When Posting Financial News to an IR Site, Risks Are Not Acceptable.

April 29, 2015

By Ibrey Woodall, VP, Web Communications Services

Security of an investor relations (IR) website and news distribution is paramount to any public company. Ask the investor relations officer (IRO) who has suffered due to earnings information being released to the public prematurely.  If a company’s earnings news release is accessible too soon, it can move markets, and quickly. When this happens, expect heads to roll in many ways.

Although most IR site vendors state that earnings releases post automatically to the IR site service they manage, only a few can actually confirm that the posting of the news release happens directly from the distributor to the IR site. Some vendors utilize a third-party aggregator to obtain newswire-distributed news releases and then post the release onto the IR site service. Anytime an additional step like this is added to a workflow process, more time is needed, and the opportunity for something to go wrong is greater. Most experienced communicators are familiar with the concept of Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

At Business Wire, an earnings release is never staged onto an IR site before publication – hidden or not. When the earnings release is distributed to the desired outlets, it gets posted directly to the IR site at that time, not any sooner. This leaves no opportunity for Murphy to cause trouble. Once the news release distribution is ordered, the option to post the

Earnings news releases that are distributed via Business Wire post directly and simultaneously to the Business Wire InvestorHQSM IR site service.

Earnings news releases that are distributed via Business Wire post directly and simultaneously to the Business Wire InvestorHQSM IR site service.

release to the InvestorHQSM IR site is selected, as is the option to place the release in one or more subject matter categories. Sweet, simple, streamlined and secure.

As important as the technical dangers mentioned above, so are the internal workflow risks.  All internal procedures at Business Wire have gone through a rigorous audit. Departmental shields against unauthorized access to data can be attested to by the Service Organization Control [SOC] 2 Type II attestation engagement report that Business Wire received in 2014.This means that your news release (in text or PDF format) will not be posted to your InvestorHQSM site by a Business Wire product specialist to save time or effort.

So, when selecting an IR site vendor, do assess and compare the basic features and functionality of the service. Don’t forget, however, to pay close attention to the details of the IR site service when it comes to security of your financial data.

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Ibrey Woodall is Vice President of Web Communications Services for Business Wire. She is responsible for Business Wire’s InvestorHQ IR site and NewsHQ online newsrooms services. She can be reached via email Ibrey.Woodall@Businesswire.com or LinkedIN https://www.linkedin.com/in/ibreywoodall.

2015 Corporate Earnings Call Best Practices

April 15, 2015

By Farah Merchant, Specialist, Global Disclosure & Financial Reporting Services

Every year our team is asked to share best practices for financial earnings calls and webcasts.  So much has changed in recent years, that we decided to put together a short list of facts, figures, benefits and best practices for maximizing this crucial communications program.


NIRI’s recent Earnings Call Practices Survey shows some very interesting facts and figures. Did you know that in 2014:

  • 97% of responding companies held earnings calls versus 80% in 1996?
  • Almost 80% of companies that do hold calls do not utilize social media platforms during the call.
  • For the few companies that do use social media during the earnings call, the most popular medium was Twitter (5%), followed by StockTwits, podcasts (~2% each), and Facebook, LinkedIn, and SlideShare (each 1%).

Investors have emphasized the importance of quarterly financial calls and webcasts for some time as they provide listeners with the opportunity to make wiser investment decisions.  Some of the additional benefits include:

  • They provide analysts with the opportunity to ask questions of C-level executives, and base their research, valuation and estimates on the information revealed in the call that may not have been disclosed in the press release.
  • They provide an opportunity for the company to mention upcoming events, such as analyst days, annual shareholders meeting and investor conferences. Some even mention the company’s full calendar of upcoming events.
  • Calls and webcasts provide companies the opportunity to leverage social media messaging to increase visibility of the discussion. Home Depot is an excellent example of a company successfully tweeting live information.
  • Webcasts can be archived with replays accessible through company’s investor relations site.

Because earnings calls and webcasts are predominantly presented in a live format, here are a few preparation tips to keep in mind:

  • Present a cohesive message that communicates what your earnings results indicate for the future of your company.
  • Pick your presenter based on position in the company and speaking skills (usually CEO or IRO and CFO to present the financials).
  • Do a dry run of the presentation and potential Q&A topics.
  • Utilize visual components such as power point presentations, infographics and downloadable content to increase engagement with your audience.
  • Use multiple channels to announce the earnings webcast date/time, insuring the widest possible outreach. Most common methods of alerting audiences of the call are via press release, your company’s investor relations website page, and social media outlets such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Consider combining traditional earnings call and webcast methods with the power and reach of social media platforms the day of the event, to both increase the intended reach of the event and generate higher levels of engagement with investors, analysts and the media.

There are many companies consistently exhibiting ‘Best Practices’ through various mediums during their earnings calls. One company is FedEx (NYSE: FDX), and how they use Twitter and their $FDX StockTwits symbol to showcase their key headline numbers:

Fedex Tweets

As you can see, there are many components that go into a quarterly earnings call, and best practices are constantly evolving. Public companies should always be on the lookout for new trends and mediums for earnings calls as well as more ways to actively engage with their audience during these events.

Earnings calls present a valuable opportunity for public companies to communicate key messages to investors, analysts and the media. By following best practices for the call presentation and leveraging multiple distribution mediums (press releases, webcasts, social media), they can maximize their earnings call even further.

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The Role of Data in Today’s Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Programs

November 10, 2014

By Matt VanTassel, Global Disclosure Services, Business Wire Matt VanTassel

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a Sustainability Practice Network discussion at Baruch College here in New York. The topic, Under the Hood: Corporate Sustainability 2014 was a broad-based discussion of Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) programs including their development, implementation and the data that is derived from them.

As someone still learning the intricacies of ESG, it was reassuring to note that this topic, or better,  this idea, is truly still a work in progress. Why? Because today’s corporations are implementing ESG-based programs differently across industries, and the data that is created is being used in a multitude of ways.

Citi’s Assistant Vice President of Sustainability, Davida Heller laid out an impressive array of information on Citi’s programs and how they weigh social and environmental concerns when making investments. Citi tracks risks associated with anything from social discussions to environmental risks, for clients and their internal initiatives. You can review their numerous programs and stances on each topic here.

As a former Bloomberger, I always like to know what’s brewing at Bloomberg. While the company has a long-standing environmental policy (their forks are made out of potatoes!), there is also a department and functions that cater to culling and analyzing this data. Senior ESG Analyst Su Gao provided interesting statistics on how ESG-related data is being consumed by Bloomberg terminal users. There has been a nice uptick in data usage (48%), confirming that analysts and investors are looking beyond balance sheets and cash flow statements when making opinions and investment decisions.  ({ESG } on the terminal)

Domini’s Tessie Petion, lead research analyst for the Funds’ social and environmental standards, introduced a novel point that not all data is relevant for each investment and Social Responsible Investing (SRI) can (and should) have very focused concerns (such as treatment of animals or energy usage, etc.). SRI data is also being consumed beyond the typical ESG investor. One example of this is the use of SRI data when analyzing CEO pay packages (Say-on-Pay rules under the Dodd-Frank Act).

Turner Construction’s VP & Chief Sustainability Officer Michael Deane gave an interesting narrative on how he made the business case for Turner’s decision to ‘go green’. As of today, 50% of the buildings constructed by Turner are LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and they had 364 LEED-certified projects and 261 LEED-registered projects completed or under way as of May 2014.

One of the most compelling takeaways from this discussion came from Lorraine Smith, Senior Director at SustainAbility. She explained that it is extremely difficult for companies to quantify the environmental cost of their business. To better visualize this difficulty, she asked the audience about the food we ate that day and how much it cost us out-of-pocket. She then asked us what it would cost the environment to provide us that same amount of food. For example, she mentioned Greek yogurt, while delicious, creates a serious environmental repercussion in the form of acid whey.  Acid whey as it turns out is a very difficult to recycle byproduct of making and consuming this yogurt.

Professor David Rosenberg, Director, The Robert Zicklin Center for Corporate Integrity  added, “Nothing should be more important to today’s corporate leaders than understanding the impact their businesses have on the environment and on the communities that sustain them.  As speakers at our event demonstrated, to be good stewards of the planet and good partners to their various stakeholders, corporations first need good data.  That is why exploring the potential for better reporting on sustainability is central to our mission of promoting corporate integrity,” commented Professor David Rosenberg, Director, The Robert Zicklin Center for Corporate Integrity.

As ESG initiatives become more and more prevalent in corporations, the amount of data generated continues to grow. How the data is measured or interpreted and then utilized to build successful ESG programming continues to be the largest hurdle for both the companies and their investors.  Companies who take the time to analyze their data will be able to build the groundwork for successful ESG programs.

Interested in reading additional corporate social responsibility related news?  Follow us: @BWCSRNews and @BW_CSR.


Time It Right: The Importance of Financial Calendars

September 25, 2014

By Hannah Kelly, Business Wire Paris

What is a financial calendar?

A financial calendar (also referred to as an economic calendar) is used by traders, shareholders and the media alike, in order to track the important events of the economy. The majority of the time, this is to check for market-moving events, such as monthly jobless claims, factory orders and debt auctions which are all found in the economic calendar. Several high-profile sites such as Bloomberg and Forex publish release dates for forthcoming economic reports each week.

Bloomberg Editorial Calendar

Each audience segment utilizes this information in a different fashion. A trader for instance, may implement a specific strategy based on the proposed outcome of a report, while a newsroom will adjust their coverage and focus, based on that same report.

Why is the calendar important for public companies?

Companies use the economic calendar in order to avoid scheduling conflicts with their conference calls, investor days, and other important events. The calendar is vital in anticipating workload, keeping to a schedule and keeping everyone up-to-date and informed.

However, in addition to following the economic calendar, companies should also be aware of the dates and times of companies within their respective industry – you wouldn’t want a top analyst to have to choose between your company and your top competitor. Best practice is to try and schedule the event close enough but not so close that an analyst or reporter cannot cover both.

How should the calendar be used as a tool when a company is setting up their next event?

Press releases:  Many traded companies choose to note key dates in certain press releases, which works excellently. Those who read your first quarter results will likely be reading the next quarter, so why not quickly mention their publication date?

Investor HQ:  Here at Business Wire, we offer InvestorHQ, a web-based content management system that allows clients to manage a search-engine optimized online newsroom. Since InvestorHQ  is a CMS (content management system), events can be posted simply by entering the date, time and location. Audio and visuals can be also be added to the calendar, and email invitations can be sent with a link to the Event page, through which investors can register and receive reminders for that particular event.

No more excuses – no matter how big or small your company is, the financial calendar should play an essential role in scheduling your next event!

Updating Your Earnings Release: How to Maximise the Readability of Earnings Press Releases

August 12, 2014

By Hannah Kelly, Editor, Business Wire Paris

With the earnings period once again upon us, investor and public relations professionals are coming together to publish what is often considered the most important release of the quarter: the earnings release.

Quarterly earnings releases are a reflection of the financial health of an organization and are most frequently read by the financial community, shareholders, customers and employees.

Earnings releases, which must succinctly showcase this extremely important information, are often a cause of stress and anxiety, particularly in terms of readability.  Today the average news consumer reads only around 20% of provided text, leaving today’s communicators asking how they can optimize the impact of their press releases.

  1. Write your company name in the headline
    Including your company name in your press release headline is the quickest and easiest way to associate your company with its earnings release, and yet it is overlooked time and time again. Furthermore, the inclusion of the company name often leads to a higher SEO ranking – ideal for your annual results!earnings
  2. Ensure the most important information is at the top of your release
    Readers spend 80% of their time reading information found above the fold[1] , so this is where your most important information should be. An operating highlights summary in the form of a bulleted list, positioned just after the first sentence of the release, can greatly improve adoption and understanding of your news.
  3. Include financial tables in your release

    The importance of including complete financial tables within your press release cannot be stressed enough. Financial tables serve as a visual, simplifying wordy paragraphs and allowing quick and relatable comprehension of a company’s situation. In addition, many analysts utilize models to predict company health. Financial tables provide all the detail needed to update these models. And of course, don’t forget to include the reporting currency.

  4. Quote a company executive
    Ideally, the quote accompanying your earnings release will be provided by the company’s CEO[2]. A comment, no matter how long or short, goes a long way toward the personalization of your company and presentation of your key message. This comment can provide a justification, explanation oract as a written pat on the back. Either way, a comment from an executive provides true context of the quarter’s financials – particularly useful given that a large majority of readers of this release will be your shareholders.
  5. Subtitle your sections
    Earnings releases are notoriously difficult to read and comprehend, making subheadings the perfect solution. Included just below the press release headline, sub heads should indicate the type of information to follow, allowing the reader to easily navigate the different categories of information.
  6. Group together similar information
    When possible, similar content should be written consecutively, or as close together in the release as possible. This keeps repetition to a limit, and again, allows the reader to navigate your release more easily.
  7. Be succinct
    There is an unavoidable need to include certain information, for regulatory reasons, but this doesn’t mean that your whole release should follow a lengthy, wordy pattern. Be as concise as you can be[3], but take care to include all the necessary information.
  8. Keep historical information towards the end of the release
    Readers look for the most current and important information first. This goes back to readers spending most of their time above the fold. Historical information, although useful, is not the most relevant in these types of releases. If it is essential – for example, year-on-year comparisons – this ideally should be included within the financial tables or near the end of the press release, below the fold.
  9. Enhance your earnings release with multimediaAce Hardware
    The fastest way to increase effectiveness of news consumption is to include additional visual content. An infographic of your financials, such as the one created and distributed by Ace Hardware, is an easy way to represent your quarterly results.  Or use  video from your CEO or division head, like ARC Resources’ Myron’s Minute, to explain, in plain language, the story behind the data.
  10. Use numbered footnotes – and group them together!
    There is nothing worse than having to match up symbols, and to guess where they are inside the release. A nice, neat, numbered footnote list, found at the very bottom of the release, makes everyone’s life easier. In addition, consider hyperlinking to footnoted information to provide easy access when needed.

The combination of these techniques will improve your earnings release’s readability and ensure that the most important information is found and read by the majority of desired readers. In addition to increased comprehension of your financials by your core audience, you may just get more coverage as your target reporters and shareholders find it easier to digest the news.

How to Write a Compelling Earnings Release

With regard to the information that should be included in terms of structure and content, companies will inevitably vary in the type of information provided, but should try to keep to consistent and complete information in plain English. Here are a few helpful guidelines[4]:


  • The date of release and city and state of headquarters should be at the beginning of the release
  • The most important news should be summarised in the first paragraph
  • Subheadings should be used to further clarify and highlight important corporate developments
  • The last paragraph should include a business description, with the company’s complete name, ticker symbol and equity market
  • Media contact information and a website address should always appear at the end of the release


  • Changes in disclosure from quarter to quarter, or year to year, should be specified and explained (sales, revenues, net income, diluted earnings per share and percentage change for each section)
  • Observations should be made only between comparable periods – for example, it is better to compare a third quarter of year N to the third quarter of year N-1, rather than year N’s second quarter
  • Key value drivers and other important line items should be clearly noted
  • Charges/gains/losses should be included if they contribute to the results, and it is advisable to explain how and why they have had an effect (eg. extraordinary gains, losses, equity losses and accounting changes)
  • A consistent format should be used throughout the press release (this is particularly important when reconciling GAAP and non-GAAP financial measures)
  • It is prudent to mention key events and changes, such as government practices and changes to the Board of Directors, plus any steps being taken to address these changes
  • Information on gross profit and margin (plus percentage change), cash flow, share repurchase activity and other measures of performance (capital expenditures, R&D expense and nonfinancial measures) should be included where appropriate
  • Provide forward-looking insights when possible, for the next quarter and/or year, and how the previous forecast has measured up to the current results

Financial statements should always be labeled as audited or unaudited, and can include: complete income statement (with current and year-ago quarter numbers, current year-to-date and year-ago year-to-date comparable period numbers, outstanding shares – both fully diluted and basic), balance sheet (current quarter numbers and end of prior-year numbers), plus cash flow tables, current quarter numbers and year-to-date.

Interested in learning more about increasing the impact of your financial press releases?  Let us know! With more than 50 years of news distribution experience, we have quite a few tips and tricks to share.

[1] http://www.nngroup.com/articles/scrolling-and-attention/

[2] http://www.whitecase.com/files/Publication/60516433-ff3f-444c-8e7d-a5cdcdc84c82/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/be3b92fd-aa2d-45f2-8c4b-ae6486778b0b/article_Earnings_Releases_and_Earnings_Calls.pdf

[3] http://irwebreport.com/20020513/preparing-earnings-releases-for-the-web/

[4] Standards of Practice for Investor Relations, Earnings Release Content (NIRI, page 7)

Brand Journalism and the Evolution of Online Newsrooms

August 6, 2014

In the August 2014 issue of PRSA Tactics, Business Wire’s VP of Web Communications Ibrey Woodall reflects on how the online newsroom has matured from a basic press release archive to a central communications headquarters complete with brand articles. Although a very few journalists (only 7 percent) still believe that company-written articles do not belong in the news center, results from the 2014 Business Wire Media Survey illustrate that more than 60 percent of reporters are receptive to brand journalism.

Brand Article Types of Interest to ReportersRead the article “Online Newsrooms and Brand Journalism: Survey Shows Media Acceptance of Corporate Storytelling in Press Centers” to learn more about how organizations can create special content sections within their online newsroom. Content that helps relay a company’s history and industry focus, enhancing both brand loyalty and search engine optimization.

Using PR Targeting and Measurement Strategies for Investor Relations

July 16, 2014

By Farah Merchant, Global Disclosure & Financial Reporting Services, Business Wire

Targeting, monitoring and measurement are essential to every successful public or investor communications program.

So how do you do it?

The first step for any effective program is to identify or ‘target’ your organization’s correct audience. If performed early on in the communications program, a great deal of time and money will be saved. The earlier you can set up your conversation monitoring, and metrics, the more time you have to make adjustments or changes, as the data dictates.

The Barcelona Building Blocks, the first set of PR measurement rules, were introduced in June 2010 at the Second European Summit on Measurement by The Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles and include the following tenets:

  • Goal setting and measurement are fundamental aspects of any PR program.
  • Measuring the effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs.
  • The effect on business results should  be measured where possible.
  • Media measurement requires quantity and quality.
  • Advertising value equivalents (AVEs) are not the value of public relations.
  • Social media can, and should be measured.
  • Transparency and ability to duplicate results are paramount to sound measurement.

When it comes to measurement, IR and PR teams approach it differently.  While both use qualitative and quantitative methods of measurement, investor relations communicators tend to see more value in qualitative metrics. Moving towards a measurement process that combines qualitative and subjective metrics can be a challenge.  While there may be some overlap, Investor relations teams monitor different terms and audiences, all which produce different outcomes. The role of investor relations today includes complying with SEC regulations as well as engaging with and listening to vast array of audiences such as regulators, analysts, investors and media.

Investor relations departments have traditionally measured progress based on either outputs or outcomes.

Output measures items such as number of analysts covering the company, quality of analyst coverage, and media coverage – traditional, online and social, all which can directly influence stock price.

Outcomes are what IR professionals tend to be measured upon – achieving a fair market value for the stock. Measuring outcomes by program does not allow for proper attribution of the external impact from industry activity, roadshows or previous campaigns or news. However, in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, share price is not necessarily the best metric for evaluating an IRO’s success.

In 2014, conversation analysis is a standard part of any communication program.  While some IROs are catching up, other investor relations teams are allocating larger portions of their budgets to measurement and evaluation. According to a survey conducted by NIRI in 2011 on “How IR Programs Measure Up”, IROs had only allocated 1 to 5 percent of their total operating budgets to this area. Public relation departments, on the other hand, reported an increase from 4 to 9 percent in total amount of budget that corporations were allocating to the measurement of PR and communication programs.

To establish a successful investor relations monitoring program, IROs must first come up with guidelines for conducting and measuring an IR campaign including:

  • Defining the target audience – investors, analysts, shareholders, activists, reporters and more
  • Creating key messaging for these audiences that feature positive company information most likely to impact audience perception;
  • Determining social and traditional communication channels such as press releases, online newsrooms, IR sites, blogs, email, text messaging, social channels and more;
  • Taking a new look at IR communication programs to ensure ideal impact upon the reader.  These can include quarterly and annual reports, conference calls, road show presentations, press releases, and most recently social media;
  • And finally actively conducting perception studies by engaging directly with investors and analysts about the effectiveness of a company’s investor communications, the responsiveness of the IR team and the quality of disclosure.

Social media has not played as prominent a role in the realm of IR targeting/monitoring but this is changing quickly.  IROs should be putting emphasis on tracking the temperature of their company via social media channels.

The right approach to measuring the impact of an investor relations program is to focus on your objectives and to measure the results that affect your objectives.

Think about what you’re trying to achieve in your communication campaign, i.e. identifying conversations about your key terms, the audiences you want to engage with and the results you want to achieve.  Goals can include identifying all conversation types, increasing positive discussions of your company within core audiences, decreasing hype or message misalignments.

Once you know your audience, consider what kind of conversation and materials you want to share with them.  This will vary by platform.  For example:

  • If you find discussions are on Twitter, add images to your Tweets to receive higher shares and engagement. Don’t forget to monitor your cashtag ($ sign + ticker) to capture direct discussions about your stock
  • LinkedIn discussions are generally textual, but images receive much larger space on the page, so upload an image with your update and link to increase impact
  • Facebook varies its content by the user’s preference, so use a mix of video, images and text and track the results to determine impact
  • YouTube is the world’s largest video library. With billions of videos watched daily, it is not surprising that more than 30% of all searches are related to news

Monitoring must also include identifying important trends in consumer opinion and top influencers, activist activity and then tracking changes over time.

NUVI bubble stream

The NUVI Bubble Stream

At the 2014 NIRI National Conference, we had the opportunity to see the impact of traditional and social communications on company reputation and stock price via the NUVI’s social media monitoring platform.  In one easy step, by simply typing in the company name and cashtag (a dollar sign + ticker symbol), one could instantly  identify conversations, discussion trends, influencers,  message adoption and geo-resonance, all data used to create a better, stronger IR communication program.

The principles of measurement, albeit designed for PR professionals, are just as applicable to IROs.  Although differences do exist between the roles of public relations and investor relations, i.e. different stakeholders, there is still a great deal of overlap.  IROs will benefit by developing a standard of measurement using the methods that PR professionals have implemented as a guideline and making them more relevant to the financial health and reputation of the organization.

Have questions on how to create an IR program that embraces these principles?  Let us know! We work with thousands of public companies around the globe, ensuring we stay on the forefront of investor relations best practices.


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