VFM from public relations? Journalist Louise Farrand walks the line

Gaye O’Neill said

“journalism is about printing what someone didn’t want printed, everything else is PR”


Louise Farrand is one of the many journalists who started life in Public Relations , finding life easier on the buy-side than the sell-side of corporate insight/bullshit (delete as appropriate).

Good journalists can smell corporate bullshit , bad ones hold their noses and cut and paste. Louise got tired of calling up journalists to be told to go away and has ended up with the best of both world, running the DCIF which is a way for asset managers to shape their market through “thought leadership”.

This is murky/smelly stuff which is why you need someone with the immenses charm, patience and intuition that Louise has – in charge. In this pensions podcast she shows how you can manage 67 minutes of broadcast news – without answering any questions or even talking about pensions,

I listened to the podcast while on a variety of trains, planes and automobiles as I came home from Scotland. I missed some of the nuance but my assessment of Louise remains the same. She’s a very sharp operator and defines the phrase “iron fist, velvet glove”. She is pro-transparency, pro performance tables and thinks that Government should impose a definition of value for money despite it meaning something different to everyone. Louise is a self-professed Waitrose shopper, she doesn’t do Aldi and she’s happy to pay more for her pension services.

That is about as much as we get from her (or from the podcast) on pensions this week. For the rest of the time the discussion meanders between “generalism”, “TCFD disclosures”, shopping, cartoons and inevitably Arsenal FC. If you are looking for comfort food – this is it. Nico and Darren throw themselves at the feet of Louise Farrand , much to her amusement. Louise reminded me of Queenie in BlackAdder.

A pensions podcast?

At some point in this gallimaufry of giggles, Darren announces that last week there was no pensions news. Louise agrees (though she is working on a pensions story).

Perhaps it is time for Nico and Darren to subscribe to this blog which in the past ten days featured important stories on

  1. The demise of Darren Reynolds – the prince of Port Talbot pension scammers
  2. News that Wilko’s pension scheme is £50m in the red on a buy-out basis.
  3. FCA looking into how PE funds are getting away with independent asset valuations
  4. ONS report that DB pension schemes lost £626bn last year
  5. Hargreaves Lansdown call for revamp of Lifetime ISA rules to help self-employed retire
  6. British Business Bank start writing down their Fintech portfolio

Some of these stories are inspired by what I have read,  one of these stories (the one about Darren Reynolds) was rewritten by a number of journalists working for various titles including the FT. It is very common for journalists to read my blog on quiet news days because – between 4am and 8am – I do their work for them.

I make no boasts for my blog – other than the boast made for me on the Times “one of ten websites and blogs every investor should bookmark“.

I would suggest that Nico and Darren take the Times’ advice.

Do consumers get value out of Public Relations ?

The fine line between corporate bullshit and thought leadership is walked by Louise Farrand (and by Darren Philp). Nico is currently doing something that may or may not be Public Relations for Newton – we’ll have to wait and see.

I am sceptical that PR delivers anything by way of thought leadership, thought leadership happens independently and PR is simply a loudspeaker. I am sceptical that PR delivers VFM , it is a sunk cost with no obvious gain – even by way of competition.

The impact of PR on journalism is mainly pernicious, it allows the trade press to write stories for the highest bidder. The more money spent on PR the less spent on delivering good consumer outcomes.

As the lads point out, most of the pension news is no more than cut and pasted platitudes fed us by PR agents who amplify messaging from trade bodies and the marketing departments of their constituents.

It is a very lazy business and is highly enjoyable for its participants who enjoy a stream of hospitality , paid for by clients and or employers. I see virtually no value in it and those journalists who depend on PR to write the stories have little integrity and very short careers.

Louise Farrand has proved herself smarter than most of her colleagues by maintaining a status as corporate PR, thought leader and journalist , without being called out for conflicts. She knows damned well that she walks the line on VFM, but she’s got very good balance.

Louise amplified



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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