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]:

Structure:

  • 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

sample_snr_ENContent:

  • 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)


Combine your IR and PR news or separate them? Reporters weigh in

July 7, 2014

Should a public company's financial content reside within the online newsroom or within the IR site_q30_2014As time becomes more precious for today’s journalists, company websites, or more specifically online newsrooms and IR sites become increasingly important.  As the importance of these sites grows, so does the question of how to highlight the content relevant for each of an organization’s differing audiences.  For example, should public companies combine financial data with branded content?  Or do reporters prefer separate microsites, each highlighting the content relevant for that specific reader, making it easier for the visitor to find what they are looking for?

Find out what reporters want in an online newsroom in Ibrey Woodall’s latest article in our series based on the results of the 2014 Business Wire Media Survey.

Click here to read: Hosting Corporate Financial Data: Online Newsroom or IR Site?

Download a copy of our Media Survey results at: http://go.businesswire.com/business-wire-media-survey-results


Business Wire Partners with iSentia, Expanding Press Release Distribution Reach and Impact Throughout Australia and New Zealand

May 6, 2014

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Media

We are very excited to introduce you to our expanded news and content distribution partner for the Australia and New Zealand markets – iSentia.

iSentia

iSentia is the largest media information and business intelligence company in the Asia Pacific region.        With some 1,200 employees operating across 15 countries, iSentia has earned its reputation as Asia’s leading media resource center, featuring reach to over 10,000 print, broadcast and online outlets.

The new arrangement will provide Business Wire members news distribution access to a wide range of industry trade journalists, in addition to mainstream and online media within the Australian and New Zealand markets.  This partnership enhances Business Wire’s existing Asia Pacific distribution alongside The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse global networks.

In addition, with Business Wire’s Sydney office available to provide product counseling and consultative support, iSentia clients will gain seamless access to Business Wire’s global media networks and investor relations services.

  “iSentia’s continuously refreshed media data maximizes the return-on-investment potential for our clients,” said Cathy Baron Tamraz, Business Wire’s CEO, who made today’s announcement. “Of equal importance, iSentia’s impressive client base will now be able to reach consumer audiences, business decision-makers, and investors in North America, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, in addition to all of the Asia Pacific region, with ease.”

Learn more about this partnership at http://www.newsboost.com/newsroom/businesswire

Have questions about this new partnership?  Let us know!


Business Wire Spotlight: Meet Canada’s Emily Khazak

April 4, 2014
Welcome to Business Wire’s latest series, a behind the scenes introduction to our offices, and our staff from around the world.   Meet Emily Khazak, Business Wire Canada
Emily's-Photo-lo-res

Toronto Customer Service Representative Emily Khazak

 

Where are you from?
Toronto

When did you start working for Business Wire?
August 2011

So what do you do for Business Wire? Please sum up your role and responsibilities at Business Wire.
I am the Client Services Representative for both the Toronto and Calgary offices. I assist existing and prospective clients with inquiries and registrations. I am also a direct assist to the Account Executive team, helping with new business development.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy getting to interact with clients on a daily bases, making sure their registrations and release disseminations run as smoothly as possible.

What do you like about Business Wire?
The best part about working at Business Wire is the people! I love coming in to work each day knowing I’m part of an expert team, who are all passionate about what they do. I also love working for a company that excels in the newswire industry! The products and services we offer, as well as the attention given to each client, make me proud to be part of the Business Wire team.

Please give a brief summary of what you hope to accomplish for your department and Business Wire.
By assisting the Sales teams in both the Toronto and Calgary offices, I contribute to new business development and client retention. I hope to contribute to the growing offices by making sure all clients are well taken care of.

Tell us about yourself. (Your background, education, interests, hobbies, music, books, pets, family, etc)
I’ve always had an interest in media. I started writing at a young age and was sure I wanted to do something in the communications field, which lead me to a post secondary education in Journalism. I love reading and will always be found with a book, magazine, article – anything written!

What drives you to do what you do every day at Business Wire?
The best motivator is knowing that I’m part of a team that’s passionate about what they do and work hard to make sure every client that calls in gets the best service possible!

What is your favorite thing about living in Canada?
The weather!

Please give us some comments about the Canadian market and what Business Wire does that makes us a great fit in that market.
Business Wire has an exclusive partnership with the Postmedia Network and excellent Canada-wide distribution options. Our Canadian disclosure capabilities and specified circuits, including SEDAR filings, make us ideal for public companies. With offices in both Western and Eastern Canada, we have an expert team on hand no matter what part of the country a company is located.

What are some top reasons why you would recommend Business Wire to Canadian companies?
Business Wire’s Canada-wide and bilingual distribution options, including numerous trade publications, are ideal for getting any company’s news to the right outlets. With Business Wire’s NX technology and multimedia capabilities, turn around time for releases will be fast, accurate and visually appealing.


Six Simple Steps to Switch Your IR Site

October 16, 2013

By Ibrey Woodall, VP, Web Communications Services

Ibrey Woodall, VP, Web Communication Services

Ibrey Woodall, VP, Web Communication Services

Earlier this year, The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc. purchased the Corporate Solutions Division of Thomson Reuters which included their IR site hosting services. Recently, NYSE Euronext announced that it would discontinue financial subsidies for companies using these legacy services.

Needless to say, many companies are rapidly performing due diligence to find a new IR site hosting partner. Business Wire is pleased to be a preferred partner for NYSE, meaning qualified companies can easily switch their site hosting to our advanced InvestorHQ platform and continue to receive financial assistance.  In fact, we have helped several of those companies quickly and easily switch their investor center over to our secure, advanced InvestorHQ platform.

If you’re one of these companies and you worry about your IR site – don’t. Review the six simple steps we’ve laid out below, and let Business Wire guide you through the entire process.

  1. Schedule Launch
  2. Transfer Content
  3. Choose Categories
  4. Select Navigation
  5. Match design
  6. Go Mobile

These steps will help you understand what is involved so that your IR site can be converted quickly and cleanly.

1.       Schedule Launch

Anytime you begin a new project, you should visualize the desired end result first, and lay out a structured plan to achieve that outcome. Once we have established your required launch date, Business Wire will provide that plan, including a timeline featuring milestone dates that help us meet the deadline. If your corporate site is in the process of being redesigned, the redesign stage will also be incorporated into the timeline.

During this time, you will be trained on the easy-to-use content management system, and advised on best practices for important areas that span a variety of levels. Consultation will encompass the time zone of your IR site so dates and times post accurately, how your site will display in each of the latest web browsers, the importing of your contact database for email distribution, and the security of your content with access levels for individual site administrators.

2.       Transfer Content

Depending upon how long your company has been in business, you may or may not have a lot of content residing within your current IR site. All you need to do is let your assigned Business Wire HQ Specialist know which content you want to keep and where you want it located within the new site. Your HQ Specialist will physically move the content for you, expediting the launch of your IR site. If you are creating new content for new features and sections within Business Wire InvestorHQ, just send the content to your HQ Specialist for set up.

Not only will all future press releases distributed over Business Wire post automatically into the IR site, but more importantly, the releases will post directly. The distribution of Business Wire press releases and the Business Wire InvestorHQ Investor Center remain within the Business Wire framework, eliminating the need for a third-party wire release aggregator and decreasing the potential of a lost or delayed press release. There are cost-savings, workflow efficiencies and security inherent to using one partner for both services.

GraceIRScreenShot

3.       Choose Categories

Content should be categorized so that it is readily accessible for site visitors. Not only should press releases be available by date, but also by topic or subject matter.  For example, note that CKE Restaurants (http://investor.ckr.com) created categories entitled “Financial Releases,” “CKE,” “Carl’s Jr.,” and “Hardees,” so that their press releases are organized by parent company and brand, yet still allow investors and analysts to locate and access financial releases quickly.

Events and presentations should also be categorized even as commonly as “Past Events” and “Future Events,” as displayed on the W.R. Grace investor center (http://investor.grace.com) when future dates are available. If your company has multiple events, you may consider fine-tuning with classifications like “Webcasts,” “Board Meeting,” “Analyst Day,” or “Press Conference.”

4.       Select Navigation

There are certain types of content, including Analyst Coverage, Stock Charts, SEC Filings, Executive Biographies and additional Corporate Governance documents that should be available within every investor center. Your navigation structure should reflect those content types, and your HQ Specialist will present each of these content types to you and order the navigation in a pattern that best suits your company’s needs.

5.       Match Design

Site visitors need to be able to visually trust that the IR site contains official company data. This is done by following the same fonts, colors, spacing and other design elements that reflect the identity of the corporation. It can also be done by using the company’s domain name within the uniform resource locator (URL) similar to http://investor.chemtura.com or http://ir.standex.com, as well as linking to the IR site from an “Investor Relations” navigation button located on the corporate site. We recommend that the investor center follow the same design as the corporate site, positioning all branding available, even down to the “From” identifier on email alerts and broadcasts.

6.       Go Mobile.

As mobile usage increases dramatically, it is imperative that sites are easily accessible by a mobile audience. Business Wire offers mobile-optimized IR websites that are legible when accessed by smartphones and tablets of varying screen sizes.

When it comes to news distribution, hosting and consumption, it is worth noting that Business Wire has been around for more than 53 years and provides a multitude of financial disclosure services. Partner with Business Wire and stop worrying about your IR site.

For more information on the “must-haves” and “should-haves” for an IR site, we suggest reading: IR Sites: A Guide to Requirements and Best Practices white paper.


What are the Most Common Errors our Editors Catch in Your Press Releases?

September 4, 2013

If there’s one thing our customers are almost universally in agreement about, it’s how fantastic our editors are. In our more than 20 newsrooms around the world, our eagle-eyed staff are constantly on the lookout for little errors that might otherwise go unnoticed during the press release writing and approval process. When they find them, they immediately alert the sender before we transmit the release, saving many an error from appearing in media inboxes, on social media or anywhere else.

The data bears it out – Business Wire issues far, far fewer corrections than any other wire services.

According to our internal reports, here — in no particular order — are the ten most frequent catches by our editors in your press releases:

1) Wrong day/date/time zone agreement.
2) Bad or broken hyperlinks.
3) Inconsistent references to the same company, people or product names.
4) Wrong usage of similar sounding words; e.g. their/there, then/than, effect/affect, and so on.
5) Wrong dates or old info recycled from a previous version of the release.
6) Apostrophe and possessive errors like “it’s” vs. “its.”
7) Company name missing in headline.
8) Footnotes referenced but not included in the release.
9) Improper use of quotation marks.
10) Missing or incomplete contact info and/or photo captions.

You should always make sure your release is as complete and as correct as possible before submitting it, but if anything slips through, we’ll be there to catch it!


Le Diable Est Dans les Détails : How the Business Wire Paris Team Checks and Balances News

December 18, 2012
by Manuela Semenzin, Media Relations Specialist,Business Wire/Paris
Manuela Semenzin

Manuela Semenzin

Luca Sofri, a well-known Italian blogger and journalist (founder and editor of the online newspaper Il Post, 2010), has curated for several years a weekly column inside his blog, Wittengstein.it, called “Notizie che non lo erano” (News that wasn’t).

Each week he points the finger at a few news stories published by Italian newspapers without any fact-checking. These stories are often revealed to be hoaxes.

Sofri’s approach to news reporting is nothing extraordinary. Many entities in France (and the world over) advocate thorough verification of information before publishing it.

As David Brewer says in his article “The importance of fact-checking for journalists“, reporters should always apply the “two reliable sources rule”, where one source is often represented by the wires. But he also notes that “wires can be wrong” and journalists should not rely on them blindly.

Of course, error is always possible when publishing hundreds of thousands of releases per year. That’s why announcements crossing a professional wire undergo a rigorous series of checks and quality-control measures before being released to the public.

I asked our Newsroom Supervisor in Paris, Jacky Ringot, to provide details about what editors do each time they receive a new press release from a client in order to avoid mistakes.

“First of all, we are responsible for authenticating the source of releases,” said Ringot, “So we verify who is sending the release via our secured platform.”

Jacky Ringot, Newsroom Supervisor, BW Paris

Jacky Ringot, Newsroom Supervisor, BW Paris

Ringot went on to explain that our clients possess personal codes to access our secured online system, which means that they have already opened an account and have gone through verification by the sales department.

“But double-checking is our motto,” noted Ringot, “So we verify once again. If contact information consists of a company name, an individual name and a phone number, we check the connection between the contact and the company issuing the release. We call the person, we ask for his/her e-mail and verify that it’s a professional address.

“If a website is included we check it and verify that its content is appropriate,” Ringot continued. “We read the entire press release and if the content is questionable we escalate with management. If a release includes previously published articles from newspapers, magazines or other sources approval must be given in writing by the original source of the article.

“We also escalate issues of photo copyright or possibly objectionable images. We check hyperlinks, dateline, spelling, tables, everything! Your Luca Sofri would have an incredibly hard time trying to catch us out.”

This combination of highly secured technology with human action is a key element here at Business Wire France, and this is also true for each of the newsrooms we have around the world. While no system is entirely fail-safe, we are always working to reduce the risk through a series of checks and balances. We know what is at stake for our customers because their news moves the market and a little error can have very important consequences.


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