Big events always lead to speculation and conjecture from both the experts and the lay persons. Everyone wants a slice of the pie, be it material gains or a bit of fame in this attention economy. Thus, news takes birth that may be twisting facts slightly to make things sensational or be downright fake, riding on the wave of trending subjects.
I watch the attention economy closely because I like to decode what catches the fancy of the masses. Also as an entrepreneur, my investments and my money are my own doing and understanding. In the global pandemic situation, a lot of news, rather conspiracy theories are floated around how the virus spreads and possible cures. It’s laughable, how we are riding an unfortunate wave where we are manipulating the emotions of those involved.
The same thing happened recently with a major player in the Mutual Fund industry, Franklin Templeton India. On April 23, they had to close six yield-oriented, managed credit funds, primarily to protect investor interests. The economic scenario across the globe has not been very encouraging in light of extensive lockdowns and the market has shown high risk aversion in recent times.
Expectedly, this closure of funds led to fear and anxiety across the industry and in investors’ minds about their money and when would they be able to redeem it. Plenty of myths started bring circulated – how the risk spilled over to other funds. The rate of redemption from other funds went exponentially high. There were questions around the funds and from the management point of view, it must have been a challenge – trying to communicate and to reach out to each investor who had a query or a doubt.
As an outsider looking in, trying to understand how companies handle such scenarios was quite a learning experience for me. And then the real bomb blew. On April 27, unsubstantiated rumours blew out of proportion so much so that one of the major media houses also reported it as a news item! Franklin Templeton India stepped in to clarify but a lot of damage had been done.
Apart from pointing out the ‘fake news’ on social media, Franklin Templeton reached out to the finance people who had a pulse on the investor sentiment. An interactive video Q & A session was organised with the President of Franklin Templeton India, Mr Sanjay Sapre so that he could talk to the people in the finance industry – the bloggers and the content creators who had a lot of questions from their own followers.
It was a stellar session if we factor in the situation that things must have been on the boil within the company with an immense pressure to reassure every investor. Mr Sapre took every question and responded with patience. Although there was plenty of information on their website ( https://www.franklintempletonindia.com/investor/market-insights/winding-up-of-specific-schemes) and on digital media channels, he took care that every myth, every piece of misinformation was addressed and corrected.
He also clarified that fighting fake news is a priority and reaching out to people in forums works very well.
Press releases and conferences work well, they do reach a large number of people but the reach of a close group of bloggers can be phenomenal, if we look at how trusted they are in their own circles.