Knowing Mr. Market

Mr. Grump.jpg

Mr. Market can be a fickle creature.  And it’s often during these times that a company’s phone and email might become flooded with “comments” from individual investors seeking solace from market trepidation.  Questions range from the typical stock price related question to business fundamentals, while other “questions” can border on the absurd.  Given the current environment, I thought I would share some tactics on improving retail shareholder relations.


1. Know the Audience by Building a Database

In investor relations, sometimes it is difficult to know retail shareholders. I have found that one of the easiest ways to get to know them is by attaching a link on a company press release to an online sign-up form (double opt-in) that automatically stores their information in a database or company website.  I then focus on building this opt-in list through a variety of additional methods so that I can engage it for on-going communications.
 

2. Communicate Frequently (Listen & Respond)

Sending an email following a conference call or investor conference presentation and thanking people for participating can enhance loyalty.  Investing is often a solitary experience, and returning calls promptly will help distinguish a company’s IR program from others.
 

3. Provide Easy-to-Digest Information

When I receive calls from individual investors, I’m sometimes surprised by their lack of knowledge of the company they put their hard earned money into.  Maybe they just got a tip from somewhere or someone, but I have found that many investors have not even listened to a readily available webcast or read a quarterly or annual report.  To solve this problem, we have found that it’s quite helpful to ultilize the power of video to provide a company overview.
 

4. Solicit Feedback

Encouraging investors (who otherwise might not be as vocal) to share their thoughts through an online survey can be an effective way to understand how a majority of retail investors think and feel about a company and its management team.

While there are a host of additional methods a company can employ to improve its relationship with retail investors, the ultimate goal is understanding how to communicate effectively with shareholders.  After all, the more Mr. Market knows, perhaps the less fickle he will be.  Please feel free to contact me at msheldon@pondel.com for more information about communicating with retail investors.

 

– Matt Sheldon, msheldon@pondel.com
 
 

Time to Rethink Disclosure Policies

Swatch watch


Image by cbcastro via Flickr

I recently read that a U.S. District court in Manhattan threw out a motion to dismiss a case in which accused Bloomberg of improperly recording a February 2011 earnings conference call and providing a transcript of that call to Bloomberg users. 
 
Since I’m not a lawyer by trade, I won’t argue whether the judge was justified in his decision based on copyright law.  However, as an investor relations professional with nearly two decades of experience, I will argue the validity of Bloomberg’s belief that “… if a public company discloses financial performance information to a select group of analysts, that company has a responsibility to be transparent and provide that information to everyone.”
 
Cursory research did not turn up a copy of the transcript in question on either StreetEvents or Seeking Alpha, so I have to assume that Swatch Group chooses not to make its conference calls available to the investing public (although they do provide substantial detail about the numbers on their website).  In fairness, I don’t know how Swatch notifies investors of its earnings calls, and maybe they are more forthcoming than I believe them to be, but it seems to me that every public company has a fiduciary responsibility to update everyone, from the largest institutional investor to the smallest shareholder on Main Street, at the same time.  Perhaps it’s time for Swatch to rethink its disclosure policies.

 

– Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com