Global media coverage of ESG investment has exploded

29 April 2021 3 min. read
More news on

Amid a boom in media coverage on ESG, a new report from communications consultancy Cognito has highlighted the need to reconcile what the media is publishing and what investors want to read. 

Cognito researchers perused ESG content on finance-focused media publications across Europe, Asia and North America over the last two years. This was supplemented with analysis of 35 asset manager websites – to see what part of the booming segment these funds highlight for their investors. 

“ESG investment exploded in 2020, and demonstrable expertise in ESG investing has become critical for asset managers worldwide,” noted Andrew Marshall, London-based vice chairman at Cognito. With investments maturing, coverage has ballooned too – presenting asset funds with a new challenge. 

Media coverage of ESG investment has exploded

“Media coverage of ESG investment increased by 75% in 2020 over 2019 in our global sample. For marketing and communications teams at asset managers, promoting and differentiating their firm’s ESG capabilities is now the biggest challenge they face.” 

As it stands, a gap exists between what funds want to highlight and what the media picks up. Only a third of financial news relates to specific ESG investments or initiatives taken by any one asset manager. The rest delves into broader trends such as greenwashing, portfolio management, performance, risk and overall growth in the ESG segment. 

PR personnel at asset funds have realised this, and tend to put out thematic content for wider coverage. That said, many are keen to highlight their individual products, policies or mandates – valuable information that could be decisive for investors, but tends to get overlooked by the press.

ESG communications from asset managers

No doubt, a more nuanced approach from media professionals is key here – a need highlighted by several asset managers. At the same time, the researchers highlight how fund managers will have to meet journalists halfway – packaging their content in ways that are easily marketed to readers.

Communication strategies

“For most asset managers, coverage in the major media is largely going to be in “multi-firm” stories – and so outbound communication strategies should reflect that.  That means, when possible, pushing more around overall ESG investment and strategy, along with what seem undersupplied areas like engagement, stewardship and divestment,“ explained Marshall. 

“With the evidence suggesting that investors care about a firm’s overall ESG brand, rather than the nature of specific funds, this is the time for asset managers to differentiate themselves decisively: picking credible “lanes” with the media, delivering quality insights around the big themes commanding the most coverage, and adapting some media relations tactics to get an edge.”

The good news is that funds and journalists agree on the general ESG themes that should take centre stage this year. Climate change, data, supply chains and efforts from key markets to cover lost ESG ground will all feature, while funds are also keen to put the spotlight on biodiversity.