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)


Introducing The Underdogs of the Social Media World

January 23, 2014

By: Ciaran Ryan & Zara McAlister , Business Wire Toronto Editors

The odds are forever stacked against them, and yet we can’t help but cheer them on. They may not be as big or as strong as their rivals, but they all hold the potential for greatness. They are underdogs. They’re the stuff of sport’s Cinderella stories, history’s conflicts, and Hollywood’s scripts. If you look hard enough you can always find the underdog. Even in the social media landscape, dozens of underused platforms are waiting for brands to try them on for size.

Facebook and Twitter may be the current top dogs, but other platforms boast their own unique strengths that could be beneficial for your brand. We’ve paired these platforms with notable underdogs of the past for entertainment value.

G+ & Rocky Balboa

rocky

Image source: IMDB

Google + is a lot like Rocky Balboa, the “Italian Stallion” from the Rocky movie series. On paper the diminutive boxer stood no chance against powerful fighters like the Soviet Union’s Ivan Drago. But the manly Rocky persevered when few believed in him, save his trainer Mickey and his love interest Adrian.

G+ has more supporters than Rocky ever did, with 540 million users. This social networking platform may not have Facebook’s numbers, but it’s quickly gaining ground. About 70% of its users are manly men, like Rocky. Typical users are in their mid-twenties to early thirties with technical interests such as engineering and modern technology. If this fits your brand’s target demographic, then appeal to these users by using G+ Hangouts to connect directly with them in a video chat environment. G+ is also useful for sharing learning-based content, hosting product demos and Q&A sessions. Sidneyeve Matrix, media professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario suggests making use of your brand’s evergreen content (not time sensitive) on G+ or posting information exclusive to your G+ circle.

If you need another reason to try G+, it’s no surprise this social network is the number one driver of Google SEO.

Pinterest & Danica Patrick

Few people thought Danica Patrick, a high school dropout, would succeed in the male-dominated sport of auto racing. Yet she defied the odds in 2008 to become the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race. Patrick’s underdog status and photogenic appeal have made her a household name.

Pinterest has also made a name for itself with 70 million users worldwide. The photo sharing community-based platform has a predominately female user base that works well for consumer brands. Pinterest ranks higher than Twitter for driving SEO on Google according to Search Metrics. What’s more, a recent study by GIGYA found Pinterest generates more e-commerce traffic than Facebook. And Pinterest’s industry leading 85% click through rate means more visitors following advertised links to get additional information about your brand. Ms. Matrix thinks Pinterest works best for brands that are rich in original content. “Think outside the box. You’re not always trying to sell. Sometimes you’re just trying to inspire,” she says. If your company fits the Pinterest bill, add a pin tool to your social sharing buttons, create targeted boards and consider running contests to get your customers more involved.

monet

Image source: Wikipedia

Vimeo & Monet

Two years ago Monet’s “Water Lilies” painting sold for over $43 million USD. Not bad for an artist whose work was initially panned by critics in France. Monet was an artistic underdog because most 19th century art critics didn’t know what to make of his Impressionist style. Eventually the Impressionist movement flourished and Monet became one of the most celebrated painters of his time.

Much like Monet is his early years, video sharing site Vimeo flies under the radar. Its 100 million unique monthly victors are a drop in the bucket compared to YouTube’s 1 billion. But for what Vimeo lacks in size, it makes up for in the quality of its content. Vimeo is a hotbed for indie filmmaking. You may not find tributes to Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” or music videos about what foxes are really trying to say to us, but you will likely stumble upon something like this emotional ad produced by Google.

Vimeo is well categorized and less cluttered then other video sharing platforms. It’s not necessarily the right network for launching viral videos, but if your brand is interested in showcasing high quality content to a creative audience, then this is the place to do it. Last year Vimeo started the Brand Creative Fund, which helps to connect brands with Vimeo registered filmmakers, to create branded content that the community will appreciate.

These social media platforms are only a sample of the ones out there that encourage creative content and “out of the box” thinking. Always keep your target market in mind when considering what platforms will work best for your brand. Can you think of any other social media underdogs? Share your thoughts with us.


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.


PRSAIcon 2011 Recap: Eight Key Takeaways, From Storytelling to Link Tracking

October 19, 2011

by Amy Yen, Marketing Specialist, Business Wire Los Angeles

Business Wire at PRSAIcon 2011This week, Business Wire was once again a proud sponsor and exhibitor at the 2011 PRSA International Conference, aka #PRSAIcon. Our conference team had a great time meeting so many of our amazing clients in person and learning the latest about the always changing PR industry. We tweeted updates on our @businesswire feed throughout the conference of interesting lessons from many of the keynotes and sessions. Here are eight key takeaways:

  1. PR is about storytelling. It was only appropriate in Orlando, home to the most magical place on earth, that the unofficial theme of the conference was storytelling. Opening keynote speaker Soledad O’Brien of CNN talked about storytelling being more than a statistic. You have to find the character behind the statistic & tell the story with their passion. The closing keynote speaker, Joe Rohde from Disney, talked about compelling stories coming from the interruptions in expected patterns. “We don’t have time for things we think we already know.”
  2. Video and visuals make for compelling storytelling. YouTube is the number two search engine in the world behind Google. Video makes for great content and is not as expensive as it’s perceived to be. (After all, every phone is a camera.) It’s also a good idea to get your executives on video talking about your brand . . . it helps qualify them as spokespeople for journalists.
  3. Customer service is the new black. Like it or not, part of PR is now customer service. In fact, thanks to social media, PR people are often the first to hear about the problems. There is still a level of awe right now if you just reply when your customers try to talk to you.
  4. Media training is not just a C-suite sport anymore. Keynote speaker Chris Brogan talked about how everyone is on some kind of media these days, so everyone should be trained. Soledad O’Brien discussed media training from a journalist’s perspective, saying passion and emotion can’t be trained. Ultimately, what people relate to is the authenticity and passion behind the messaging points.
  5. You can’t ignore Google+. Chris Brogan pointed out that you have to care about Google+, if only because it’s the only social network currently being indexed on the top two search engines in the world. Every PR professional should at least be conversational about it. Additionally, Google+ profiles can help with personal online presence since it ranks so highly on Google. Optimize your title and introduction and include links to all your other sites and networks, as those appear in your search results.
  6. Empower your employees on social media. If you’re terrified to give control to others in your organization, you will not be successful in social media. Train them and have a social media policy so you can be. Your policy should be short and understandable without legal assistance and should be in every new hire’s packet when they start.
  7. If it can be searched for, it can be optimized. Keyword optimize your blog posts, landing pages, press releases, online newsrooms, multimedia and social content. In press releases, optimize in the headline and subhead, include links and a call-to-action. For photos and other multimedia, optimize the file name of the file you are uploading, include alt text and captions.
  8. We are all fighting for budgets. PR should get credit for the leads it generates. Set goals before your campaign so you can track conversions with tools like Google Analytics. Track traffic with tools like Google URL builder, which tags your URLs so you know where your link clicks are coming from (press release versus AdWords versus Facebook ads, etc).

At the conference, we also announced our new partnership with Critical Mention, which will provide clients with access to Critical Mention’s real-time television and radio monitoring platform. As an introductory promotion, Business Wire clients who subscribe with Critical Mention for 2012 will receive the remainder of 2011 at no charge.

We’d also like to congratulate Elizabeth Rowland at Strat-igence, who was the winner of our iPad Giveaway. And thanks again to PRSA, the speakers and all the attendees for a great conference!


Business Wire’s College Video Contest Winner Jenna Marie James Gears Up to Meet Mr. Buffett

September 27, 2011

We’re just days away until Business Wire heads to New York city to ring the opening bell with Warren Buffett, chairman & CEO of Business Wire’s parent company, Berkshire Hathaway, at the New York Stock Exchange.   Meeting Mr. Buffett along with Business Wire’s chairman and CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz is our college video contest winner  21-year-old Jenna Marie James, a senior majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University.  Students were asked to answer the question “What is the future of public relations and communications?” and Jenna was chosen based on creativity, originality and appropriateness to theme.  Read press release here.

We asked Jenna how she was feeling about winning the contest and she shared, ” This is all still so surreal to me. I got a golden ticket! I feel like Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory except Willy Wonka is Warren Buffett and the Chocolate Factory is The Stock Market Luncheon. I’m just trying to soak it all in and get everything ready in order to head to New York.”

Check out Jenna’s video below and learn how this superstar is training to meet one of the most influential people in the world:

To see Jenna’s winning video along with all our top ten finalists, visit facebook.com/businesswire.


LA-Area Communicators Discuss Video and SEO

September 3, 2010

On August 19, Business Wire LA hosted a media breakfast and panel discussion titled “Video & SEO: Best Practices for Effective Marketing & PR” at the Olympic Collection in west Los Angeles. Our expert panel discussed the increasing popularity of online video in brand communications and shared tips with the audience of LA area communicators on how to use video to drive web traffic, generate leads and help SEO.

Hanna Pantle (far right), Assistant Vice President of Corporate Communications and Media Relations at BMI, moderated the panel, which also included (R-L):

Here are some key insights from the panel discussion:

  • There are two major benefits to online video: it increases engagement with the audience and it enhances the SEO of your content.
  • Universal search is becoming increasingly popular and represents a major opportunity when it comes to video content. Because universal search spotlights multimedia, any video you use in support of your news has a good chance of being highlighted in search because there is still not that much video content out there yet.
  • Although video isn’t used by all media yet, particularly print media, it can still help explain things to reporters quickly. Press releases that include video tend to have higher open rates.
  • Another benefit of video is its built-in social interaction. Embed codes and social media sharing links that are regularly included in online videos make them easily sharable and creates multiple posting points online, which helps SEO.
  • Know your audience and where they will be. You can’t neglect YouTube, but you have to put your video where your audience will naturally find it. A lot of the time, people won’t be searching YouTube looking for your video, you have to put it where the audience you are trying to reach already views content.
  • You can think of video sites like you think of other kinds of media, in terms of reader or viewer demographic. Different audiences go to YouTube than go to Daily Motion. The YouTube audience has specific characteristics & the videos on YouTube tend to have specific characteristics. Short-form videos, particularly humorous ones, tend to do well on YouTube, but long-form videos don’t really belong there.
  • Statistics show that if you post your video to a half dozen sites other than YouTube, it increases traffic by 80 percent.
  • It’s also important to know your audience because that will tell you whether it is necessary for your brand to be on certain platforms, such as mobile. Video is a good way to tell your story over mobile because often people are willing to watch a short video on their phones and read the full article or press release once they are back on their computers.

>>Click here to download to a full audio recording of this event.

For more upcoming local Business Wire events or to see what’s coming up in our award-winning webinar series, visit http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/business-wire-events.

Follow Business Wire events on Twitter! Hash tag #bwevents


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