Business Wire San Francisco hosted a breakfast event June 11 at the historic Palace Hotel, where more than 30 area investor relations and media relations professionals gathered for a panel discussion on the most relevant and timely issues in corporate disclosure and investor relations.
The event, titled “An Investor Relations Survival Guide: IR Strategies for the New Age of Corporate Transparency and Accountability,” focused on a discussion of the changing regulatory environment, including how different companies deal with the issue of earnings guidance, compliance challenges and social media’s place in the IR landscape. It was part of Business Wire’s Spring Investor Relations Conference Series, which has also included events in New York and Boston.
Don Clark (far left), Deputy Bureau Chief, Wall Street Journal moderated a panel of disclosure experts and thought leaders, including (from left to right):
- Peter Schuman, Manager, Investor Relations, Intel
- Stephen Schrader, Partner, Baker & McKenzie LLP
- Alex Hughes, Director of IR, Dolby Labs
- Jim Jelter, Corporate News Editor, MarketWatch
Among the key points discussed:
- When discussing earnings releases, Mr. Clark identified comparisons as his pet peeve. Everything the media does is about comparing what happened to what happened in the past. He said it’s amazing how often companies will report the “net income of this or that,” but won’t have the comparison. Then the media has to dig to see the earnings drop. Mr. Clark thinks that everyone can see right through that because it’s obvious when a company is doing well since they’ll crow about it in the first sentence.
- Mr. Schrader noted that the issue of confirming guidance is extremely sensitive and ambiguous. Once a company has issued earnings guidance, can they communicate with analysts to confirm later that the guidance is still current? Mr. Schrader believes confirming guidance is selective disclosure. Even though there’s a school of thought that says that if what you confirm is within what you’ve already put out, it’s already out in the marketplace anyway, to him, it’s a very risky policy. He believes the SEC will take action on this issue in the near future.
- Commenting on using social media for IR communications, Mr. Hughes notes that, in his opinion, platforms like blogging make more sense on the corporate communications side. He believes financial information is too delicate to put on blogs. Additionally, because one of the great struggles in investor relations is getting investors to see the long-term business cycle and strategy, he isn’t sure that social media platforms, built for instantaneous communication, supports that goal.
- Mr. Jelter says there’s too much “noise” in earnings releases. He says the best practice to have is to keep it simple and keep it clean. He listed what he likes to see clearly reported: “Net earnings, net loss, operating revenue, operating loss and guidance.” As Mr. Jelter put it, “write for your Aunt Virginia.” Make your release accessible and don’t bog down in a lot of terminology.
- Mr. Schuman notes that Intel does not like using PDF for disseminating earnings releases. HTML is much more accessible, particularly with mobile devices.
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