As the New Year Rolls In, So Do the Prognosticators

It probably happens every year, but I cannot recall a time when so many pundits had so many opinions on how the market will perform in 2023. The funniest headline about the market’s near-term future was JP Morgan’s, “The End of the Affair.” It probably was written to catch attention, and in my opinion would have been more appropriate a year ago, referring to the bull market prior to last year’s downturn.

How do you think the market will perform in 2023?

Many of the headlines about the new year are positive and include such language as:

  • “Three Scenarios that Could Surprise Markets (on the upside) in 2023”
  • “Is a Stock Rebound in the Cards?”
  • “Inflation will Crash Much Faster than Expected”
  • “Comeback for Fixed Income”
  • “Economy will Avert Deep Recession”
  • “Fed Pivot Could Push Stocks Up by End of Year”
  • “Second Half of Year will be Up, Up and Away”
  • “S&P will Soar at Least 20%, Nasdaq at Least 30%”
  • “Fed will Pause Rate Hikes Sooner than Everyone Thinks”
  • “The Stock Market will have an Excellent Year”

But there also are naysayers:

  • “Wall Street, Meet Mud”
  • “A Strange Day is Coming to America”
  • “More rate hikes are coming”
  • “Stocks will continue their lows in 2023”
  • “Continued Volatility Ahead”
  • “Markets May Continue to Face Choppiness”
  • “Challenges Abound for Dow”
  • “A Stock Market Crash in 2023”
  • “Millionaires Predict the Market Will Get Much Worse”

With so many divergent views, what’s an investor or issuer to think, or more importantly, to do? Who should be believed?

I just counted the number of bullet points above, and there was one more positive than negative. A good sign, although I am not an analyst and my research was cursory at best. However, the sources are good and professional.

If you really want a forecast for 2023, you could always flip a coin.

Friederike Fabritius and Hans Hagemann wrote in in their book, The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, and Happier, that if you’re satisfied or relieved by a decision the coin made for you, then go with it. On the other hand, if the coin toss leaves you uneasy, then go with the other choice instead. “Your ‘gut feeling’ alerted you to the right choice,” they wrote.

So please, flip a coin if you will, but at least think positive thoughts. Good luck, and have a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.

Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com

5 Unconventional Reasons Why Hire a Public Relations Firm

Different sized companies, private or public, have varying needs when it comes to corporate communications. Whether it is to help message a crisis, improve shareholder value or build brand awareness, engaging a public relations firm may often seem like a no brainer.

It’s also important for any organization to look beyond the obvious to assess opportunities or even threats that may impact business goals. Think of it like a self-tune up that asks the fundamental questions, “What if …” and “What can we be doing better?”

Most small and middle market companies do not have their own communications departments able to perform self-assessments. Using an outside firm may be a good alternative, which also can provide a unique, objective perspective on existing strategies.

As organizations plan for 2023 and beyond, it may be worthwhile to consider these five unconventional reasons for engaging a corporate pr agency:

  • Perception doesn’t match up with company’s values. Media and investor audits, as well as customer and employee surveys, can be very helpful in gauging sentiment. Using a pr agency as facilitator is ideal for determining unbiased feedback that can be translated into effective communications programs.
  • Can’t tell the bigger story. Today’s CEOs, CFOs and CMOs must navigate myriad landscapes that have their own unique sets of challenges. Clearly defining target audiences from Main Street to Wall Street will help ensure message delivery. However, knowing what to say, when and how to say it will move the proverbial needle.
  • Too busy. Organizations have great ideas but don’t always have the bandwidth to successfully implement communications campaigns. While finding a good firm may take some extra time, consider one that can do the “heavy lifting” and free up internal marketing and investor relations resources.
  • Don’t hear the word “no” very often. While a communications firm should be an advocate and supporter of a company’s vison, it is important that the pr firm does not drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. A heathy debate on strategy and tactics will always yield better results.
  • You got this. Like most corporations, good public relations firms, too, should always be learning. We need to be aware of new technologies and strategies, as well as stay up to speed on latest marketing and communications platforms that are constantly evolving. Select a firm that can add both tangible and intangible value to any company, brand or organization beyond its internal capabilities.

Establishing or enhancing share of voice can be a monumental task for any sized organization in today’s crowded, very noisy marketplace. All that’s needed is the right public relations firm with the savvy to develop a cogent strategic approach, mixed in with good ole’ fashioned “out of the box” thinking.

George Medici, gmedici@pondel.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

Hitting The Ground Running: An Intern’s Perspective

When I first interviewed for PondelWilkinson’s internship program earlier this summer, I was told that it would be a hands-on and immersive experience. I nodded politely and expressed my interest. I laid out what I had done at school, which I thought made me capable. While I was not completely wrong in my “qualifications,” I learned fast that the real world cannot be taught.

On one of my first days, I was tasked with writing a pitch letter for a client’s new product launch. Easy enough, I did this in class, I thought to myself. So, I found my old professor’s template and went ahead to write an email pitch. I polished it up and sent it along to my supervisor expecting minor feedback. I was not expecting the entire letter to be edited and rewritten. Oh, this is not like school.

As the internship went on, I was tasked with more pitch letters, calls to reporters, and updates for clients. I was not getting the perfect latte ready or organizing file cabinets (although the internship was virtual so that would have been hard to do). I was acting as an associate on client accounts, working behind the scenes.

One element that took some time adjusting was the virtual format. While there are many positives for working remotely, including the flexibility of making my own schedule, there are downsides as well, particularly learning each other’s “schedule” when there is no real office. I am happy to report that the teamwork aspect was not lost. I also got to work alongside my fellow intern where we helped each other on projects and still felt connected, even if she lives in Pennsylvania and I in Maine.

Below are a few tips for new interns on what I found to be successful when transitioning from class to an internship:

Organization. In school I always had a planner where I would write down what I had to do, and then cross it off as it got done. This worked well for my internship, too. I would write down client activities planned for the week and then begin by checking them off once completed. This made me feel productive and helped keep what I was doing organized. What differs from school is there might be urgent items that come in at random times. While school and class have a schedule, the business world does not. What I think I might do during the day could completely change. You must stay on your toes but keep organized while doing so.

Communication. I admit it. I am the student who annoys the professor with emails to make sure I am doing the right thing. I have learned that communication looks a little different in the workplace. A lot of the time management responsibility is left up to me. I must take ownership and trust myself and my work. The good news is there are no grades, and things can always be changed and edited. Communication is still important, but its purpose is to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Work hard, play hard. This is the mantra at my university. Students are expected to produce high quality work, but also relish their college experience. I think this phrase can still be applied to an internship but tweaked just a little. Working hard does not change. I always want to put my best foot forward and exceed expectations. To play hard in an internship, however, means taking a step back and enjoying the experience. I have been able to work with some cool clients who are doing eye-opening things, and also become friends with Lauren O’Neill who was not just “the other intern.”

While an internship is certainly not like school, there are qualities that can be applied to both. I have learned so much more about public relations, even if I have had great classes about it. George was not lying when he said this internship would be immersive, and I am so glad it has been.

Rachel Peterson


Rachel Peterson interned remotely at PondelWilkinson for the firm’s 2022 summer program. She is a student at Wake Forest University studying communication, integrated strategies, and film. When she’s not working or studying, Rachel enjoys going to the beach, watching the sunset, and dancing. After graduation, she hopes to put her skills to use in Vancouver or New York.

How I Thrived as a Liberal Arts Major Interning in the Business Sphere

In my three years as an undergraduate, I have never once taken a business course. So, you can imagine how I felt when, during my first week as an intern at PondelWilkinson, the conversation at the weekly staff meeting quickly turned to non-deal roadshows and corporate access. 

I have been studying as an English major, and I felt that my only skill was being able to edit papers and read quickly. I immediately doubted my abilities and thought I had made the wrong choice. 

But I was wrong. 

One of my first tasks was writing a pitch letter for an AI robotics company revolutionizing the culinary industry. After all the journalism classes I had taken, I thought I had this down. I knew about the catchy introduction, and the importance of making the story seem timely and relevant. The difference was this pitch letter would not be sitting on my computer in an endless list of documents. It would be sent to actual reporters.  

I quickly realized that writing the email was not something that could be done with the snap of my fingers. I needed to fully understand the client and spent a lot of time looking at press releases and news coverage. I also had to research reporters and their outlet perspectives, which helped ensure my pitch letter was reaching the right audience.

Suffice to say, my pitch generated media interest that resulted in a client Q&A published in an industry trade outlet. But it didn’t stop there. There were press releases, client strategy calls, social media programs and even SEO work, among many other of my day-to-day activities. Throughout it all, PondelWilkinson provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate the skills I acquired as a liberal arts major that were applied to corporate communications in the real world.

After constantly going through college, hearing “What are you going to do with an English degree,” I finally feel confident in my decision as PondelWilkinson provided me with the opportunity to do real and meaningful work.

Lauren O’Neill

Lauren O’Neill recently completed her internship at PondelWilkinson and is a rising senior at Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College majoring in writing and communications. 

How PR Can Support Micro Cap and Small Cap Companies

How-PR-Can-Support-MicroCap-and-SmallCap-Companies-Roger-Pondel-and-Shelly-Kraft-article-MCR-Q2-2022

Are the Traits of Exceptional CFOs any Different than Those of CEOs? 

According to a recent article at CFO.com, there isn’t much overlap.

In a blog I wrote a while back about effective CEOs, critical traits included: decisiveness, willingness to collaborate, being a doer, setting realistic expectations, insightfulness, innovative thinking and courage, among others.

While those are outstanding traits for any senior executive, what else specifically – other than hopefully having an affinity for math and knowledge of accounting – does it take to be a successful CFO?

  • Good communications skills. It’s one thing to know a company’s financials inside and out, but another thing altogether to use that data to tell a compelling story. It’s also crucial that CFOs appreciate the importance of clear and concise messaging to internal audiences to help key stakeholders understand the meaning behind the data.
  • Ability to analyze. Today, the amount of data generated is astronomical, but at face value likely doesn’t tell us much. A good CFO will be able to turn that data into actionable ideas that help move a company forward.
  • Love (or at least like) of technology. Is this really important if you’re not the head technology honcho?  Absolutely yes. CFOs hold responsibility for financial reporting, so understanding and choosing the right tech partner is paramount. It is also likely that CFOs will be asked to put their rubber stamps on technology that may not directly impact financial reporting but could impact other parts of the company … often significantly if that technology doesn’t work as expected.
  • Risk appreciation. The business environment has changed considerably since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it continues to change every day for a number of reasons. Good CFOs will assess risk/reward profiles before making decisions, whether financial or otherwise.
  • A world view outside of finance.While CFOs have a wide range of duties and expectations related to a company’s financials, the best CFOs have knowledge and opinions outside that narrow view, including being aware of the global environment and a company’s role within it.
  • Capacity to strategize and collaborate. It is readily apparent to me based on almost 30 years of working with executive teams, that the best CFOs partner with their CEOs to help achieve their company’s objectives. The old adage, “No man is an island” rings true.
  • Attention to social issues. ESG has become an increasingly important topic, particularly for publicly traded companies and the planet. CFOs need to understand how their companies operate within a greater construct. A company’s impact on the environment, for example, could have ramifications for that company’s ability to attract talent, customers and investors, not to mention the impact to the globe.

Robert Half, a leading provider of specialized talent solutions and business consulting, noted similar traits in its recent article, “How to Become a CFO: 5 Steps to Guide Your Career Path.” 

Essentially the same advice comes from the MIT Sloan School of Business CFO Summit Chair and CFO Leadership Council founder, Jack McCullough, who says that “A great CFO is a rockstar CFO.”

Gartner has some good advice as well. The research firm surveyed more than 100 CFOs around the world and found that great CFOs are customer-oriented, build constructive conversations with the CEO and board, apply financial leadership principles to time management, and are closely involved with the business.

Are there other important traits for effective CFOs not covered here?  Let us know if you can think of any.

Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com

Market Volatility Got You Stressed? Try Laughing … And That’s No Joke

Remember Henny Youngman? He was an American comedian, famous for his mastery of the one-liner, whose best-known quip was “Take my wife … please.”

Here’s another one-liner, not Youngman’s, but not bad, at a time when so many investors these days recalibrate their portfolios: My trusted wealth manager just started working on a retirement plan. He doesn’t know it yet, but unfortunately, it is his!

While having a good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments or make the stock market go up, a good laugh during stressful times can do positive things.

Take my wife, Fay, please. No! I mean listen to my wife, Fay, a psychotherapist who knows a thing or two about laughter and the positive things it can do.

“Laughing has great short-term effects on one’s mood, as well as on one’s body,” Fay told me over dinner the other night, on the day that the Dow dove more than 1,100 points. “Laughter stimulates the heart and lungs and increases endorphins. It decreases blood pressure, creates relaxed feelings and even improves the immune system.”

Thank you, Fay. While the stock market these days is no joke, there are many jokes to be found about it. These below may not be quite as funny as Youngman’s one-liners, and certainly rank very high on the cheesy factor, but hopefully will ease a little tension among those that follow the market as we all plow through these tenuous times:

  • How do you find a small-cap fund manager? You find a large-cap fund manager … and wait.
  • Enduring the current stock market decline is worse than a divorce. You lose half your money, but your spouse is still around.
  • Why are nudists bad for stocks? They are associated with bare markets.
  • I figured out the secret of how to make a million bucks in the stock market. Invest $2 million.
  • Recently, I started to invest heavily in penny stocks. It seemed to make a lot of cents.
  • My friend is smart, honorable, and exudes old-school charm and chivalry, but he hates the stock market. When I asked him why, he said, “Gentlemen prefer bonds.”
  • Why was a stock trader recently electrocuted? He shorted Tesla.
  • In the stock market today, Procter & Gamble, maker of Charmin tissue, touched a new bottom, and millions of investors were wiped clean

Gallup’s 2022 Economy and Personal Finance Survey, conducted in April, found that 58 percent of all Americans own stock. With the market declines we have been experiencing lately, that’s no laughing matter. But it does pay to laugh, at least a little.

Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com