So, Warren Buffett has stage one prostate cancer. The famous investor isn’t worried and nor are his doctors. Investors are sanguine and the media says unanimously it isn’t life threatening. In a statement issued by his firm Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett, Chairman and CEO, said the news “is not remotely life-threatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way…I feel great.”
What then were the obligations to disclose the news? Particularly given Buffett is already 81 years old. Might it have been easier to sit tight and not mention it?
Buffett’s genial PR profile has long been associated with transparency. He routinely tells investors when he gets things wrong and has often been his own harshest critic. Making the announcement makes no difference to the day-to-day running of the firm. But it does put him firmly in control of his own PR and keeps his reputation consistent with his public persona. Smart move.
The PR Verdict: “A” for Warren Buffett’s consistently smart PR. By making the announcement himself he was always in control of the message.
PR Takeaway: Always better to make the announcement yourself than have someone else make it a scoop, and do it for you. Buffett was in tight control of the agenda and was presumably pointing journalists to medics who were giving informed and on-message analysis of his prognosis. With talk of who will be Buffett’s successor still ongoing, this could have been a gateway into a far more destabilizing media controversy for Berkshire. No wonder he chose to go public.