The Challenges and Value of Communicating with Your Board

June 21, 2013
by Janice Essick, Regional Manager, Business Wire/Florida
Janice Essick

Janice Essick

As a first timer at the North America NIRI conference held at one of South Florida’s premier venues, the Westin Diplomat, I was overwhelmed with the level of access to experienced, knowledgeable IR experts that were open to sharing their success stories throughout their career.   As an informational resource to our clients, I thought that this session would be mutually beneficial, as I could learn how IROs also act as an internal source of knowledge to their board and share some valuable insight.

Typically, the practice of corporate IR is generally outward-focused, but this discussion spoke about importance of how internal board communications play a key role in the success of the IRO.   The panel consisted of senior level management in various industries, both from the private sector and government contracted organizations.  They offered a wealth of knowledge and shared some interesting stories, as they answered questions asked by Moderator Natalie Hairston, Vice President of Investor Relations, Chief Governance Officer & Corporate Secretary, ENGlobal Corporation.

Excellent panel of experts:

Jeffrey L. Chastain, Vice President, Investor Relations & Corporate Communications
Noble Drilling Services, Inc.

Cynthia Clayton, Vice President, Investor Relations & Corporate Communications
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals

David Dragics, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations
CACI International

Top 10 valuable tips for communicating with your board shared by the above panelists:

  1. Be brief and share few details as to why the company is performing X% up or down.
  2. Use slide presentations to provide color and commentary for the executive summary.
  3. Send an agenda item request note to board 4 weeks before meeting to have them provide their input on topics.
  4. Be prepared to conduct IR 101 discussions to new board members to define buy/sell sides.
  5. IROs should know how the company is perceived on the street and be able to share these perceptions with the board.
  6. Bring the board up to speed to understand the broader perception of funds flow.  Do not share the minutia.
  7. Share press release announcements with the board.
  8. Explain to the board why investors act a certain way – not necessarily an industry explanation.
  9. If stocks are performing well, be prepared to answer more questions and reasons why by tapping into all resources.
  10. Be careful to invite investors to board meetings.  Find out their agenda first and then make sure management (IRO) is in attendance as well.   Or hold an investor dinner with the top ranking investors and have CEO host the event.

By the end of this discussion, the message was delivered loud and clear:

The IR’s constructive involvement with his or her board is essential in helping its members make decisions regarding strategic direction of the Company that will be supported by investors and strengthen investor confidence, particularly by reducing enterprise risk.


The Push and Pull of Social Media for Investor Relations

June 20, 2013
by Eric M. Bushkin, Senior Account Executive, Business Wire/Florida

There’s a popular old saying: “Save the best for last.” For me, that held true at this year’s NIRI National Conference at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, FL.

As many of our publicly traded partners know, the NIRI National Conference is THE event of the year for IROs to get together, network, learn about what’s new in the world of disclosure and meet companies that provide tools to help make the disclosure world a bit simpler.

It was an honor to be able to be a part of the Business Wire team at this year’s conference and as I looked over this year’s agenda, one particular event stood out in my mind: The last one. And it was all about social media.  The panel consisted of IR practitioners and investment professionals, and provided practical advice on using social media as an additive method of engagement.

The role of social media as a primary disclosure channel wasn’t really in debate – the group felt social media is not appropriate to break material news, but has many uses to help further engage and reach interested constituents.

Dennis Walsh, Vice President & Director, Social Media for Sharon Merrill Associates, did an excellent job on keeping the interactivity lively during the session, titled “Take the Wheel and Drive: Your Company’s Social Media Strategy”

As we learned very early on during this session, not many of us in investor relations are using social media at all as part of our day-to-day communications efforts.  If you’re saying, “I sure do not use social media” you certainly are not alone. In fact, according to a just-released NIRI survey, 72% of us working in investor relations have not even dipped our toes in the social media waters and remain on the side of the pool.

According to the survey, there are several reasons that IROs avoid social media:

  • Lack of investor demand
  •  Management doesn’t see value
  • Inability to control message
  • Lack of understanding on how to best utilize social media

For the minority of us that are engaging in social media, Twitter remains the most-utilized platform.  RJ Jones, investor relations officer at Zillow, provided an innovative and medium-appropriate approach to using social media and the impact it had on earnings questions fielded.  The Zillow team determines in advance which data they want to share via social media, and then creates short info-graphic like images to post during their earnings call.  They don’t live tweet their executive comments, but rather stick to pre-determined messages.  They field questions via their webcast as well as social media.  They pick up additional questions with their follow-up blog post.  A set of practical, manageable and measurable approaches to social media for investor relations amplifies their engagement.

At Business Wire, we’ve long provided a wide range of industry- and topic-specific Twitter channels that auto-tweet client news to financial bloggers, reporters and investors.  We also provide a wide range of channel-specific social media sharing tools on press releases and each piece of multimedia content.  We encourage IROs to understand the keywords, cashtags ($tickersymbol) and platforms that are most used by investors in your stock and industry.  Listening and sentiment tools are a good first start.  (Business Wire’s Social Media Landscape reports can be ordered as one-offs when you issue an earnings report to get a sense of the social impact of your material news.)  In addition, we encourage you to point to your official IR social media channels and step out how you use them – to field questions during calls, to tweet links to press releases and filings, etc.  Remember, consistency is crucial in any communications channel you adopt: Treat news – good or bad – equally in your communications efforts.

What other ways can IROs become more comfortable in getting our message out to the financial community through social channels? It may be a good idea to take a walk down your hall for a visit with your company’s public relations and marketing folks. Those departments have been utilizing social media with regularity for a very long time and certainly can convey some knowledge to help you make an impact and engage your specific audience.

This way, you can collaborate with those members of your communications team to ensure message continuity for all audiences. You’ll also learn ways to both push and pull information:

  • Pull by constantly monitoring a variety of social channels to see what conversations are happening around your company.
  • Push by having a regular program of output into those channels; both your own content and that of your investors and customers, by optimizing your news for search and by making it easy for readers to share your content.

Issuing a press release over Business Wire not only fulfills your disclosure requirements, but pushes your press release out to mainstream media and financial portals, as well as putting your news out on the web, so folks can search for your company and ultimately pull your information from search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Releasing your news to these two important — yet distinctively different – audiences is vital, since most of us are no longer at our offices in front of a desk for the majority of our work day. Mobile’s share of total pageviews is growing every day, and most analysts believe mobile devices are set to overtake desktop PCs as a dominant internet access platform. So we must be able to access news and be able to deliver our message any time of the day, regardless of where we are.

Once you become more and more comfortable using social media you will be able to implement this as part of your IR strategy. After all, 66% of companies already have a social media policy currently in place and it’s imperative that the IR team is adhering to it.

Judging by the attendance at the NIRI session, we have a strong desire to learn more about how best to apply social media in meaningful and compliant ways to investor relations. Always feel free to reach out to your local office at Business Wire so we can teach you some tips and best practices as it pertains to your financial news being released to the masses.

Follow Eric on Twitter for more of his insights on PR, IR and other topics.


The Four Reasons Why We Love Attending IR Conferences

June 6, 2013
by Michael Becker, Senior Vice President, Financial Product Strategy
Michael Becker

Michael Becker, SVP Financial Product Strategy

It’s our favorite time of the year at Business Wire: North American IR conference season. For non-IR community folks reading this post, you are assuredly thinking this guy (two thumbs pointed squarely at me) needs a life. And maybe I do, but allow me to briefly share why we love attending the CIRI and NIRI National conferences.

1) Keen Interest: Clients and prospects alike proactively seek us out and ask, “What new solutions has Business Wire launched this year?” It’s a great question and as a product strategist, one I relish greatly. We know and respect how busy IROs are throughout the year, so we appreciate the proactive nature of conference attendees. Additionally, not only do we get to share what’s new with you, we get to hear your thoughts on innovation, market trends, and product enhancements. A true win-win.

2) Intelligent Attendees: I attended my first NIRI National event in 1999 and I remember thinking, “These are some very sharp folks.” Full disclaimer: I was also very excited by the copious amounts of free sushi. (I was much younger . . .) Fourteen annual conferences later and I still feel the same way (about the attendees, not so much the sushi), which leads to my next point.

3) Sophisticated Products for a Sophisticated Community: This year at NIRI we’ll have experts on hand to discuss Business Wire’s cutting-edge InvestorHQ IR sites, social media monitoring, sentiment and visualization, and next-generation video production services. All new product lines that embody Business Wire’s core tenet to satisfy the distribution and measurement needs of a sophisticated user community.

4) The Intersection of Personal and Professional: As a local NIRI chapter board member and past-president, I am uber-fortunate to see local IR community members fairly frequently. However, as we all get older and invariably busier, the national conferences provide adequate time to learn together, smile and laugh with old and new friends alike, catch-up personally and professionally, share novel ideas and create new memories.

If you are attending the NIRI National conference, please do come by to say hello (Booth #403), take The Warren Buffett IR Trivia Challenge, attend our IR site Lunch and Learn on Tuesday and, of course, remember to ask Business Wire, “What’s new?”

Travel safely!

Take the Warren Buffett IR Trivia Challenge at NIRI 2013 and be entered to win an Apple iPad 3!


REMINDER: US Stock Exchanges Closed Monday, May 27

May 24, 2013

Please be aware that the U.S. exchanges (NYSE/NYSE MKT, NASDAQ, OTCBB, Pink Sheets) will be closed on Monday, May 27  in observance of Memorial Day.

Calendar of US Federal Holidays:
http://www.opm.gov/Operating_Status_Schedules/fedhol/2013.asp

NYSE Holiday Calendar:
http://corporate.nyx.com/en/holidays-and-hours/nyse

The following are some numbers that may be of assistance:Dow Jones: 212.416.2000

Reuters: 646.223.6000
Bloomberg: 212.617.2300US SEC Branch of EDGAR Filer Support
Telephone: (202) 942-8900

NYSE Client Services Department
Telephone: (212) 656-3000
Fax: (212) 656-7299 (212) 656-2294
Email: pressreleases@nyx.com

NYSE MKT
Telephone: (212) 656-3000 or (212)-656-5804
Email: pressreleases@nyx.com

NASDAQ Stockwatch
Telephone: (800) 537-3929
Fax: (301) 978-8510
Link to NASDAQ.net: NASDAQ.net

OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB)
Telephone: (203) 375-9609


Common Sense vs. Nonsense: What Thomas Paine Can Teach Us About Disclosure

April 22, 2013
by Cathy Baron Tamraz, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Business Wire
Cathy Baron Tamraz

Cathy Baron Tamraz, Chairman & CEO, Business Wire

Herb Greenberg, the respected CNBC market commentator who first asked whether Netflix violated Reg FD with its use of social media, subsequently put the issue into its proper perspective: It’s all about “common sense.”

Unfortunately, common sense seems to be in short supply these days, as attempts to redefine “full and fair disclosure” depreciate its value to market participants.

In a prescient post in July 2012 (http://www.cnbc.com/id/48086440), Greenberg asked whether Netflix CEO Reed Hastings side-stepped Reg FD by touting on his Facebook page that Netflix had set a new milestone in monthly viewing.

The provocative post apparently caught the eye of SEC officials; the agency filed a Wells Notice against Hastings and Netflix, indicating an inquiry into whether there was a basis to pursue the allegations.

Common-Sense-DisclosureGreenberg, in a December 2012 post, reflected on the surprising reaction of some folks to the SEC’s action. As far as Greenberg was concerned, the issue was simple.

“Bottom line: I’m all in favor of social media as a point of dissemination,” Greenberg wrote.” “They aren’t going away. But public companies and executives want to use them, and they have to play by the rules. That means, simply, issue a press release at the same time. Simple common sense, don’t you think?”

The SEC tweaked the rules recently by issuing a report on the possible use of social media tools for compliance purposes. Unfortunately, the agency’s report generated a lot of heat, but little illumination.

Thomas Paine, in talking about government and society, wrote his passionate pamphlet called “Common Sense” in 1776. Written more than 200 years ago, his words are timeless:

“There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of the monarchy. It first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgement is required.”

Common sense dictates that full and fair disclosure means that all market participants have simultaneous, real-time access to market-moving information. Business Wire has a patented news delivery platform — “NX” — that ensures network recipients worldwide have equal, unrestricted and simultaneous access.

Common sense dictates the overriding importance of network security, and the vetting of corporate announcements to validate their source. Business Wire’s network systems are audited annually by independent management consultants, ensuring compliance with the rigorous standards of securities regulators in multiple international jurisdictions. Additionally, Business Wire has close to 200 editors — and authentication procedures — to provide credible, vetted information to the capital markets.

Common sense dictates that an audit trail exists to protect issuers in the event of a regulatory investigation. As a point of fact, the SEC itself utilizes Business Wire’s audit trail when investigating companies that have caught their attention.

Common sense dictates that the recommendations of prominent professional organizations such as The National Investor Relations Institute be factored into policy decisions. Specifically, NIRI’s “Best Practices” call for a combination of Reg-FD compliant platforms to ensure the broadest possible investor outreach.

Common sense dictates that service providers adapt the latest technologies. Business Wire’s multi-channel platform has long embraced social media (it has 61 industry Twitter feeds). In fact, Business Wire is the industry technology leader with five patents, including two for social media innovations.

Common sense tells us that information should be simultaneous and ubiquitous. Excluding anyone from access to material information is the road to chaos, leading to a possible return to the “Whisper on Wall Street.” Ironically, this is the very thing that Regulation Fair Disclosure sought to eliminate in 2000.

Clearly, there is no substitute for common sense. While it is apparently lacking in some circles, the encouraging news is that the investor relations industry has a proud history of taking a pragmatic and thoughtful approach in meeting its professional obligations, as confirmed by this recent NIRI survey.

The silver lining, as Thomas Paine and Herb Greenberg have taught us, is that common sense never goes out of style.


IR Sites and Social Media: Integrated and Automated Equal Effective and Efficient

April 17, 2013
by Ibrey Woodall, VP Web Communications Services, Business Wire
Ibrey Woodall

Ibrey Woodall, VP, Web Communication Services

Last week, Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz was interviewed on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” by Maria Bartiromo and Bill Griffeth. Business Wire Senior Vice President of Global Media Neil Hershberg relayed the finer points of that discussion in a blog post titled Social Media in the Spotlight: Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz Talks About the SEC’s Guidance on CNBC. As noted, the SEC now allows social media channels – once formally announced – to be utilized for Regulation Fair Disclosure communication, along with press releases, investor relations web sites, webcasts and filings.

Any communications professional worth their salt knows that communications tools are tactics, and that tactics are much more productive when exercised in unison. The fitting strategy is to coordinate these tools to work together automatically so that they are not only effective, but also efficient and timely.

Superior practices performed by multiple investor relations officers (IROs) begin with a safeguarded earnings release broadly distributed and tweeted by an established, trusted wire service. The next step is to make sure that the earnings press release posts directly and simultaneously from the wire service onto the company’s investor center, and into the correct category. If a third-party aggregator is used, there may be a delay in that press release being accessible and organized correctly on the IR site. If the IR site is solely used as a means of disclosure, there is the potential security concern that the information may be found before it is officially made available to all parties. Sadly, this has been experienced by some companies.

The IR communications professional is also responsible for determining that the IR site accepts registration for select email alert and

IR site visitors should be able to share posted content either by emailing, tweeting or posting onto social networks.

IR site visitors should be able to share posted content either by emailing, tweeting or posting onto social networks.

text message or Short Message Service (SMS) delivery. Investors, analysts, financial media, executives, and others who have expressed a desire to be notified when an earnings release is posted must immediately receive either the chosen email alert or mobile alert delivery method, or both. It is imperative that the message be identified as being delivered from the company’s official investor center, and should always contain a link to the full text version of the press release located on the IR site.

There are ways to successfully implement social media tools into the IR communications mix – in a useful and harmless manner. This can be done by integrating authorized social networks and a sharing module. Once a material news release is automatically posted onto the IR site, the IRO should then, if desired, be able to distribute an official tweet, as well as post onto Facebook or LinkedIn from the IR site administration dashboard. This creates a much more efficient workflow than logging into individual company social networks and preparing messages to tweet or post.

At the minimum, social media badges should be visible on the Home Page of the IR site, but if there is a company Twitter stream, it should also be integrated and displayed. Site visitors can then quickly see the most recent tweets made by the company, including the earnings release announcement, the scheduled webcast event, and the video interview of the Chief Executive Officer or Chief Financial Officer discussing the latest earnings release. The Twitter stream should contain only tweets made by the company, and not include tweets by followers.

The addition of a sharing module within an IR site expands the distribution potential of vital content. Once the earning press release is officially public and available on the IR site, site visitors can share their interest in that news by electing to tweet or post the content onto their social networks or send it by email.

There are many helpful ways to utilize social media in IR communications; however, when it comes to full and fair disclosure, these communications tools should be used as part of an overall strategy in conjunction with tried and true, secure communications techniques.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Ibrey Woodall is the VP Web Communications Services for Business Wire. She actively writes and speaks about online public relations including web services such online newsrooms, and IR web sites. She can be reached at Ibrey.Woodall@BusinessWire.com, LinkedIn: Ibrey Woodall or via Twitter @IbreyWoodall.


Social Media in the Spotlight: Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz Talks About the SEC’S Guidance on CNBC

April 11, 2013
by Neil Hershberg, Senior Vice President, Global Media/Business Wire

Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz is rapidly becoming the public face of full and fair disclosure.Tamraz appeared on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” Tuesday, where co-anchors Maria Bartiromo and Bill Griffeth interviewed her on the potential market implications of the SEC’s recent guidance on the use of social media for Reg FD compliance.

Video Clip:

Tamraz quickly distilled the key issues of the disclosure debate, explaining that popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook — while effective in extending investor outreach — are only one component of full and fair disclosure. She added that social media complements other Reg FD-compliant channels, including a broadly disseminated news release via a legitimate wire service, posting on an IR web site, webcasts, and regulatory filings. All these elements contribute to a “Best Practices” disclosure program that equitably and inclusively serves the needs of all market participants.

She emphasized that Business Wire makes extensive use of social media tools as part of its multi-channel distribution platform, and that the company holds five technology patents, including two in social media. One patent — its “NX” news delivery platform — is key to the disclosure discussion because it ensures simultaneous, real-time access to market-moving information by all network recipients worldwide. Simultaneity and market fairness is what Reg FD is all about; Business Wire’s unique ability to meet this stringent requirement has been independently validated by patent authorities in multiple jurisdictions.

Additionally, Business Wire provides an audit trail for every release, which is a critical benefit in the event of a regulatory investigation. There also are multiple archives, including such popular databases as Factiva and Lexis/Nexis, that provide an easily accessible and reliable record of all corporate announcements.Tamraz has emerged in recent years as an outspoken advocate of Reg FD’s guiding principles: full and fair disclosure and a “level playing field.”  She has written extensively on the topic, appeared before regulatory agencies and advisory councils focusing on corporate governance issues, and is the industry’s most vocal proponent of providing all investors — institutional and individual alike — with equal and unrestricted access to price-sensitive information.

Press Release:
Business Wire Says Social Media Platforms Are Only One Component of Full and Fair Disclosure and Offers Issuers a Guide on How to Effectively Use Social Media Tools http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130404006180/en/Business-Wire-Social-Media-Platforms-Component-of%C2%A0Full

Blog Post:
What Can Louisville’s Kevin Ware Teach the SEC and Public Companies About Social Media?
http://blog.businesswire.com/2013/04/04/what-can-louisvilles-kevin-ware-teach-the-sec-and-public-companies-about-social-media/


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