There is a popular cable network TV show called Bridezillas that often depicts women planning their wedding day as high-strung, unreasonable and at times displaying jaw-dropping outrageous behavior. Of course, this makes for great reality TV, but at times I find myself sympathizing with these women. After all, it will be the biggest day of their lives – it had better go as planned!
Similarly, the quarterly earnings call is one of the biggest days in the career of investor relations professionals and their companies. A seamless call is an IRO’s opportunity to shine. A call riddled with issues will damage his or her credibility. These calls require weeks of careful planning to ensure that the right messages are communicated effectively to shareholders. However, much like the bridezillas have to rely on other people to design a dress, coordinate the flower arrangements, bake the cake, etc., IROs must work with a variety of outside providers for the services necessary to facilitate an earnings call. With so much riding on the line, there is no shame in taking on the IRO-zilla role and demanding, rather, clearly stating needs and expectations. The IRO’s professional reputation is at stake.
As the IRO, selecting a conference call provider is one of the most important decisions you will be making during this process. You certainly don’t want the speakers’ line dropped during the call or to be assigned an operator who has trouble pronouncing your company’s name. Take your time interviewing call providers. Get references from other IROs. Once you have selected a company that suits your needs, don’t be afraid to request the most experienced operators for your live calls. If you have an operator that you liked on one call, ask for him or her again next quarter. Good providers will do their best to accommodate your requests. If something does go wrong on the call, the speed with which they remedy the situation will tell you a lot about their focus on customer service.
You will want to engage a high-quality webcast provider. Webcasts are often bundled with your IR website hosting package. If not, listen to a few webcasts from the companies you are reviewing to get a sense of the sound quality. You need to be confident on the day of the call that the webcast line will be linked in to the live call on time and that the audio will be clear for all listeners.
Another service provider of high importance on your earnings day is the newswire. The big four in this industry have some pretty competitive offerings. Make sure they are providing you with the features you need, and be sure not to pay extra for bells and whistles if you don’t need them.
Do you post your transcript on your IR website after the call? Don’t be afraid to submit a copy of the prepared remarks portion of the call to the transcription service. They won’t view this as pushy. In fact, they often welcome it, as it speeds the transcribing process. This is particularly recommended for companies that have a member of management who speaks with an accent that may be difficult for listeners to understand.
Do you have the right people managing your IR website and social media channels? You will need a reliable source to post your news release, call presentation slides, or even prepared remarks online in a timely fashion. If you are not managing your website in-house, make sure you have a direct contact line to the person responsible at your provider for posting these materials. If you are using social media channels to broadcast the availability of the news release or key messages from the call, those too need to be timely. When it comes to social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, news from 10 minutes ago is old news.
Shameless Plug Warning: Working on the consulting side of investor relations has its perks! We execute earnings conference calls for each one of our clients every quarter. With that many quarterly earnings calls under our belts, we can predict nearly any possible scenario and develop fast resolutions to potential problems. In addition, we have the opportunity to work with several service providers at once to understand the pros and cons of their offerings. IR firms are much like wedding planners, in that they are hired to significantly reduce an IRO’s stress and responsibilities to ensure that the earnings process runs smoothly.
Earlier this month, Sharon Merrill President Maureen Wolff moderated part one of a two-part series of webinars sponsored by NIRI on controlling the message and managing the press release process throughout a quarterly earnings cycle. On Tuesday, November 16 at 4 p.m. ET, listen to part two on managing the conference call process and learn tips from other seasoned IROs on how they prepare for their big day. To register for the webinar, click here.
Dennis Walsh is Senior Associate and Social Media Specialist at Sharon Merrill. The firm helps clients prepare for, execute and evaluate every aspect of their quarterly financial results announcements. Sharon Merrill helps private and public companies on critical communications with key audiences. For 25 years the firm has been a strategic advisor to management teams and boards, and has implemented award-winning programs in the areas of investor relations, crisis communications, transaction communications and reputation management.