IR Songs

OK, I admit that summertime and investor relations blogs have very little in common. And yes, most of the topics that surface on this blog are serious and may have ramifications for the livelihood of your communications strategy. However, one mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we are in the heart of summer and bringing a little levity to this so called investor relations world is healthy, especially before we head full bore into earnings season.

So, my question to you is this: If “Investor Relations” is the name of a band, what is a plausible name for its hit single? I suppose it would help if we also came up with a musical genre for the band, but I can’t even begin to imagine what Investor Relations would sound like musically. Obviously, money would be a dominant muse.

Following is a top-20 list of actual song titles that could have ostensibly been written by Investor Relations. If you have other suggestions, please post them on Twitter at #IRsongs and we will add them to the list.

  1. For the Love of Money – The O’Jays
  2. It’s All About the Benjamins – Puff Daddy
  3. Money – Pink Floyd
  4. San Francisco Bay Blues (references not having a nickel or a “lousy” dime) – Jesse Fuller
  5. If I Were a Rich Man – Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Block
  6. Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes – Paul Simon
  7. We’re in the Money – Al Dubin
  8. Greenback Dollar – Kingston Trio
  9. Nickel Bag of Funk – Digable Planets
  10. Luck Be a Lady – Frank Loesser
  11. Jack & Diane – John Cougar Mellencamp
  12. Like a Virgin – Madonna
  13. Money, Money, Money – Abba
  14. 99 Problems – Jay Z
  15. Chariots of Fire – Vangelis
  16. Ring Around the Rosie – Artist Unknown
  17. Pomp and Circumstance – Sir Edward Elgar
  18. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  19. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – The Beatles
  20. Back in Black – ACDC

Additional song titles posted on #IRsongs or submitted by blog readers:

  1. Price Tag – Jesse J
  2. She Works Hard for the Money – Donna Summer
  3. Material Girl – Madonna
  4. CREAM (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) – Wu-Tang
  5. Money (That’s What I want) – The Beatles (Barrett Strong)
  6. Money for Nothing – Dire Straits
  7. The Money Song – Monty Python

— Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com

Walk Down the Hall before Sending that Email

It’s no secret that the ability to write well, which typically equates to the ability to think well, is a fundamental skillset that goes a long way in many businesses and professions, certainly ours, whether the public relations or investor relations side of our practice.

The University of Chicago, however, revealed in a recent study, that no matter how well and in which medium writing is deployed—via email or text message, in a legal brief, or in our world, a press release—verbal communication is a far more powerful tool than the proverbial pen.

The study conducted by UCHI Professors Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder concluded that the same information that could be conveyed verbally comes off sounding less intelligent and convincing in writing, and that picking up the phone or walking down the hall to a colleague’s office, rather than sending an email, virtually always will be more effective.

The study, “The Sound of Intellect,” revealed that voice inflection and other vocal cues show that humans are “alive inside, thoughtful, active and (written) text strips that out.”

Even if precisely the same words that can be delivered verbally—in person, in a voice message or by video—are put into written form, the study showed that the verbal medium won hands down.

None of this means emailing and text messaging are going away. And as far as skillsets are concerned, solid writing still equates to sound thinking and still reigns supreme at firms such as ours. But the study does confirm that humanity is the real winner, and if there is a choice, perhaps think twice before pressing the send button.

-Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com

‘Wexting’ Etiquette

Text imageHard to believe that within the last two decades we’ve gone from a virtually email-less society to one that requires us to check an inbox every minute.  The weekend arrives and the flow of email that used to subside now beckons us relentlessly.

And just when you thought email was the end all be all for 24/7 engagement, texting in the workplace or “wexting” is becoming more commonplace.  In fact, a recent survey said that approximately one in seven millennials prefer text messaging compared with other forms of work-related communication.  And so, following is PondelWilkinson’s unofficial guide to wexting etiquette:

  • It may be difficult to resist, but avoid using emoticons at all costs.
  • Acronyms are extremely common in textville, and at the same time very confusing. Assume the recipients of your texts are acronym-illiterate and spell everything out.
  • Sign your texts with your first name. You may believe your officemate or client has your cell phone number programmed in their phone. Not so much. Sign your name, so you don’t have to send or receive the always embarrassing “who is this?” text.
  • Consider beginning your text with “Hi <insert name>”. Yes, this makes texting sound more formal, but it is much more pleasant in work-text situations than simply going full bore with “I need that press release today.”
  • Keep texts to five lines or less. If you need more space, send an email or pick up the phone.
  • Let the boss initiate the texting.   It is still somewhat of a more personal communication tool and better left for the boss to decide if it’s time to go there.
  • Spell check your texts and use proper punctuation.
  • Consider putting a bounceback on texts when you’re away from your phone more than a couple of hours. Texting requires even more immediacy than email, so better to have your guard up.
  • Make sure web addresses and phone numbers are hyperlinked.
  • Do not use all caps.
  • Turn off  notifications that you have “read” a text. If a wexter knows you have “read” his or her text and haven’t responded for hours, that wexter is gonna be annoyed.   Most iOS devices allow users to turn off receipts for iMessage.

— Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com

Scholarship Defines Firm’s Legacy

Cecilia Wilkinson, who died in 2006, was a founding member of PondelWilkinson Inc., having joined the predecessor firm following her graduation from the University of Southern California, and enjoying an illustrious investor relations and corporate public relations career that spanned 25 years.

A nationally renowned industry leader, Cecilia has been honored since 2007 with an endowed scholarship fund in her memory for graduate students at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

Dale

Dale Legaspi, recipient of the 2014 Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship, during a staff meeting at the offices of PondelWilkinson in Century City.

Each year, the Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a first-year strategic public relations graduate student with an interest in corporate/investor relations and reputation management.

We recently had the pleasure to meet this year’s recipient, Dale Legaspi, a graduate student at Annenberg, who is now studying to obtain a master’s degree and merge his professional communications experience with a new set of expanded capabilities.

“We are delighted to be able to continue Cecilia’s legacy by helping talented individuals such as Dale, who are pursuing advanced careers in our sector,” said Roger Pondel, the firm’s CEO since 1986, who worked with Cecilia for nearly her entire career. “We are uniquely positioned to mentor these students who are studying a specialization that encompasses traditional and social media, along with Wall Street and financial know-how, as we help tell our clients’ stories to key audiences, both on Main Street and Wall Street.”

Legaspi already has nearly a decade of professional experience, having worked at two boutique agencies and as a freelancer, representing a variety of companies across the technology industry, including mobile and wireless, carrier and enterprise networking, cloud, data center and security.

Wilkinson earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Annenberg, where she later taught undergraduate and graduate classes as an adjunct professor. She was honored with the school’s Distinguished Journalism Alumni award, served on the Board of Governors of the USC General Alumni Association, and was a former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

— George Medici, gmedici@pondel.com

Ad Tech’s Implications for PR and IR

1101110321_400Los Angeles is an epicenter for all things trendy, so it should come as no surprise that the City of Angels is also a hotbed for “Ad Tech” or advertising technology companies. Ad Tech has surfaced as a formidable force in the marketing world, enabling advertisers to slice and dice data to prognosticate trigger points for consumers.

Indeed, advertising and technology have long been consummate bedfellows, but does the rise of the ad tech industry have implications for PR and, perhaps even, IR worlds?

The metrics used in ad tech seem relatively objective, while the variables that factor into the success of PR and IR are often subjective. And yet, PR and IR firms are consistently asked to measure success. It is a conundrum that will likely continue to thwart PR and IR firms with greater frequency, as metrics from contiguous industries, such as ad tech, dominate the collective consciousness of the marketing world.

There are certain variables that PR and IR folks use to gauge success, including media coverage, the number of new analysts covering a company, and attracting new followers on Twitter and LinkedIn. But again, in the ad tech world there is usually a direct correlation between a successful advertising campaign and sales. This isn’t necessarily true for PR and IR.

What is true is that setting realistic expectations apply to all industries, and if you can present a program with achievable goals, it shouldn’t matter what the data say, as long as they support the expectations set forth at the beginning of an engagement.

–  Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com

Unblocking Writer’s Block

I enjoy blogging…really I do.  But sometimes, like now, I get writer’s block and can’t think of anything meaningful to say.  It’s frustrating, to say the least, but even worse when I’m staring at a blank screen trying to find the perfect opening sentence for an annual report shareholder letter, press release or earnings conference call script, especially when a client is awaiting my draft.Writer's Block 3

For someone who spends the majority of her day writing, writer’s block is like the kiss of death.  So it got me thinking about the best ways to unclog the brain.  A few ideas follow, but I’d love to hear your best advice in the comments section below.

  • Go for a walk, or just step away from your screen for a few minutes.  Focusing your mind on something other than putting pen to paper could free your mind and spur creativity.
  • Look at examples of work similar to what you need to write.  Sometimes seeing what someone else has done is enough to get that first word on a blank sheet of paper.
  • Brainstorm with colleagues.  Someone not as close to the task might come up with some good content to set you back on course.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Get that first draft going and worry about fine tuning it later.  Even those who have won writing awards don’t get it perfectly right the first time.  You’re in good company.
  • Try to understand why you’re blocked.  Purdue University recommends several “cures” for different types of writer’s block, including utilizing an outline to organize your thoughts.
  • In the words of John Steinbeck, as told by George Plimpton, “Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like.”  This may help take away the pressure you’re putting on yourself.

Well, twenty minutes later and my writer’s block appears to be gone.  All it took was following the advice of Barbara Kingsolver, a popular author who is slated to receive the Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award in October.  “Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.”

– Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com

Does it Pay to Go Public?

IPORecently, a client pointed me in the direction of a very interesting Inc. article about the case for staying private. The author is the CEO of a privately held, family-controlled tech business, one that has name cache. He notes that being a public company is expensive and time consuming. He also believes that “the most critical benefit of staying private is the facilitation of a true focus on long-term goals.”

It’s not hard to argue that Wall Street is increasingly focused on short-term results, but does that mean that management teams need to adopt the same mindset? Maybe it’s a naïve belief, but some would say that if the stock market is working as it should, a company’s share price will reflect the company’s true value over the long-term.

The New York Stock Exchange predicts a busy year for IPOs in 2014, with about 150 to 200 new issues expected. Reuters points to first quarter IPO activity of $47.2 billion, a nearly doubling from this time last year and “the strongest annual start for global IPOs since 2010.”

Clearly, there are CEOs who still believe in taking their companies public, many in the technology sector. Perhaps they are in it for a large personal pay day, but perhaps they realize that it could be easier and less expensive to raise capital to realize their growth plans. Or perhaps, their Fortune 500 client base requires audited financials as a condition for doing business together.

The decision to go public is not an easy one, and it’s a decision that every company must weigh very carefully. If you’re contemplating an IPO to become like Hooli, the fictional tech company featured in the new HBO series “Silicon Valley,” it may not be the right move. But if you’re doing it to build something that can have a lasting impact, it might just be. Just make sure you surround yourself with good advisors to ensure a smooth process.

— Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com

Beware ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

Focusing on con artists and greedy hucksters selling dreams that rarely come true, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is an entertaining, well-acted, comedic, and sadly, reasonably accurate film.
 
Although intensely exaggerated, the highly successful Hollywood extravaganza epitomizes the classic bucket shop investment bank, selling mostly worthless penny stocks via high pressure telephone solicitations, principally to unsuspecting individual investors, and tantalizing entrepreneurs who want to take their very small companies public.
 
From Charles Ponzi to Bernie Madoff, there is a long history of questionable behavior on Wall Street. The wolf, or rather wolves, never really left. In fact, the sordid creatures may be creeping back into the hood with the stock market’s stellar performance. According to one law firm, DLA Piper, even though 2013 saw the lowest number of SEC enforcement actions (68) in the past decade, word has it that this year and beyond, the SEC plans to bring record numbers of sanctions using new tools and resources.
 
In a bulletin to its clients and prospects, the law firm noted that whistleblower bounties and tips are on the rise and that the Dodd-Frank whistleblower bounty program is gaining steam, with informants potentially receiving as much as 30 percent of any monetary recoveries. On October 1 last year, the SEC awarded its largest bounty to date, $14 million, which itself may drive the number of tips higher in 2014.
 
Mid last year, the SEC’s enforcement unit announced it had formed the Financial Reporting and Audit Task Force, comprised of lawyers and accountants throughout the United States tasked with identifying issuer violations. This august group has a tool in its arsenal, affectionately known as RoboCop, which allows it to determine whether an issuer’s financial statements stick out from the pack. Other tools are supposedly in the works that will analyze text portions of annual reports for potentially misleading disclosures.
 
According to the bulletin, with the amount of new resources and tools the SEC is devoting to detecting financial reporting violations, an expectation is growing that the agency will bring a greater number of enforcement actions in the future. In June of last year, SEC Chair Mary Jo White said that in certain cases, the SEC will not settle unless the defendants admitted wrongdoing, so more companies, officers and directors may be testing the SEC’s allegations and legal positions by litigating and going to trial.
 
The largest number of enforcement actions in any one year during the past decade was 219 in 2007. We’ll see what happens in 2014. But wolves everywhere, beware.
 
— Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com

The Internship (at PW, not the movie)

Neelam

Neelam Phalke, Senior at the University of Southern California

The internship season is underway at companies throughout the nation. The eponymous movie has just been released.
 
And we are happy to introduce our very own 2013 summer intern–Neelam Phalke, a senior at the University of Southern California, majoring in biochemistry with a minor in business administration.
 
Neelam (pictured right) has been a lab technician, research assistant, tutor, student ambassador, president and public relations chair of the Trojan Chemistry Club. She currently is editor of the Undergraduate Science Journal.
 
For Neelam, a classic achiever who plans to earn an MBA as well as enter medical school, the internship represents yet another new learning experience, allowing her to explore the business world, concentrate on the firm’s healthcare sector clients, and extend her affinity for communications. For us, it was Neelam’s diverse background, combined with her communications skills, which placed her as our top choice.
 
Welcome, Neelam, and have a great summer.

 

Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com
 
 

Scroogenomics

Scroogenomics

Scroogenomics by Joel Waldfogel

It’s early December, so my annual nervous breakdown over shopping for friends and family is right on schedule.
 
What to buy?  How about gift cards for everyone?  Practical, but rather impersonal. That pretty much sums up my personality.
 
How about jewelry for my wife? Personal? Yes. Practical? Hardly. Really, aren’t 6,485 pairs of earrings enough?
 
Here’s an idea. How about nothing? Now, before you pass judgment there is actually some sound financial science behind this idea put forward recently by Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays.
 
Waldfogel isn’t some Grinch dumping lumps of coal into stockings, he is an economic guru as the chair of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. In a recent Time Magazine interview, Waldfogel says he objects to holiday spending because “it doesn’t result in very much satisfaction.”  Really? I still remember the electric football set I got when I was 8 years old. Of course, I can’t really remember any present since, so maybe Waldfogel is right.
 
Waldfogel elaborates further that, “Normally if I spend $50 on myself, I’ll only buy something if it’s worth at least $50 to me. But if you buy something for me, and you spend $50, since you don’t know what I like, and you don’t know what I have, you may buy something I wouldn’t pay anything for. And so you could turn the real resources required to make things into something of no value to me. And that would destroy value.”  Hmm, I wonder if that logic will work on my wife and kids?
 
Waldfogel does promote gifts cards, gift certificates and giving to charities as practical alternatives for the holiday season.  One gift Waldfogel probably wouldn’t mind people giving each other is a copy of his book.
 
In honor of Scrooge, I’ll wait for the paperback version.

 

Ron Neal, rneal@pondel.com