When the fashion retailer Burberry unveils its full-year results today, it will be unsurprising if its chief executive and chief creative officer Chris Bailey keeps a low media profile, leaving the task of answering reporters’ questions to his finance director, Carol Fairweather.
Bailey himself rarely makes an appearance in front of the media to present the financials, although with this set of figures he will at least speak to analysts, which is not always a given.
His reticence to confront the media at results time marks him out among bosses of Britain’s largest companies. Instead, in the short time he has been at the helm of the group (around a year), Bailey, a Yorkshireman, has developed a different style in explaining his numbers and communicating strategy.
He came up through the creative design side of Burberry, and he’s happier to let his colleagues take the media through financial results, appearing from time to time to take centre stage at fashion shows and private dinners.
Speaking candidly to the media can be a daunting experience for most chief executives. Reporters are often less forgiving than financial analysts, and tend to ask questions that cover the personal as well as the financials of corporate life, but confronting them is an important part of the chief executive’s role and is taken by most as part of the job description. Burberry is currently valued at almost £8bn and ranked 58th of Britain’s top 100 companies, and Bailey is not short of high-value media advice.
His board is packed with men and women that have considerable experience of the media : Jeremy Darroch, the skilled chief executive of Sky; Carolyn McCall, easyJet’s chief executive, who spent much of her earlier career at the Guardian; and John Smith is a former BBC finance director. On top of this, Burberry employs the financial PR heavyweight firm Brunswick to give it the best advice on media relations.
Experts think the strategy Bailey has adopted works fine, while the results do not disappoint. But he is a key component of the brand, and they warn that in the event of a major public relations slip up, a failure to forge relationships with a range of reporters may cost Bailey dear.