How The Carlyle Group Uses Communications to Build Its Business
The Carlyle Group is an iconic fixture on the financial landscape.
By the numbers, it is impressive. Founded in 1987, The Carlyle Group is a global alternative asset manager with roughly $188 billion in assets under management (AUM) across 126 funds and 160 fund of funds vehicles. Private Equity International (PEI) ranked Carlyle the top private equity organization in the world in 2015. Carlyle specializes in four key business areas: corporate private equity, real assets, global market strategies, and investment solutions.
Beyond the numbers, Carlyle’s communications team excels at strengthening relationships with institutional investors, building the Carlyle brand, and demonstrating the firm’s critical insights and thought leadership.
Randy Whitestone is principal and director of communications for the Americas at Carlyle. He is on the front lines of media relations, working with traditional media, from national dailies and newswires, to leading asset management and PE trades outlets. He’s also involved with thought leadership and content, the latter via Illuminate, the firm’s innovative content platform. I spoke with Randy about Carlyle’s marketing communications strategy and execution, about the face of the firm — David Rubenstein — and about issues and initiatives for 2016.
Tom Walek: We are bombarded by content — traditional media, social media, native advertising, brand publishing, etc. What are your views on earned, owned, and paid media? How are they used by Carlyle?
Randy Whitestone: We don’t generally advertise or use paid content. We have built our brand carefully over 28-plus years and it resonates well with our investors and potential investors. Because our audience is largely institutional, we have tried to be somewhat targeted in our use of social media. For now, we have Facebook and LinkedIn pages and a Twitter feed with 20,000-plus followers. We have been extremely focused on providing thoughtful content for our fund investors ranging from economic outlooks to videos to podcasts. We released more than 20 of them in 2015. to case studies to topic-oriented conference calls. We have grouped the publicly available content as a cluster called Illuminate on Carlyle.com.
As a largely institutional firm, how does Carlyle monitor and measure the impact of marketing communications on business outcomes?
It tends to be anecdotal, which is not ideal, but may stem from the nature of our high-touch approach with our institutionally oriented investor base. We continue to massage more numbers-based metrics from our podcasts, and from the Illuminate cluster on our home page, but it’s still early days. However, if an ultimate measure of success is investor receptivity to our funds, we have publicly stated that we are often hitting the hard cap in our fundraising efforts. Ultimately, of course, that’s due to how we perform for our fund investors, which is what they and we care most about.
What are some of the new communications approaches and programs for Carlyle for 2016? How have these evolved from or built upon what you have been doing in recent years?
We will continue to develop, target, and segment our Illuminate thought leadership content, and we will work on better measurement of who’s listening, reading, or watching. We will also broaden the sharing of commentary, thoughts, and expertise from more of our 700-plus investment professionals — we have an unusually wide-ranging array of talent both in terms of geography and industry sector expertise.
What are some of the issues Carlyle and the industry face in 2016? How will Carlyle’s approach them?
Private equity is still a relatively young asset class; we and our peer firms have been around for less than 40 years and have been publicly traded for less than a decade. That means we must continue to educate the broader public on what we do to create value by posting case studies and working with reporters on in-depth stories on specific investments. This is also a political year and as we did in 2012, we’ll work closely with our industry trade group, the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, on policy issues of interest to the broader public. In all things, as always, it’s important for a firm like ours to have a continuous dialogue with our various key public constituencies.
How does Carlyle as a firm leverage David Rubenstein’s public persona?
We view David as a statesman — as someone who can speak at a high level and find receptive audiences eager to learn not just about the alternatives industry, but about his philanthropic interests. That said, David is our co-founder and co-chief executive officer and speaks on our quarterly earnings calls and is seen by many as a public face of the firm. We try to use a targeted approach with his company-related public speaking and media interactions. I will say that 60 Minutes piece last May focused on David’s patriotic philanthropy (with all credit to Chris Ullman for spearheading) drew wider interest in him than we had ever seen before.
At the 69th CFA Institute Annual Conference held in Montréal this May, David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, will be discussing the economy, the investment environment, and philanthropy.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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