Bringing some sparkle to the unglamorous diamonds

In the Financial Times recently, former Lex writer and current breaking news editor Oliver Ralph wrote an article extolling the virtues of the FTSE 100’s “magnificently unglamorous seven”.

Ralph noted how the shares of seven of the index’s less exciting members had performed far better than those of the household names. The group comprised Compass, Intertek, Relx, Experian, Diploma, Bunzl and Howdens. The companies cover between them industries as diverse as distribution and credit checking to assurance services and analytics.

Amid much pain and soul-searching regarding the current state of the London market, Ralph suggested any revival in the City’s fortunes may be led by companies like these as opposed to their more famous listed counterparts.

While there may be debate on the merits of Ralph’s analysis, there was a clear message implicit within the piece: unglamorous as they may seem, these companies are worthy of greater spotlight.

It’s no secret that the businesses attracting the biggest spotlight are generally the glitzier household names that serve consumers directly. It’s not just people on the street who would pick out Burberry or Barclays over Beazley, or Marks & Spencer over Melrose. Business editors act in much the same way when it comes to choosing what to cover.  

But these headline names only tell a small part of the story. And as the UK hunts for signs of success, there’s a clear opening for emphasising the stories that lie underneath.

One of the biggest communications shifts in the past decade has been towards identifying a broader purpose which drives a business forward. This is a powerful way of uniting multiple stakeholders, and particularly employees, around a shared ambition.

But sometimes this has lessened the focus on the importance of telling the more simple stories that cut through.  Many of the businesses which seem unglamorous are bringing jobs to local communities. Their products represent moments of innovation. They are fixing problems that need solving. It may be hard to package them all together in a neat way which solves each of the world’s burning issues at once but they fit a market need. And they tap into areas of wider interest. 

Ralph’s article focused on listed companies but there’s obvious read across to private businesses, where reporting has tended to fixate on uncertainty over valuations and tough fundraising conditions. In a landscape sorely lacking in inspiration, these stories are needed.

It’s always said a journalist’s job is to work to uncover the story. It’s also our role as advisers to help businesses bring those to light and make it easy for audiences, whether that’s time-poor reporters or analysts, or an audience of investors, customers and other stakeholders direct.

If data centres are your domain, safety technology your secret weapon, engineering your Everest, now is the moment. As we continue to face a slow-moving economy, and a fairly dormant market both for big deals and listings, it may be time for some of these companies to step out from the shadows.

Read more Insights & News