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Our Blog: The Podium

Harassment and Reputation Risk

After many months of data breach disclosures and sexual harassment scandals, of frustration about perceived pay inequality and insular boardrooms, the largest financial institutions in the world have finally had enough. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, fired the first warning shot this year, when in January he issued his annual letter to CEOs, titled “A Sense of Purpose.” In the letter, Fink asked public companies not only to deliver increasing returns but to demonstrate how they make a “positive contribution to society.” And in March, the Council of Institutional Investors (CII), which represents 130 pension funds managing more than $3.5 trillion in assets, called for corporate boards to adopt stricter guidelines for executives violating sexual harassment codes.

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crisis preparation, Investor Relations, Board of Directors, crisis communication plan, Corporate Communications, Strategic Messaging, Corporate Governance, Reputation Management, Culture risk

A Cybersecurity Conversation with Prince Lobel

Global cybercrime damages are expected to exceed $6 trillion annually by 2021. From hacks of mobile payment and other non-traditional payment systems to data manipulation and sabotage, the external threats to operations and customer and investor perception seem to increase daily. We recently sat down with cybersecurity expert William S. Rogers Jr. of Prince Lobel Tye LLP, a Boston law firm whose attorneys handle matters of local, regional, national and international reach. Rogers, who is chair of the firm’s Data Privacy and Security Practice Group, discussed cybersecurity regulation and its impact on public and private companies.

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crisis preparation, cybersecurity communication plan, IR Compliance, Cybersecurity, Investor Relations, Board of Directors, crisis communication plan, Corporate Communications, Investor Relations Trends, Strategic Messaging, Corporate Governance, Reputation Management

The Sharon Merrill Associates Approach

What makes Sharon Merrill Associates excel in the world of strategic communications?  Trust. Experience. Resilience. Passion. Vision. Perspective. Partnerships. Take a look at our story and see how we leverage these qualities to help you build value.  


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Perception Study, Event Planning, Transition Communication, Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, Employee Communications, Corporate Governance, Crisis Communications, Investor Day, Analyst Day, crisis preparation

The Five Things to Do Before Your Next Investor Day

Investor Days can be one of the most effective and cost-efficient  activities in your IR program – but only if you’re prepared.  Anyone who has worked “behind the scenes” of an investor day knows that it can be a logistical headache. You not only need to anticipate all the possible hiccups of hosting a live event, but handle the more substantive issues associated with telling your company’s story to a roomful of investors and analysts.

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Investor Event Planning, Analyst Day, Investor Day, Investor Relations, Event Planning

How Innovative Design and Communication is Changing the Proxy Landscape

In the once cut-and-dry world of proxy statements, colorful communication matters more than ever before.

With shareholder activism still on the rise, and institutional investors like BlackRock and State Street, and collectives like the Investor Stewardship Group, sharpening their focus on corporate governance issues, the tick-the-box approach to proxy statements is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Many companies are moving beyond the traditional black & white “legalese,” paragraph-heavy proxy statement and taking a more innovative, communications-focused approach to improve transparency, defend against activism, and better engage with shareholders.  

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Proxy Season, proxy, proxy design, Shareholder Communications, Board Communications

In Discussing CEO Pay Ratios, Context Is Everything

New disclosure rule presents an “apples and oranges” problem

As any communication veteran knows, every corporate “happening” creates a messaging opportunity. That is certainly the case with the impending round of pay-ratio disclosures. Starting this year, under an SEC amendment to Regulation S-K, which stemmed from a provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, most U.S. public companies will need to disclose the total annual compensation of their “median” employees, along with the ratio of that figure to the total compensation of their chief executive officers. Based on preliminary estimates, the highest ratios could exceed 350 to 1.

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crisis communication plan, executive comp, executive compensation, CEO pay ratio, compensation, internal communications, Investor Relations

A Sharon Merrill "Auld Lang Syne"

 The Sharon Merrill team would like to welcome 2018 with our rendition of a new year's classic.

 

 

May last year’s losses be forgot,

And profits maximized,

The market’s soaring to new heights,

New tax plans emphasized  


Chorus:

For all this crazy year has brought,

This insanely wacky year,

The folks on Wall Street don’t seem to mind,

Since investors have no fear

 

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A Conversation About Crisis Preparation

When faced with a crisis, even senior IR executives can benefit from an outside perspective, particularly when that perspective is based on years of experience. In the following conversation, David Calusdian, president at Sharon Merrill Associates, discusses crisis management issues and the most effective strategies to protect corporate reputation and credibility.

Q: Can you share some recent examples of your crisis communications work, to give readers a sense of the many issues that can ensnare a public company, and discuss how you solve them?

A: Today the potential for a crisis lurks in any piece of market-moving information that originates from somewhere other than the company. It could be a social media post about an impending management shakeup, an FDA product recall or a data breach. The potential scenarios are endless, but an effective response shares a few common themes:

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crisis communication plan, Crisis Communications, crisis, crisis preparation, Corporate Communications

Developing an Effective Cybersecurity Communication Plan

The Equifax data breach, which affected some 143 million  people, is just the latest high-profile incident reported by a large corporation. Verizon announced that 14 million customer accounts were exposed; Bell Canada said the data of 19 million customers was hacked; education platform Edmodo said the data of millions of its 78 million users were sold on the dark web. And Yahoo’s 2013 data breach reached epic proportions this month, when it announced all 3 billion customer accounts were hacked in that attack four years ago.

The good news -- and there is good news -- is that companies are stepping up their efforts to protect data. Ten years ago, information security was seen chiefly as an IT topic. Now, it has been elevated to the status of a strategic boardroom issue. I attend a monthly meeting of corporate board members, and at nearly every event there is discussion about cybersecurity and how to prepare – at the board level –for cyberattacks.

There’s a saying in the IT world: There are two kinds of companies, those that know they’ve been attacked, and those that don’t know they’ve been attacked. With that in mind, here are five critical things every company can do to prepare for a cyber crisis.

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Cybersecurity, Crisis Communications, crisis communication plan, cybersecurity communication plan

The Risks of Not Understanding Perceptions

A $1 million privately owned software company with double digit sales growth and an active new product pipeline is blindsided when its largest customer abruptly switches to an emerging competitor; company revenues drop 20% and private funding for next expansion is at risk.  

A $500 million diversified industrial company is successfully executing against its strategy to drive growth via acquisition and is surprised when several top sales performers abruptly leave the company because they are disconnected from the corporate strategy and vision; core business takes a hit. 

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Perception Audit, Perception Study, Perception, Reputation Management, Industrial Investor Relations, Brand Management

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Connect with your Investors

Establish a sincere connection with investors to communicate key messages during your Investor Day. Download our free e-book on effective presentation habits, and learn to deliver ideas with confidence and clarity.

Deliver effective  presentations

When it's time for a change

Whether planned or sudden, it is crucial to communicate the succession of high-profile positions effectively. Download our three-part e-book and learn the best way to craft a plan for CEO, CFO and Board of Directors transitions.

Communicate a Management Transition 

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

With our new Proxy GamePlan, we create a year-round, data-driven strategic roadmap for effective shareholder engagement. Implement a best-in-class program rooted in a deep understanding of your company’s proxy practices, shareholder voting trends and peer landscape.

Learn More About  Proxy GamePlan

Find Effective IR Counsel

Whether you’re seeking external IR counsel for the first time or evaluating your current provider, you need a firm that understands your strategy, adapts to your culture and tells your story. Download our free guide on how to assess the effectiveness of an investor relations firm.

How to Assess  an IR Firm

Activism Defense

No company is immune to shareholder activism. Sharon Merrill helps boards of directors and executive management teams identify the activist red flags lurking in your shareholder base, assess your governance risks and develop an action plan to prevent, detect and neutralize any threats. Download our free white paper, “Leveraging Institutional Shareholder Relationships to Reduce Activism Risk,” and learn how the best defense against activism is a strong offense.

Download Activist Defense White Paper

Captivate your Audience

Speaking persuasively is critical in today’s competitive business environment. Effective speakers use voice techniques and body language that project authority and credibility. Download our free e-book, “A Guide to Delivering Captivating Presentations,” for insight into good -and bad- presentation habits, and learn how to improve your skills.

Become a Persuasive Speaker 

Perceptions Matter

How do you ensure that investors clearly understand your strategy, growth drivers and market position? The most effective way is through a perception study. By periodically taking the investment community’s pulse you can avoid the knowledge gaps and misperceptions that hurt valuation. Download our free whitepaper, Why Perceptions Matter, to learn more.

Download your free copy of  'Why Perceptions Matter' 

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