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)


Business Wire Shares 4 Tips for Taking Better Photos

July 23, 2014

4 tips for taking better photosWith more than 8.3 billion photos uploaded and shared every day, more and more PR pros are learning how to take fantastic, but also useful, photos.

In our recent CommPro.biz article, Ciaran Ryan interviews two leading photographers who shared their top 4 tips to taking the perfect photo.  You can read the entire piece here.  Have some tips of your own you would like to share?  Add them below in the comments section of this blog.


Why Multimedia is Required in Today’s Press Releases

April 30, 2014

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Media

visuals-bw2Earlier today, CommPro published a summary piece highlighting the importance of multimedia within press releases. We discuss this topic at great length with our customers.

The truth is, reporters are no longer interested in writing stories based on text only press release. And for good reason, study after study has shown that whenever images are inserted into the communication, the impact increases.

Still on the fence about adding photos, videos, gifs, images and more to your press releases?  We highly encourage you to read this piece.  Have questions about the creation or distribution of multimedia within the PR process?  Let us know!


Turning Your News into Powerful Digital Content

June 28, 2013

Business Wire and NextWorks  sponsored a June 26 panel at the National Press Club in Washington that was all about turning your news into engaging and powerful digital content. Danny Selnick, Vice President for Public Policy and LatinoWire news distribution services for Business Wire, moderated the morning panel of digital content experts:

  • David Henry, Vice President of Content Marketing for NextWorks (@realdavidhenry)
  • Christian Clymer, Deputy Vice President for Public Affairs, PhRMA (@CCatPhRMA)
  • Kieran Fagan, Group Director, WCG (@kieranfagan)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

David spoke first  to the packed room, emphasizing that so much of what the public wants from an online experience has a video component , and that it must be powerful, engaging and short — not more than 90 seconds. He went on to suggest that the opportunity for organizations and companies is to expand the written news release into a visually compelling communications and marketing tool — and distribute it across all platforms, targeting media and bloggers — reaching out to millions of consumers. David went over the elements of telling a great story via video including:

  • Describe the issue or product
  • Demonstrating the product
  • Educate the viewer
  • Offer testimonials
  • Offer up organizational experts (and company/organization CEOs)
  • Offer FAQs

Christian went on to play captivating video that showed the human face of PhRMA and what its members offer the world — research, progress and hope. Effective advocacy video should include what he calls “snack-ables” offering quick, but important bites of content. He also talked about how PhRMA brought production in-house using two Apple computers and an editor — organizations no longer have to spend lots of money on production. Another important take-away that Christian mentioned is to reach the right 1,000 people, not the wrong one million people. Knowing who and how to reach youraudience is critical.

Kieran went on to say that getting visibility for whatever your doing is one thing, but getting people to “act” on the message is what is really important. Keep in mind the 1/9/90 rule — 1% of the online audience creates content, 9% will comment, rate and share content, while 90% watches. So again, it’s important to reach influencers. Keep the end goal in mind.

To read all the tweets coming from the event: click here and select “All Tweets.” To get a copy of the presentations from this panel, please contact Danny Selnick.


Does Including a Photo Get You More Views? Rutgers CMD Wins SNCR Award for Finding Out

November 13, 2012
by Phil Dennison, Senior Marketing Specialist/Business Wire – Cleveland

As we’ve stressed again and again, multimedia drives press release views online — our own measurement data shows it, and so does pretty much everyone else’s. This past Friday, though, the Rutgers University Center for Management Development (CMD) won an award from the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) for looking into it in an unconventional way: What happens when you distribute the same release twice, once with a photo and once without?

The photo distributed by Rutgers CMD with their second of two identical press releases one week apart.

With the help of SEO-PR, Rutgers CMD wrote and optimized a press release concerning an upcoming promotion, then distributed it via Business Wire at identical times one week apart, first without a photo, then with one. Everything else – headline, content, formatting, and so forth — was identical. The photo was the only difference.

The result? Despite the fact that Google News didn’t index the second release, it got 20% more views and 63% more clicks in 14 days than the first press release got in 21 days. Taking into account search engine penalties for duplicate content, that’s a pretty impressive result.

Even better, according to Eric Greenberg, Managing Director of Executive Education, Rutgers CMD, “This campaign has already generated seven registrations worth $31,500 in incremental revenue for Rutgers CMD, which is 8.75 times more than the $3,600 spent on writing, optimizing and distributing the press releases over Business Wire with and without a photo. So, conducting the study has paid off financially as well as academically.”

To further bring home the importance of press release optimization, after issuing the press release announcing this award, Rutgers CMD got some very impressive search results:

This is not the first such research that Rutgers CMD and SEO-PR have conducted into press release ROI. Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR recently authored a white paper for Business Wire, Linking Press Release Output to Outcomes, that details three separate sets of research on when best to send a press release and whether an active press release campaign has measurable revenue effects. Download it today to find out more.

Congratulations to Rutgers CMD and SEO-PR on their prestigious award, and we hope to bring you more research from them in the future.


How to Make Your Online Video More Visible

June 22, 2012

  by Michel Rubini, International Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/London

The temptation to package your message in a video is difficult to resist. Video is brilliant at making complex concepts easily understandable. Video can engage an audience on an emotional and informative level in a way that text simply can not.  Not to mention that when it comes to press releases, we see that multimedia content, including video, can drive press release views.

Assuming first that you’re sharing quality, engaging content, you still must remember that a video made for offline consumption does not always translate perfectly for online distribution.

Keep it short – Online audiences are not as attentive as offline audiences. Distractions come in many ways when browsing the web. Online video should ideally be under three minutes long. The shorter the better.

Make Text a Friend Not a Foe – Google needs the text to find your video but the traditional uses of text on screen can create poor online user experiences. So what’s the solution?  Christian Heilmann, developer evangelist from Mozilla Popcorn, shared a possible answer at a Newsrewired event.

Chris Heilman Mozilla

Christian Heilman

Heilmann explained that video is a black hole on the web. Google is unable to go through a video like it goes through a text. A good headline and a lengthy description is all we have to make it seen.

So how can we make our video more searchable and more findable? Heilmann’s suggestion is to always separate your content from your presentation. Any text should never be in the images. Any text in a video should be overlaying it. It makes the text easily edited, translated, enhanced or deleted when required. Titles and subtitles and are loved by Google and therefore, as Heilmann puts it, “separation increases search-ability and find-ability . . . search engines have something to bite into.”

The big question now is: how do we do it? Heilmann is a big fan of HTML5 video as an answer to these problems. HTML5 video makes it more accessible on the web by allowing the maker to easily separate text and images. Text is over imposed and can easily be edited and found by search engines. Like music made of many different tracks laid on top of each other, HTML5 video text is placed in a running track. Different kind of texts can be added to different tracks. Broadly speaking, there are 3 different tracks:

  •  Subtitles: translations of the dialogue in the video for when audio is available but not understood. Subtitles are shown over the video.
  • Captions: transcription of the dialogue, sound effects, musical cues and other audio information for when the viewer is deaf/hard of hearing, or the video is muted. Captions are also shown over the video.
  • Chapters: they are used to create navigation within the video. Typically they’re in the form of a list of chapters that the viewer can click on to go to a specific chapter.

A good example of a video using the above feature is shown here:

The overlaying is unscripted in the coding itself. Suddenly, the invisibility cloak is lifted and the video is findable, searchable and flexible . . . all things you will most certainly want when sharing your videos.


It’s All About Marketing and PR Convergence with Our New Smart Marketing Page

May 8, 2012
For professional communicators today, there is a growing understanding that PR and marketing efforts must work in unison to be most effective.  For example, the cost of the keywords that marketing bids on in their advertising outreach can be reduced when PR successfully gets those same keywords embedded and issued/posted/shared in their audience engagement efforts.

With press releases, we know that multimedia enhances click-thru rates and improves audience engagement.  When public relations leverages existing marketing assets, it reinforces brand messaging and helps marketing achieve the multiple touch points needed for audiences to act.  Both marketing and PR ultimately engage many of the same audiences by the very nature of how content is found and shared online.

For PR practitioners, this provides an opportunity to show how they can cost-effectively and measurably complement and boost the overall marketing impact.  As you build your next press release, work with marketing to develop and use common campaign keywords, add SEO-relevant, measurable touch points such as links from press release content deep into the organizations website, include “buy this” buttons and add multimedia visuals and videos, all driving measurable traffic, revenue and engagement tied to shared campaign objectives.

The launch of our new Smart Marketing Page provides a tremendously cost-effective new platform to achieve marketing/PR message unity that is measurable.  It helps PR grab a larger share of the marketing voice by pushing out press release and multimedia content via the powerful Business Wire news network to media and online audiences across the country, deep into your industry and around the web.  It also posts to our EON: Enhanced Online News platform, all designed to provide easy audience engagement and SEO-boosting exposure.

The Smart Marketing Page gives marketers a branded platform that is SEO friendly with assets that are easy to share, allowing for the inclusion of polls, multimedia galleries and custom branding.  It provides both with valuable multimedia tools and measurement metrics to evaluate and adjust campaigns against marketing objectives.

Check out the Business Wire SMP and see for yourself why we’re so excited about this new platform. Then contact your local BW account executive to get started.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38,345 other followers

%d bloggers like this: