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It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your IR program is?

Investor Relations

Investor Relations (source)

I’m not really asking where your IR program is in the geographic sense of the word.  I’m asking where your IR program is in terms of effectiveness.  Every once in a while, it’s good to take a step back and evaluate whether your strategies and tactics are still productive.
 
A recent webcast, based on a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters, demonstrated that in today’s world of “risk aversion, macro dominance, reduced focus on active equity and equity fund outflows,” getting your story heard can be very challenging.  An article in CFO Magazine echoed the sentiment that “the rockiness of the equity markets and the prevalence of high-frequency trading and exchange-traded funds make cultivating the investor base tougher than ever.”
 
Are you doing the right things to be appropriately noticed by the investment community?  Respondents from the Thomson Reuters survey noted that knowledge of the business and ability to answer questions, responsiveness and timelines, and financial guidance are among the most important facets of a good investor relations program.  Interestingly, however, a separate survey conducted by the National Investor Relations Institute showed that the number of companies providing financial guidance has steadily declined over the last several years, with 76 percent of companies providing financial guidance in 2012, compared with 81 percent in 2010 and 85 percent in 2009.
 
While there will never be full agreement between the investment community and listed companies on providing guidance, and while every investor relations program is unique, there are a few things that all IROs should consider:
 

  • Build trust with the investment community through consistency, transparency and willingness to engage.
  • Take an individualized, targeted and precise approach to identifying appropriate investors.  Spend time with these prospective investors through one-on-one meetings, at conferences or by hosting site visits and investor days.  Stress quality over quantity.
  • Ensure your messages help the investment community understand your growth path and its trajectory.
  • Use business and financial press as an additional communications vehicle.  Include video in press releases and on your IR website to generate better engagement by making your story come to life.
  • Be aware of what’s being said about your company via social media, and strategically use social media to deliver your messages.
  • While any worthwhile activity generally requires time and patience, the long-term result should be enhanced shareholder value.

 

Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com
 
 

Dear Abby: Why do IROs shun social media?

Dear Abby star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

‘Dear Abby’ Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Photo Credit: wikipedia.com)

Social media have been a part of our lives long before the advent of the Internet.  When our ancestors used ochre, hematite, charcoal and other materials to paint their triumphs and tragedies on cave walls and ceilings, they were engaging in social media.
 
When ancient Egyptians carved elaborate scenes on vases, amulets and pots, they were engaging in social media.
 
And when Pauline Phillips established her “Dear Abby” advice column in 1956, she was engaging in social media.
 
Media have always been social.  The difference today is that the Internet speeds up the dissemination of information, which is often repurposed and then dubbed “social” when it’s tweeted or published on a blog, YouTube or Facebook.   The challenge for professional communicators is harnessing the speed and power of the Internet to communicate effectively.
 
In the investor relations world, many professionals do not believe that today’s social media outlets establish effective lines of communication.  The proof:  84 percent of IROs do not use social media to communicate with their constituents, according to a Thomson Reuters survey due out this week.
 
I understand that IR folks, including myself, are more cautious about embracing social media because so many of the facts and figures we work with require adherence to strict disclosure procedures.   But that shouldn’t stop us from tapping into social media for other purposes, including the reinforcement of messaging and establishing dialogue with customers, shareholders and even employees.
 
As communications professionals, it serves in our best interest to understand how social media can be utilized to communicate more effectively with different audiences.  For example, London-based Derwent Capital runs a hedge fund that relies on Twitter for investment direction. StockTwits, which my colleague, Matt Sheldon, wrote about nearly six months ago, continues to garner more credibility in investor circles.
 
The bottom line is that human civilization has come a long way since relying on granite, clay and, yes, newsprint, to facilitate the flow of information.  Don’t you think it’s about time that IROs do the same?

 

Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com