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Our Blog: The Podium

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

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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Crisis Communications, Cybersecurity, 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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Reputation Management, Perception Audit, Industrial Investor Relations, Perception Study, Perception, Brand Management

Five Essentials When Communicating a CEO Transition

You probably have heard your CEO or a member of the board expound on the need to have a succession communications plan. (Perhaps you have been the one doing the expounding.) And it’s true: public companies should put significant thought into how they will communicate the transition of a C-level executive or board member. But usually, that’s where the conversation ends.

More often than not, communications professionals walk away from these discussions wondering what goes into the plan. With that in mind, today we discuss the five essential elements of a successful succession communications plan.

  • Make the plan

As soon as you know your board is conducting a CEO search, create a detailed timeline that will keep your succession communications on track. Name each task with the target completion date and the name of the person or people responsible for implementation. List all the materials that are necessary for the

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Board Communications, Crisis Communications, Corporate Communications, Executive Transition

Five Earnings Cycle To-Do’s for the Investor Relations Officer

When many management teams contemplate the quarterly earnings cycle, they think primarily about compliance – dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s. But while compliance is a major driver of financial disclosure, it should not be the only one – if it were, companies would file the 10-Q or 10-K and leave it at that. Take a more strategic approach to your next earnings cycle with these five tips.

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Disclosure, Strategic Messaging, Investor Relations, Earnings, IR Compliance, reporting, Earnings cycle

Investor Relations and High-Frequency Trading: Q&A with Bill Harts of Modern Markets Initiative

Bill Harts is the CEO of Modern Markets Initiative (MMI), an advocacy organization devoted to the role of technological innovation in creating the world’s best markets. MMI engages and educates public audiences about the value modern market professionals provide to today’s electronic marketplace. Harts is known in the financial services industry as a pioneer of algorithmic trading, as well as an authority on financial market structure and applied technology for trading.

Q: Thank you very much for being here, Bill. Can you tell us about Modern Markets Initiative? What are your goals?

A: Modern Markets Initiative first came together in late 2013. Our mission has always been to educate people about what high-frequency trading is, how it works and most importantly, how it saves a lot of money for investors and continues to do so every day.  Also, we wanted to serve as a resource to let investors and issuers alike understand the important role of high frequency trading in the trading ecosystem.

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Investor Relations, high-frequency trading, HFT, equity trading, trading, equity markets

Five Keys to Executing a Successful Investor Day

Investor days are one of the largest and most influential investor events a company can organize. They also are arguably the most overwhelming, triggering challenges in logistics and human resources for public companies large and small.

But don’t let organizational challenges prevent you from hosting a successful investor day that will have both your company and your investors happy.

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Investor Presentation, Investor Day, Presentation Training, Public Speaking, Analyst Day, Industrial Investor Relations, Investor Event Planning, Event Planning

Q&A With Baruch Lev: The End of Accounting?

We recently spoke with Baruch Lev, the Philip Bardes Professor of Accounting and Finance at New York University Stern School of Business. In “The End of Accounting and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers,” Prof. Lev and Feng Gu, associate professor at the University of Buffalo, propose a new system to improve transparency of corporate accounting.  This system aims to make public accounting disclosures more useful to investors. They encourage investor relations professionals to begin discussions with management to increase the usefulness and relevance of company disclosures for investors.

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Disclosure, Investor Relations, Public Accounting, accounting regulations, IR Recommendations

IR Website Best Practices: Five Ways to Drive Corporate Storytelling

A great IR website is not only about compliance; it’s also about creating a space investors can look to understand the qualitative aspects of your company’s story. While providing financial data and reports is important, what separates the best sites in the world are those that focus on providing context on the company’s strategy and clarity about its execution and vision.

If you’re thinking about launching a new IR website or refreshing your existing site, here are five best practices that will keep your investors engaged in your corporate story.

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IR Website, Investor Relations, Compliance, Investor Relations Websites, IR Websites, IR Website Design, Website Design, IR Compliance

The Timing of Negative News: A Lesson from the Boston Bruins

Timing is everything. On Tuesday, one of the “Original Six” hockey teams fired its long-time coach Claude Julien, who in 2011 led the team to a Stanley Cup victory. The Bruins had underperformed in recent years, especially this one, and Julien, who had been the NHL’s longest-tenured coach, was shown the door. The announcement of the firing caused immediate backlash among the media and fans in New England.

What caused the uproar, however, wasn’t the actual firing of Julien, although he certainly had his defenders among Bruins fans. The problem was timing. The Bruins fired Julien two days after the New England Patriots had won Super Bowl LI in historically dramatic fashion. And in what is undoubtedly no coincidence, the announcement took place on the day of Boston’s celebratory parade and rally for the Patriots -- a day when hundreds of thousands of fans clogged the city streets to get a glimpse of their gridiron heroes. The city’s sports focus was most certainly on the Patriots. And that’s what the Bruins were counting on.

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Crisis Communications, Public Relations, Investor Relations, news releases, negative news

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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.

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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.

Why Perceptions Matter 

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