interpreter for executives visiting from overseas who do not speak Japanese, or you will need to offer up Tokyo-based spokespeople who are either native or fluent Japanese speakers.
Some clients will ask us to find English-speaking journalists at domestic media, but their numbers are few, and Japanese journalists regularly change beats, meaning introductions and media coverage are extremely difficult to guarantee. Your success in securing coverage will be much greater if you assume that you will have to deal with the Japanese media in Japanese and plan accordingly.
Similarly, English-language press releases, reports, fact sheets and spokesperson profiles need to be translated into Japanese. If none of your content is localised, it simply will not be read. Japanese journalists will not simply re-write a Japanese-language press release, but they will occasionally request additional information or interviews in order to write an original story.
Maintaining local relationships is paramount
In Japan, journalists place a lot of importance on relationship-building. This means arranging lunches, dinners, off-the-record briefings and other events where you can explain your company’s history, your areas of expertise and how Japan fits into your global strategy. It is imperative to invest time and resources in these events happen, but it is worth the effort. If you go out of your way to educate the Japanese media about your company, then they will in turn educate their readers about you.
Stories with global context but local focus
Journalists at domestic media consistently tell us that they want to hear two things from non-Japanese financial institutions. The first is big-picture views on the trends and risk factors that investors and financial services professionals all face. The second is views on Japan, whether it be Japan’s financial markets, investing in Japan or Japan’s financial services sector. If you provide the global angle without the Japan angle, your chances of securing a story will suffer dramatically. The best way is to make sure you include Japan angles into your global story.
The bar for publishing a story in Japan is higher than in some countries because editors and team leaders exercise a great deal of control over what reporters write, and reporters often require a lot of information to convince their superiors to run a story.
As a result, Japanese reporters may submit follow-up questions after an interview or requests for data to back up some of the arguments made during an interview. You may find these requests cumbersome because you think they should have been covered during the interview, but you should take this as a positive sign that the reporter is working hard to illustrate your company in the best light and ensure that the story clears any remaining hurdles.
If you are serious about expanding your businesses profile in Japan, utilizing local knowledge and investing time and effort into local journalists will only serve to make the ground more fertile for securing coverage.
Much has changed in the year since COP26 in Glasgow. The war in Ukraine has struck Europe with an energy supply crisis, forcing nations to revert to fossil fuels. With the visions of floods in Pakistan and Australia, fires across Europe, and the mercury hitting 40°C in parts of the UK front of mind, global leaders and decision-makers met in Egypt to make further progress in tackling climate change. Here are our key takeaways from COP27 and what they could mean for your business.
Purpose as a business tool
Many organisations will have already implemented their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policy. For some sectors, such as finance, it has already become a core part of their compliance programmes. Regardless of sector, how an organisation carries itself during the climate crisis could make or break a reputation. ‘Greenwashing’ is getting called out; there is no alternative but for organisations to become sustainable and transparent regarding ESG.
It comes down to actions and words. We know many consumers – especially savvy ones with high disposable income – want to buy from businesses with a conscience. Grayling’s recent Dis/Connected report finds that the people who are most likely to follow public affairs – a group we call ‘the Plugged-In’ – are the most passionate about the environment, want to see more government intervention on climate issues, and the most likely to support brands who demonstrate that the environment is central to their work.
How businesses can help achieve COP27 goals
So, where are we at the end of COP27? Despite the United Nations (UN) saying that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to fall by 45% by 2030 if we are to keep rising temperatures to below the target of a 1.5°C, the Global Carbon Project (GCP) estimates that emissions will rise by one percent in 2022. So, we’re still headed in the wrong direction on emissions.
COP27 has focused on the key themes of nature, food, water, industrial decarbonisation and climate adaptation to drive action, with goals to be agreed upon around four focus areas – mitigation, adaptation, financing and collaboration.
Given emissions are still rising, the first thing we need to do as individuals, companies and nations is to cut down the GHGs that we’re pumping into the atmosphere. At COP27, nations have been discussing the Mitigation Work Programme (MWP). The MWP was proposed in 2021 after it was suggested that countries’ commitments were not sufficient to hit the 1.5°C target. It puts the onus on the 20 leading emitters of GHGs to reduce their omissions.
However, many developing countries – such as India and China – have only become largescale emitters in recent decades and pushed back on richer, more developed nations. The European Union (EU) is keen to adopt an MWP as part of its broader commitment to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
Wherever your operations are based, there will be renewed expectation on your business to deliver decarbonisation – fast. But accusations of greenwashing are constantly surfacing. It’s critical to make sure that as a business you are not over-promising and under-delivering.
What are you doing to ensure your business is taking sufficient action on reducing emissions? Are you working with a credible third-party to get counsel on your goals? Are you doing enough to track your progress against your ambitions?
Lastly, how are you communicating your efforts to your stakeholders? Cutting your emissions has impacts beyond just your own business. Others in your supply chain will be looking to you to help them with sustainability efforts throughout the value chain, known as Scope 3 – which is increasingly becoming the focus for both regulators and reputation. There’s also a big job to be done in distilling the complexity of your strategy and initiatives so that they can be communicated in a way that’s easy to digest for your audiences. Any activity must underline a sense of urgency in the current climate and show the positive impact that your organisations is having.
The impact of the climate crisis is not evenly distributed. Even though the developed countries of the ‘Global North’ have, historically and currently, been among the most significant contributors to climate change, it’s often developing countries that feel the impact most.
Adaptation refers to protecting lives and livelihoods as the climate changes. For some countries, like the Pacific country of Tuvalu, climate change provides an existential threat. Every country must prepare to adapt for rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, crop failure, and the risks of flood and fire. In what’s being seen as the biggest “win” from COP27, a ‘loss and damage’ assistance fund was agreed early on Sunday morning, after long negotiations and multiple countries changing their position. Still, the lack of strong commitment in other areas of the final agreement has communities around the world worried.
Think beyond your operations to the locations and communities you are operating in. Does your company have operations or suppliers in the countries most affected by the climate emergency? If so, what is your business doing to mitigate risk and support the people there – either through direct ESG initiatives or working with others?
There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about too little emphasis being placed on the ‘S’ (or ‘social’ element) of ESG. As a business, you need to ensure you are acting on and communicating about ESG in the round.
How clean energy is financed has been a hot topic for years and will continue to be so after COP27. Developing nations who are historically low emitters of GHGs, but who are often more impacted by climate change are demanding more financial help from the West.
Transitioning from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy will require investment from the richer nations. At COP27, we saw some movement; for example, the US government launched a voluntary carbon trading market scheme to drive private investment in renewable energy projects in the developing world.
Do you work in the financial sector? With multilateral development banks under fire, what more needs to be put in place to make climate finance successful? And with ESG compliance regulations evolving fast, how might you be able to help drive progress before legislation demands it?
Have you done enough to consider how you’re defining ESG and applying this across strategies and portfolios? Have you clearly communicated your position?
One positive from COP27 was the conference seems to have signalled more collaboration on tackling climate change. Most notably, the world’s two biggest economies – and polluters – the US and China seem to have become closer this week, which is important. At COP27, we also saw the launch of the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP) to help restore forests in the coming years, which will be vital in achieving ambitious temperature rise goals.
Projects such as the FCLP will rely on private donor finance as well as funding from governments. Could you commit to supporting projects like these that aim to help preserve habitats and reverse human-made damage to the environment?
What more can you also be doing to encourage better collaboration within your industry to identify and implement sustainability solutions? True leadership isn’t about acting alone.
Conclusion: Let’s put our money where our mouth is
It’s easy to dismiss COP meetings as talking shops; real change comes from them. At COP26, for example, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) was formed to create a global baseline standard on ESG disclosures for capital markets. COP27 represents more progress despite challenging economic conditions as the world recovers from Covid and the war in Ukraine continues to hamper Europe’s moves away from fossil fuels.
Everyone must play their role in the fight against the climate emergency, and companies can lead with their ESG policies. It’s a fight we either win or lose as a collective. At Grayling, we’re proud to have worked on some fantastic sustainability campaigns and would welcome the chance to discuss how to help you communicate your ESG strategy.
MediaScan is our flagship journalist sentiment survey, conducted biannually.
We use it to track attitudes towards some of the largest asset managers in the world to smaller boutique players, and measure the impact of their PR strategies, as well as finding out invaluable insights into the future of an industry constantly needed to adapt to new and complex challenges. MediaScan canvasses the opinions of the top editors, columnists and reporters across the UK and Pan European investment media.
As well as its core analytical component of rating asset managers standings within the industry, MediaScan looks to explain the factors influencing these views, while also identifying future trends likely to shape the industry. In the latest wave of the research, three major themes emerged when the panel was asked about what they saw as the key issues affecting the asset management industry over the coming 6-12 months:
ESG, climate change and greenwashing
The theme journalists discussed most was that of ESG, notably on upcoming regulatory changes, tackling the impact of climate change and how greenwashing should be addressed. With nearly three-fifths (57%) of journalists surveyed bringing this topic up, it is clearly a massive issue for the media – but how will asset managers get their messages across?
Inflation is an inescapable concern at present, whether talking in billions or pennies. The success (or failure) of governments to harness burgeoning inflation will have a considerable impact on the long-term investment appeal of many markets and products, as well as dictating if, or when, the next recession hits – and how long it lasts.
How to invest in a recessionary environment
More broadly, the myriad macroeconomic pressures currently affecting markets were viewed as significant issues – mentioned by 43% of respondents – notably the ongoing impact of the war in Ukraine at both investment and consumer level, as well as how businesses adapt to the ‘new normal’ of business post-Covid, including retention of top staff and clients and the longer-term effect this will have.
While any asset manager would be able to discuss these three issues at length, communicating these views in line with the company’s core PR messaging in a way that is accessible, authentic and attractive to a journalist is the key challenge facing many firms in an increasingly competitive environment.
The onus is on asset managers to provide the expertise, data and outlook that resonates with the different audiences or distribution channels the trade and national media cater for, while also bringing their brand’s purpose to life. By working closely with both clients and the media, CDR is strongly positioned to advise on how best to position these views to ensure that both journalist and client benefit from the relationship.
How do we connect the dots regarding climate transparency? This has been a question which management teams have been forced to contend with in recent years as it is continuing to create a challenging dialogue between institutional investors and public companies. Over the last twelve months, net-zero and carbon emission targets have risked falling off the top of companies’ agendas.
The ongoing macroenvironment has had a devastating effect on economies and company valuations alike, causing a shift in focus away from sustainability in favour of financial performance.
Established after COP21 in Paris by the Financial Stability Board, the TCFD’s mission is to provide guidance and recommendations to market participants on how to mitigate the risks of climate change. They do fantastic work and currently over 1,300 of the largest UK-registered public & private companies and financial institutions are required to disclose climate-related financial information in alignment with the TCFD.
Notwithstanding the work of the TCFD and many other global organisations, corporates are increasingly taking a step back in the implementation of climate transparency. In a recent webinar hosted by the LSE on “Understanding Climate Transparency in Financial Disclosure”, Nicola Higgs, Partner at Latham & Watkins, argued there has been a clear shift away from the ESG agenda which had begun to take precedent in recent years. Despite the acute concerns about the global 2050 net-zero ambition, companies are now heading back towards a “profit and revenue first” way of thinking.
Unfortunately, one does not have to look too hard to find ample evidence to support this theory. For example, banks in the US, including JPMorgan, have suggested that they may withdraw from the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (Gfanz), another international climate-related regulator, as they seek to be “managed by and subject only to their own governance structures.”
Moreover, the cost of reaching carbon neutrality is also very high. It will cost over USD130 trillion in the next three decades to reach the net zero emissions agreed in the COP21 Paris Agreement and London alone will need to spend £75 billion to reach the UK’s goals of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
Laura Zizzo, co-founder and CEO of Manifest Climate, agreed with Mrs Higgs but passionately argued that even in spite of the challenging macroeconomic environment, there is still room for companies to attain a strategic advantage from having ambitious ESG agendas. She stated that aligning with international initiatives such as the four pillars of the TCFD, will have a positive impact on long-term financial performance.
Taskforces and alliances such as the TCFD and Gfanz have the incredibly difficult task of ensuring these global deadlines are met. Improved reporting metrics and mandatory requirements being applied more broadly to the world’s largest businesses will help bodies such as the TCFD to achieve their goals. Ultimately, there is no way out of it: climate change will have to be tackled.
Communication forms a central pillar to driving this change. Improving the consistency and transparency with which a business is required to report on their sustainability commitments builds trust between a business and their stakeholders.
As the entire world pivots to reach net-zero by 2050, it is critical that climate related disclosure remains at the top of corporate agendas.
Communication considerations for companies pre- and post-IPO
Companies are facing a more diverse and empowered stakeholder group than ever before. The Business Roundtable shifted the purpose of a company away from solely focusing on generating value for shareholders. Companies must now consider their ultimate purpose in the context of their role for customers, suppliers, employees, the communities they impact and investors.
This means that a single voice matters and everything is a business story. You only need to look at some examples of company culture hitting the headlines – negatively and positively – to know that a single comment on social media can escalate quickly.
It is stating the obvious to say that any company considering a public listing needs to focus on investors and establishing a clear investment case, as without this an IPO will not succeed. But this applies for private fundraising too. A company needs to think about other stakeholders and who among them would be a potential advocate for their business (and them as leaders). We know that in the age of ESG – a phrase which may be nearing saturation – the non-negotiable is being a responsible business.
Try to think about what your impact is in the widest sense. Are you clear on your answer to the question: “How is the world a better place with you in it?” It might feel very grand and aspirational, but knowing your impact on society is imperative.
The IPO process can be intense for a company, especially if valuation goalposts shift, and the last phase can leave you feeling drained and then elated (and then relieved). Please try not to burn yourselves out with the IPO process. The first day of dealing isn’t the end of the journey, it is merely the start. You need to leave something in the tank to showcase you and your company. You can’t assume that a successful IPO means that all stakeholders understand your business and your ambition. As a newly listed company, you will face additional scrutiny in your first year and taking the time to educate all stakeholder groups is invaluable. Don’t fear the media, take the time to get to know those people who are going to be part of your journey.
Be pragmatic and know that bumps will inevitably come. At the end of the day, it’s so much easier to build advocates and make friends when you’re not facing a time of challenge and change.
To build awareness and understanding, it is key to showcase your credentials as a responsible business and an authentic leadership team. At CDR, we talk about the 3Hs of authentic communications – being honest, humble, and human. This is at the heart of The Truth Report, our reputational due diligence product, which is very relevant for any company that is considering a liquidity event or already on this journey.
Authenticity is also about being yourself. It can be tempting to copy what peers are doing, but it’ll be easier – and less tiring – if you carve your own path that reflects your DNA and culture. In a world where the fight for talent is real, you need to be an accessible and inspiring leadership team. This means being unafraid to talk about what matters to you and showcases your motivation. For me, it is about social mobility and giving everyone a chance, as well as offering support to anyone who’s got a life limited child, as one of my triplet daughters was born severely disabled and died aged 18 months.
The final piece of advice I can offer is don’t spin and don’t save things up for the ‘ta-da’ moment. These rarely land in the way you hoped, especially when you’re building awareness and understanding of your company. Any company recently listed, or considering a listing, needs to focus on clear and consistent communications. It’s about those 1,001 things you do each day that add up to show your values as a business (and a leader). Not the ‘ta-da’!
The period from the beginning of 2009 to the end of 2021 will almost certainly be seen by future historians as one of the greatest ever eras of equity markets growth. If you had invested $100 in the S&P 500, a leading U.S. index, at the beginning of the period, you would have had $682.13 at the end, an extraordinary return of 15.92% per annum.
Why did this happen? Economies internationally had just been through the Global Financial Crisis and policymakers and central banks were extremely concerned about a major recession following. They acted swiftly with stimulus programmes to support markets, and used unconventional instruments such as quantitative easing to boost asset prices.
The conventional economic wisdom had always been that the danger of such intervention was that it would eventually produce inflation, but there was little sign of that for most of the decade after the crisis. With economies still fragile, central banks continued to intervene to boost asset prices and markets continued to rise.
We can, however, say that this period has now ended. That is because inflation has returned at last, spurred by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supply chain disruption from the Covid pandemic. That means central banks cannot intervene like they used to, and markets as a consequence have now fallen considerably in 2022.
And it would be unrealistic to think now that the days of huge equity market returns are going to return any time soon, given that interest rates are rising globally, economies are bracing for recessions, and markets are highly volatile.
This means we are facing a secular trend downwards in equity market returns. In fact we could be back to the pre-Global Financial Crisis era where U.S. equities were often up a lot and down a lot but net flat over sustained periods of time. For example, in the decade 1998-2008, U.S. equities experienced significant rallies and falls, but were net flat. In other words, we could be going back to the future.
All of this has huge consequences for investors. In the period 2009-2021, the high equity market returns encouraged many investors, both institutional and retail, into passively managed long equities products.
It is good to be long equities when they are going up, but not so much when they are going down. When markets are volatile or going down, investors turn to strategies and asset classes which are not correlated to the broader market or which can benefit from volatility, ie can generate positive returns from market downturns.
This is exactly what alternative investment managers do. Take hedge funds. The classic equity long/short hedge fund is both long and short the market, enabling it to generate positive returns even when the market is down. Or in the case of private equity, the fund is able to make a long-term investment in a company without being impacted by short-term market volatility. Indeed there is a multitude of alternative investment strategies that can be successful in these markets, including alternative credit, hedge, private equity, venture, infrastructure and crypto.
This creates strong opportunities for alternative investment managers. In the previous era in which being passively long in an index tracker could get you 15-20% a year, it was harder to make the case for actively managed strategies which protect against the downside.
But that has already changed dramatically with investors now pivoting towards alternative strategies and with leading analysts encouraging them to do so. For example, J.P. Morgan in their 2022 Alternative Investments Outlook, said, “A new market environment requires a new investing playbook. We encourage investors to consider, or reconsider, how alternatives more broadly can help them achieve their investment goals.”
Now is therefore a time of significant opportunity for alternative investment managers in terms of both performance and capital-raising. But to raise capital they will need to be able to communicate their differentiation and edge to sophisticated investor audiences, and to be able to maintain a strong reputation in the market.
A strategic communications programme is vital to achieve those goals, both in terms of minimising reputational risk and in terms of constructing a strong external profile for investor audiences. We have deep experience and expertise in the alternatives space and have worked with many of the leading names in the industry. We would be delighted to discuss with you how we can work together to protect and grow your business.
By Christen Thomson, Senior Director and an alternatives specialist for Citigate Dewe Rogerson.
A review of our panel discussion organised in partnership with trade association CryptoUK and law firm Paul Hastings.
14 September 2022
Citigate Dewe Rogerson hosted a fascinating panel discussion on whether crypto will replace or complement the existing financial system. Our thanks go to the moderator, Jack Denton of Barron’s and MarketWatch, and panellists Keld van Schreven of KR1 plc, James Butterfill of CoinShares and Marcus Sotiriou of GlobalBlock. This year will certainly go down in history as an interesting one for both the crypto and wider financial system, which is why the topic of discussion was all the more pertinent given the recent decline in digital asset prices and technology valuations.
The general theme that won through was how far blockchain and digital assets have developed in the last few years, with many more real-life use cases adopting blockchain and crypto technology, such as the ‘play-to-earn’ games, which are particularly popular in Asia at the moment, decentralised finance (a.k.a. DeFi), NFTs and the establishment of both asset-backed and algorithmic stablecoins.
Marcus Sotiriou spoke about how DeFi has been one of the most fast moving and innovative areas within digital assets with decentralised insurance being seen as a real-world use case. Most notably, a blockchain called Chainlink is providing data through a weather oracle that enables farmers to gain access to crop insurance and protect themselves against periods of droughts.
One attendee asked a question that is familiar amongst both proponents and sceptics of digital assets alike, on “what is the killer app for blockchain technology and the evidence of this playing out?” This was answered very neatly by James Butterfill, who supported his response with robust evidence, explaining how one example is the use of blockchain and crypto technology providing new, fast, and cheap payment rails. This is especially evident in many emerging economies, where people who cannot obtain bank accounts (the so-called ‘unbanked’), are now able to remit monetary value anywhere in the world using blockchain and crypto technology, and how in Nigeria, the volume of remittances made across crypto rails has increased significantly. Research by PYMNTS and bitpay, highlighted that 85% of businesses with an annual income of over $1 billion are adopting crypto payments to obtain new customers*.
However, to maintain the continual adoption of blockchain and crypto technology, one needs to ensure the correct regulatory framework is in place. The panel was unanimous in agreeing that regulation needs to be proportionate so as not to stifle innovation, and it should be designed to protect consumers appropriately. Nevertheless, currently regulators are behind the curve, they are playing catch up and in effect this is causing a great deal of uncertainty. The overriding concern is that if regulation goes too far, then it could be to the detriment of both consumers and the countries adopting the use of blockchain technology.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that blockchain technology does face its challenges, one being its ‘trilemma’ which is the trade-off between decentralisation, scalability, and security. This is a topic that warrants its own panel discussion, so without going into depth here, it is a trade-off that will impact not only the adoption of crypto, but how it is also regulated.
It was an overwhelmingly positive discussion and, in the end, I think that we can conclude the view is that crypto will in time complement the existing financial system.