Celebrating Achievement with Grace

CNBC.com, on February 17, published a growth story about the best performing stock in the past 30 years. It wasn’t Apple, Tesla, Google or any of those mega tech companies that might at first come to mind.

The best performing stock for the past three decades, according to CNBC and others, happens to be one of our longtime client companies that we proudly have represented for all those years.

Those who know us recognize that we, as with this client, are humble, hard-working, and not into self-promotion or bragging. After all, we haven’t even written the company’s name in this blog yet.

Nevertheless, in a world where accomplishments are celebrated and recognition is sought after, the concept of bragging rights sometimes is warranted. In this case, it’s more about our client and acknowledging achievement … a nod to success without crossing the line into boastful hyperbole.

Over the years, we adapted to our client’s ascent, strategically advising the company as it grew from a microcap issuer with a U.S. retail investor base, to a global, large-cap giant, attracting prestigious institutions and many sell-side analysts. Tactically today, we are still issuing their press releases, hosting investor days, serving as point-of-contact for the investment community and news media, and advising on messaging for M&A and a host of sensitive, sometimes complex corporate matters.

Admittedly, we are bragging that our organization has been part of some of our client’s success on Wall Street. But we are boasting with the intention of embracing this opportunity to uplift and inspire. The well-deserved success our client has achieved reflects talented leadership and unwavering dedication to innovation and quality, while always keeping egos in check and having a sense of gratitude.

We are proud to embrace bragging rights like a badge of honor—not as a tool for self-aggrandizement, but as a symbol of hard-earned success, as we congratulate Monster Beverage Corp., along with our colleagues behind the scenes at PondelWilkinson. 

Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com

Judy Lin, jlin@pondel.com

Samantha Campos-Esquivel Receives the 2024 Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship

First-year USC graduate student and full-time media strategist, Samantha Campos-Esquivel, is the latest recipient of the Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship.

We recently had the distinct pleasure of meeting with Samantha Campos-Esquivel, a graduate student at USC who has been selected as the recipient of the 2024 Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship.

Bestowed annually over the last 15 years, the scholarship celebrates exceptional first-year graduate students at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism who exhibit a profound passion for public relations or investor relations.

Samantha is a true embodiment of dedication and determination, pursuing her master’s degree in public relations and advertising, while simultaneously excelling as a full-time strategist at Horizon Media, a full-service media agency.

“I look forward to creating meaningful change in this line of work and showcasing my love for storytelling and this industry,” said Campos-Esquivel. “Studying at USC Annenberg has been a dream, and in these past few months, I have felt the impact and magic that a program like this has to offer. It is an honor to receive the Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship and to have the support of tenured firms like PondelWilkinson in fulfilling this dream.”

Born and raised within the vibrant cultural tapestry of Los Angeles, Samantha developed a profound appreciation for the art of storytelling, particularly within the realms of music, cinema and television. Driven by her love for storytelling, Samantha found her calling in brand strategy and public relations. Beyond her professional and academic pursuits, Samantha is an enthusiastic explorer of diverse narratives, constantly seeking out new literary works, TV series and music that inspire and captivate her.

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Samantha for this well-deserved recognition and for her dedication and commitment as she navigates the demands of both academia and the professional world.

Natalie Mu, nmu@pondel.com

Is the IPO Market Heating Up? 5 Tips Before Going Public

It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen a robust IPO market. According to Stock Analysis, the best year for IPOs in the last two decades was 2021, with 1,035 new issues. That’s more than twice the next best year (2020) when there were 480. Thus far in 2023, there have been less than 150.

Although the IPO market has cooled considerably, those companies that have braved the public markets over the last few years appear to be doing well, at least according to the only ETF focused exclusively on the IPO market. The Renaissance IPO Index (ticker: IPO), which tracks more than 60 IPOs in their first three years of trading, is up 28.4% year-to-date, outpacing the S&P 500, which is up about 17% this year.

Anecdotally, we’ve been hearing from bankers, lawyers, accountants and other service providers, that the IPO market is poised to heat up in the first half of 2024, and as a result, they are gearing up for a strong (or at least stronger) year ahead. The number of new issues may not reach 2021 levels, but consensus is that we should see more activity than in 2023.

At the same time, there have been several planned IPOs in 2023 that did not make it to market, and general sentiment seems to be that we shouldn’t expect a major spark for the remainder of this year. CNBC recently reported that poor performance for stocks in October and higher-for-longer interest rates are among the reasons many IPO candidates are rethinking or delaying their debuts. As told by Reuters, the CEO of French Automaker, Renault, said that it will not go forward with an IPO for the company’s electric vehicle unit if the valuation is too low. His exact quote was, “We are not crazy.”

While it’s nearly impossible to accurately predict where the IPO market, and the capital markets in general are headed, it’s always a good idea to make sure your company is prepared for when the time is right. If you are a company looking to go public, here are some high-level suggestions to ponder:

  • Ensure that you have a good story to tell. For the most part, growing revenues and profitability will attract investor interest, but you’ll need to put together strong talking points that show what you’ve accomplished thus far, and why those accomplishments will serve you well going forward.
  • Interview several investment banks before you decide on which one, or ones, will represent you in an IPO. Do they have strong institutional coverage, or is their focus on retail investors? Is there an analyst who covers your sector that can pick up coverage of your stock once your deal is complete?
  • Now may not be the right time for your company to test the market. Investment banks have been around for a very, very long time, and most have a fairly good track record on valuing companies. If a bank tells you they don’t think they can get a deal done at the valuation you’re seeking, take stock and mull all options.
  • Make sure you have a strong management team that is knowledgeable and prepared to work around the clock to get a deal done. Multiple SEC filings will have to be made, conversations with attorneys will be plentiful, and roadshows, whether virtual or in-person, will take time, preparation and grit.
  • Surround yourself with experts. In addition to bankers and attorneys, you may want to consider hiring an IR firm, who can help navigate what is a complex process, both during the IPO and after you are publicly traded. Do you have a solid presentation so that your story will resonate with potential investors? Have you gone through presentation and media training? Do you understand Reg FD and the rules and regulations of being a public company?

Going public can be extremely rewarding. It can provide access to capital to help grow your company. It can introduce you to tons of interesting and smart people. It can provide a platform to tell a growing number of people about why your company can make a difference. But, it is not a decision to be entered into lightly, so make sure you examine any consideration that may come up, so that you’re more than ready for the bright lights of public company stardom.

Laurie Berman, lberman@poondel.com and Chris Casacchia, ccasacchia@pondel.com

Maximizing Investor Relations Outreach with SEO: Guidelines to Navigate the Digital Landscape

As publicly traded companies strive to expand their outreach and attract potential investors – particularly retail investors – a comprehensive and strategic approach to online presence through SEO (search engine optimization) is increasingly becoming part of the communications mix.

By its simplest definition, SEO is the process of enhancing visibility on search engine results pages for a website or brand through organic (non-paid) means. By optimizing various SEO elements, such as content, keywords, meta tags and backlinks, businesses can improve their online rankings, making it easier for investors and other stakeholders to find relevant information about the company.

An essential aspect of SEO is keyword research. Identifying the right keywords – which are words or phrases frequently searched for by potential investors – allows companies to tailor their content to match those specific queries. By aligning content with relevant keywords, businesses can create informative and investor-focused materials that cater directly to their target audiences.

Institutional and retail investors are more likely today to turn to the Internet first for research before making investment decisions. A robust SEO strategy ensures that a company’s information is readily available and easily accessible to potential investors.

By providing accurate and up-to-date content, and, of course, keeping Reg FD in mind, companies can effectively communicate their financial performance, growth strategies and vision. Moreover, a user-friendly website with well-organized information can foster a positive impression of the company, thus increasing the likelihood of investors exploring further.

A robust, prominent online presence is not only about providing information to existing stockholders but also about attracting new ones. When potential investors search for companies within their investment interests, SEO-optimized websites have a better chance of appearing higher in search results. For example, appearing on the first page of search results establishes credibility, authority and attention, increasing the likelihood of potential investors viewing the company as a reputable investment opportunity.

SEO Techniques

High-quality and informative content is the backbone of any successful SEO strategy. In the context of investor relations, content must be tailored to address the needs and interests of investors. This starts with crafting engaging annual report letters, professionally written press releases and blogs that highlight the company’s achievements and prospects. With the help of an SEO specialist, by integrating relevant keywords strategically into this content, search engines will recognize value and rank it higher in search results.

With the reliance investors place on mobile devices, companies must ensure that their websites are mobile-friendly. A website that is easily navigable on various devices enhances the user experience and attracts broader audiences. Search engines also prioritize mobile-friendly websites, which can positively impact a company’s SEO rankings.

Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are links from other websites that lead back to a company’s website. Search engines perceive backlinks as votes of confidence and authority. When reputable and relevant websites link to a company’s website, it signals to search engines that the content is valuable and reliable. As a result, the website is likely to receive a higher rank in search results, leading to increased visibility among potential investors.

Measuring Success

To gauge the effectiveness of an SEO strategy, companies should monitor relevant key performance indicators. These may include organic website traffic, keyword rankings, bounce rates and conversion rates. By analyzing these metrics, businesses can identify what aspects of their SEO efforts are working well and which areas require improvement.

Garnering attention from prospective investors, be they individuals or institutions, is never easy. A well-executed SEO strategy represents one more tactic to improves a company’s search engine rankings by strengthening its communication channels, which, in turn, lead to more prosperous and sustainable relationships and results.

Diego Lievanos, Digital Content Strategist

Contact investor@pondel.com for more information on deploying SEO for investor relations.

Overcoming Challenges: The Path to Successful ESG Program Implementation

While the adoption of environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs is becoming increasingly important for building a sustainable future, implementing such initiatives does not come without its challenges. Cost, ROI, engagement and clear messaging are just a few of the many factors to consider when it comes to corporate sustainability.

Below are some common concerns with commonsense solutions that may help companies better prepare for ESG deployment.

  • Capital allocation: Investing in and implementing ESG initiatives may require significant financing, which can be a hurdle for some companies, especially smaller organizations with limited resources. Not all ESG programs are costly, however. Starting slow and building a longer-term strategy over 2-3 years is good practice. It could be something simple, such as reducing a company’s carbon footprint by using energy-efficient lighting or adopting a hybrid workplace.
  • Complexity and measurement: Determining the right indicators, collecting reliable data and establishing standardized frameworks can be arduous. Companies can overcome this challenge by leveraging emerging technologies, collaborating with industry peers and engaging with ESG consultants and experts to ensure accurate and transparent reporting.
  • Benchmarking: It is important that organizations perform in a manner to maintain their performance, and at the same time, mitigate risk and capitalize on the potential benefits of sustainable business practices. Falling behind on these initiatives may lead to missed business opportunities. A good rule of thumb is to set realistic, achievable goals aside from regulatory obligations.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Balancing the diverse expectations of multiple audiences can be very demanding. Companies can use existing technologies to set up open communication channels with each of its targeted communities, from employees and investors to customers and suppliers. Social platforms can be used to garner support and to ensure that ESG programs align with stakeholder needs.
  • Integration and alignment: ESG programs often require changes to organizational structures, investment decisions and risk management practices. Since companies are constantly evolving, meaningful ESG practices can slowly and strategically be integrated into existing operations. What’s needed are leadership commitment, employee education and training and clear ESG goals that align with the company’s mission and values.
  • Regulatory environment: Compliance with multiple reporting frameworks and keeping up with varying regulatory and local jurisdictions often can lead to uncertainty. Engaging with policymakers, industry associations and subject matter experts can help companies stay informed and adapt their ESG programs to meet evolving requirements.

Today’s business and social climate are having a trickle-down effect on ESG. Large organizations, for example, are requiring smaller companies to adhere to ESG criteria as part of their global supply chains. Moreover, a growing number of institutional investors will not invest in companies without an ESG program in place.

Lack of standardization, inconsistent data quality and subjectivity are adding to the confusion when it comes to ESG. As a result, Bloomberg predicts more ESG-related shareholder lawsuits this year, which was highlighted in a recent Morgan Lewis webinar.  

Studies suggest that those companies embracing ESG will be competitive leaders and drive long-term value creation. ESG is not as complicated as it may appear. Deploying a program that does good – without breaking the proverbial bank – not only enhances brand reputation, but also will be well received among investors.

George Medici, gmedici@pondel.com

5 Common Misperceptions About Investor Relations

The age of myths, misperceptions and even dis-information is upon us, often pumped through the echo chambers of news media, social platforms and podcasts. The investor relations sector is not immune, with reality and perception not always being aligned. To help clarify any confusion, below are five common misperceptions.  

  1. Performance alone will impact stock price. Performance is just one of several factors that affect valuation. While a company’s financials are critical on Wall Street, that narrative must be conveyed professionally to investors and analysts, we well as to the business press. Gaining the right attention does not happen by itself and is another critical building block in attracting and retaining investor interest and ultimately enhancing valuation.
  2. The primary goal of a public company is to serve its customers. While serving the customer well usually leads to great financial performance, management teams and their boards should never lose sight of their primary mission, namely, serving the shareholders through enhancing value. Under federal law, corporate directors have a fiduciary duty to make decisions in the “best interests” of the shareholders, not customers, and to supervise management teams to make sure that happens.
  3. Share price is the only measure of true success. While share price is certainly an important metric – and perhaps the most important in shareholders’ minds – there are other factors that contribute to a company’s overall success, including revenue growth and profitability. Additionally, a company may have a strong underlying business but experience short-term fluctuations in share price due to external factors beyond its control.
  4. ESG is really not that important. While investors seek shareholder value principally through a company’s financial performance, environmental/social/governance (ESG) initiatives are becoming increasingly important to investors. According to PwC’s Asset and Wealth Management Revolution 2022 report, fund managers are expected to increase their ownership in ESG-focused companies to $33.9 trillion globally by the end of 2026, up from $18.4 trillion in 2021. Ownership of ESG-focused companies is on pace to represent 21.5% of total assets under management globally in less than five years.
  5. Investor relations is only about talking to investors and enhancing valuation. While investor relations is not listed in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a simple Web search will reveal myriad definitions, far too many to list here. In reality, investor relations goes way beyond communicating with investors and enhancing valuation. Conveying a company’s mission and objectives, adhering to full disclosure, communicating transparently to multiple audiences and fostering sound media relations are just a few of the many areas that support a comprehensive, professionally managed IR program.

Chris Casacchia, ccasacchia@pondelwilkinson.com

PondelWilkinson Profiles: Janet Simmons

Every company has that one person who is the “glue” that keeps everyone and everything running smoothly. Janet Simmons is that person at PondelWilkinson. Entering her 15th year at the firm, we asked the Los Angeles native some questions about her professional and personal life as part of our ongoing Q&A series. 

What was your first job?

It was with Bell Industries, working at their manufacturing facility in Burbank. I started out on the plant floor and ended up in the front office, working with the CEO and CFO on corporate communications and administrative matters. Stayed there for 34 years.  

Janet Simmons with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

How long have you been in the industry?

The last 15 years of my career have been with PondelWilkinson. I joined the firm right after I left Bell Industries, which ironically was one of PondelWilkinson’s first investor relations clients. I already knew and loved everyone at the firm, so the transition was seamless. 

If you had to pick one word to describe what you do, what would it be?

Variety. I cover everything … from administrative duties to preparing quarterly analytical reports for clients, issuing press releases, updating websites and more. 

What is your favorite part about your job? 

I would have to say it’s interacting with people. I enjoy working with everyone at PondelWilkinson and with our clients. Even though we are working remotely these days, we always find time to stay connected and enjoy a laugh or two. 

What is your least favorite part about your job?

That’s a tough one. I really enjoy all that I do here, but I’m not a big fan of tight deadlines. I know it’s part of the job, but short turnarounds can be very stressful at times. 

What do you like to do for fun?

I love gardening, hiking and going out with friends.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done?

My husband and I recently went on a “Jeep safari” in Moab, Utah. While navigating the Hells Revenge trail, we started to climb a super-steep Lion’s Back, when I jumped out of the moving car and walked back down the hill. I don’t know about being the weirdest, but it definitely wasn’t the smartest thing I ever did. 

What’s something that recently made you smile?

The other day I noticed a squirrel in my backyard trying to get my attention. He was looking at me through my kitchen window, as if to say, “Hey, the bowl is empty, are you going to fill it?” I literally laughed out loud because the squirrel was so animated. Needless to say, I filled the bowl with food, smiling the entire time. 

What’s next on your bucket list?

Washington, D.C. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?

That would have to be from my dad, who often said, “Better to be early than late.” Simple advice, but something I live by in everything I do. 

— Shannon Clemons, sclemons@pondel.com

PondelWilkinson Profiles: Laurie Berman 

PondelWilkinson’s investor relations teams play an important role helping publicly traded companies position themselves to Wall Street. We caught up with Laurie Berman, the firm’s managing director, who shared more about her IR work, personal life and some of the factors that have influenced her career.  

What was your first job?  

My very first job was at a snack bar in a roller-skating rink. Professionally, my first job out of college was working at Institutional Investor magazine in their sponsored conference division.

Laurie Berman, PondelWilkinson’s managing director, pictured with her loving dog, Mishka, as they enjoy the Los Angeles sun.

How long have you been in the industry?  

I’ve been practicing investor relations for almost 30 years (I guess I started when I was still in diapers).

If you had to pick one word to describe what you do, what would it be?  

Fast-paced (that’s one word, right?).

What is your favorite part about your job?  

I love storytelling. It’s so important to be able to find the right words to describe a company and its strategy.

What is your least favorite part about your job?  

Deadlines. Although I work great under pressure, it’s sometimes tough to juggle multiple deadlines at the same time. I’m proud to say I’ve never missed an important one.

What do you like to do for fun?  

I love sports (the spectator kind).  Right now I’m very into football and I am a rabid fan for my NY Giants.  Baseball is also a love of mine, but I switched my allegiance from the NY Mets to the Los Angeles Dodgers when I moved to Los Angeles more than 20 years ago.  I still do root pretty hard the New York teams of my childhood.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done?  

I allowed a very persistent relative to convince me to go on a date with someone I briefly dated five years before (it didn’t work out at the time). We’ve now been married for almost 26 years, and that relative was a flower girl at my wedding (she was in her 50s at the time).

What’s something that recently made you smile?  

A few months ago, we rescued an 8-year-old dog with vision problems. She makes me smile all of the time because she’s such a goofball.

What’s next on your bucket list?  

Aside from winning the lottery? I’d love to take an extended vacation through Europe.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?  

Not so much advice, but something I try to take to heart. “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

— Shannon Clemons, sclemons@pondel.com