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Words for the wise

A colleague recently pointed me in the direction of the website for Berkshire Hathaway. He said ‘Who would have thought the 8th largest public company in the world, owned by the 3rd richest person would have a website that looked like this?’                                                    Before you click – assuming you’re not a regular visitor – imagine what this corporate site might look like. Now click.

Surprised? We don’t think the site looks like it does by accident. The Sage of Omaha on our reckoning doesn’t leave much to chance. The site is as calculated a communication as the most lovingly crafted advertising campaign. Its tone of voice and structure says ‘we spend our shareholders’ money where it matters – recruiting the best managers, finding lost value and building equity. Why would we need to impress our shareholders with fancy graphics, roll over optimisation and glitzy photos?’

But if you want to see some serious crafting and writing talent just take a look at any of Warren Buffett’s annual letters to shareholders. The one for 2012 is pretty much on par. Personal. Focussed. Folksy if you wish to read it that way – but that’s his individual style and part of the brand identity. Most of all, it’s a piece of powerful, persuasive writing that lets you believe that your investment dollars are in safe hands.

He starts with an apology and a paragraph of honesty and humility which neatly restates the mission statement and adds in a reminder of what they are good at:

Our relative performance, however, is almost certain to be better when the market is down or flat. In years when the market is particularly strong, expect us to fall short… we do better when the wind is in our face.

A brilliant demonstration of when less is more.

This article was originally posted on the CRICKET blog: 20 March 2013