Executive summary

How you say things is more important than what you say. Those that have researched the workings of the human connection are unambiguous about the overriding factor we consider when we’re deciding whether to trust someone – body language.

The workings of this unspoken communication apply not only to which girl/guy you’re attracted to at the bar, but also to the relationships you form in the business world, relationships that have an outsized impact on success. Now, the oppourtunity to use body language advantageously has been severely and irrevocably crimped.

Digital communication is likely to replace many of our face-to-face interactions in a post Covid-19 world. In this piece we delve into some of the changes we’ll need to make to foster trust through the digital medium. We’re sending it to you to signal our intentions. If you find it useful in your own communication efforts, that’s a bonus.

An authentic digital persona

Authentic (adjective)
Definition: Representing one’s true nature or beliefs.

For us to be authentic we first need to know what our business stands for. As an example, we believe in keeping our investors close so they understand how we’re investing their money – the offshoot is that they know what to expect from us and that makes for a healthier, enduring working relationship. It follows that we’re transparent when it comes to communicating our portfolio positioning.

Obsidian doesn’t yet have an authentic persona nailed down. It’s a work in progress, shaped by imagining what kind of personality we want our business to have and then injecting those characteristics into our content. What do we have so far? In addition to transparency, we also want our ability to simplify complex issues to shine through. For us, this often entails an insightful exploration of the macroeconomic environment, a factor we believe plays a central role when investing.

“Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.” – Coco Chanel

Keeping our digital communication authentic will drive consistency in our messaging. When you start to recognise the tone and common threads in our content, that’ll be a consequence of us staying true to our beliefs.

To be sure, this won’t be easy. It will oftentimes require vulnerability on our behalf – we make mistakes when investing – an emotional state that terrifies financial services firms. Ironically, we believe this fear undermines the quality of connection between consumer and provider.

If we’re to connect with you digitally, we cannot pretend to be something we’re not; fakery will accelerate a loss of trust. The next step will be to design and develop content around our persona that brings it to life. In other words, content that’ll make you want to engage with us.

King Content

Content (noun)
Definition: The things that are held or included in something.

For you to engage with our content to the extent that it breeds/sustains trust, we believe it needs to be three things: creative, relevant, and empathetic.

An article of ours may have a good message, but a bland headline will see it ignored; our video might be well scripted, but if it’s about the need for square wheels it won’t go far (sometimes we’re funny); and if our content doesn’t stir your emotions by letting you know that we understand your challenges, we’re fated for a lack of attention.

Real connection, the type that fosters brand loyalty, will be determined by how we make you feel. We’ve learnt that content that genuinely helps our investors (info on the valuation of the rand, for example), creatively put together, is far more powerful than content laden with fund specific information.

This doesn’t mean we won’t toot our own horn (that wouldn’t be authentic!), but that type of content should surrender to that which can genuinely help you. For those interested, this article expands on these content development philosophies.

Mind your tone

Tone (noun)
Definition: A modulation of the voice expressing a feeling or mood.

Whether we’re putting together written or video content, the tone in which we convey our message is paramount to how it’s interpreted. People are hardwired to look for threats. And if they find them in our communication, all the wrong chemicals enter their bloodstream, thwarting our efforts to win their trust.

This can be as subtle as a misplaced word in an article or as obvious and obtrusive as a dour video recording. Again, the planned content might be great, but if you come away from a digital interaction, in any form, feeling uneasy because of the delivery, that feeling will port to our brand.

As a fund manager, this is something that will challenge us. The weight of being trusted to look after someone’s life savings is significant, making it hard to maintain a chipper demeanour when we get things wrong in our portfolios. We won’t sugar-coat the truth – but we can deliver the hard facts in a manner that conveys how committed we remain to the cause of growing your wealth.

Being a good listener

Dialogue (verb)
Definition: Take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem.

If we want strong relationships with our investors, they’ll need to know we’re listening. As the world moves away from face-to-face interactions, a potential way to achieve this is to enable and promote digital dialogue.

We’ve historically used digital communication to supplement our in-person interactions. Consequently, our digital strategy in its current guise is not designed to facilitate free-flowing dialogue between ourselves and our investors. Sure, we reply to email requests quickly. But there’s much more we could do to encourage broader, two-way digital communication.

Social media channels are probably best equipped to achieve this end. We have a fledgling Linkedin profile, but there’s room to improve. To start, we’ll need to work on delivering content that ticks the boxes we’ve outlined above and then make it easy for consumers of that content to engage with us.

The big picture

There’s a bigger idea lurking within these proposed changes to our digital communication strategy. We are all biologically driven to seek out connection, to fulfill a burning need to belong to something.

The most pressing concern of a digitally dominated future is the dissolution of the human connection so central to our contentment. If Obsidian can make a connection of that sort digitally, by showing our investors we care about them and their needs, that would be a huge step toward being relevant in the new world we’re entering.