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Our Blog: The Podium

Activists and Boards Agree on Need to Communicate

When it comes to corporate governance, board members and shareholder activists do not often agree.  But there is at least one opportunity for common ground: better communication.

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Board Communications, Shareholder Activism, Board of Directors, Crisis Communications, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations

10 Tips for Dealing with Shareholder Activism

By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner, Sharon Merrill Associates

For many companies, a looming activist shareholder is no longer the exception – it’s the rule. Activist shareholders had launched 495 campaigns targeting U.S. companies through November 2016, according to FactSet SharkRepellent. And as of the end of November, the number of proxy fights for board seats was at its highest level since 2009, at 101 contests.

The threat of activist investors encircling your company can be intimidating - unless you understand how to engage, respond and communicate. Here are 10 strategies to help you prepare.

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Board Communications, Shareholder Activism, Proxy Season, Proxy Access, Board Structure, NIRI, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Activist Investors

Getting Investors Ready For Your New CEO

By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner

When The Men’s Wearhouse dismissed George Zimmer, the company’s high-profile pitchman and executive chairman, this summer, observers were left wondering what had caused the split. The company announced it had parted ways with Zimmer, who founded The Men’s Wearhouse in 1973, on June 19, five hours before its annual stockholders meeting was scheduled to take place. It provided an extensive explanation from the board of directors via press release – six days later. In the interim, and for several days thereafter, fans of Zimmer and his iconic commercial appearances took to social media with cries of “foul.” Zimmer himself commented on his ouster through a number of media channels.

Zimmer’s split must have been particularly damaging from a communications and branding perspective. After all, it is difficult to even think of the men’s retailer without hearing Zimmer and his classic phrase, “You’re gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it.” But the travails of communicating succession aren’t limited to high-profile executives. In the past several weeks, we have seen changes or controversy at the top of a number of public companies, including J.C. Penney, Microsoft, Office Depot, Royal KPN and Vivendi.

Finding the next CEO or chairman is one issue. Communicating to investors that the board of directors has a sound plan for succession is quite another entirely. This means the challenge is two-fold: overcoming the stigma associated with internal succession discussions while a CEO – especially a successful one or a company founder – is still in place; and crafting a message that will ultimately calm investor fears about uncertainty caused by a pending transition.

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Disclosure, Board Communications, Succession Planning, Board of Directors, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations

Is the Annual Report a Thing of the Past?

By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner

Annual reports are so 1997.

When the National Investor Relations Institute recently asked me for my thoughts on the public company practice of producing a glossy annual report, the premise of the question was not, “How can companies do this better?” or “Please provide some helpful tips for designing annual reports.” It wasn’t even as minimalist as “What’s the least expensive, most simplified way to produce an annual report?” No, the question was much more fundamental: Why, in this age of technology and pressured IR department budgets, should companies bother to create an annual report at all?

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IR Program Planning, Board Communications, Annual Report, Strategic Messaging, IR Website, IR Budgets, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations

Notes from a NIRI Annual Conference Attendee

By Dennis Walsh, Senior Consultant & Director of Social Media

Last week, I attended the NIRI Annual Conference. It was very educational and an incredible opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with many of the approximately 1,300 investor relations professionals from more than 20 countries that attended the event in Seattle.

NIRI organized more than 45 informative panel sessions and workshops that were led by some of IR’s top influencers. While I wanted to attend each one, unfortunately I am not omnipresent. For those that I did attend, I left with several key takeaways that can benefit any IR program and wanted to share those with you here at The Podium.

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Investor Presentation, IR Program Planning, Board Packages, Shareholder Surveillance, Disclosure, Targeting, Board Communications, Annual Meeting, Corporate Governance, Shareholder Activism, SEC, Proxy Season, Board of Directors, Proxy Access, NIRI, Disclosure Policy, IRO, CFO, Social Media, Investor Relations, Activist Investors

Investor Relations for the New CFO - Six Steps for IR Success

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

*Originally appeared on Samuel's CFO Blog. Samuel Dergel is Director and Search Consultant at Stanton Chase International. Mr. Dergel specializes in Executive Search for Chief Financial Officers.

As the new CFO of a publicly held company, somewhere on your extensive “to do” list is implementing an effective investor relations program. Whether or not the IR function was a well-oiled machine when you arrived, or virtually non-existent, there are key areas you need to address immediately to ensure that you are effectively taking the IR reins. So here are six steps for success as you accept responsibility for the IR function.

1) Understand your shareholder base. Research the investment styles of your shareholders to determine why they may have bought shares– and what might cause them to sell. See what type of investor concentration you have in your shareholder base. Identifying whether your shareholders are weighted toward a growth, value or income investment style, for example, can offer insight as to what they are expecting the company to achieve near or long term. Also investigate whether there are known “activist” firms among your shareholders, and what catalysts usually cause them to initiate a proxy fight. Make it a priority to speak with your shareholders by phone as soon as possible, and then meet them in person within your first few quarters as CFO. Also consider an investor perception audit to understand the sentiments of your shareholder base -- and identify any misperceptions about the company -- to most effectively build your IR program.

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Disclosure, Reg FD, Board Communications, Conference Calls, Investor Relations Agency, Investor Meetings, Guidance, Disclosure Policy, Shareholder Communications, Earnings Call, Social Media, Investor Relations, Earnings, Investor Relations Firm

What’s In/What’s Out for Investor Relations in 2012

By Jim Buckley

To kick off the New Year, we decided to renew an old Sharon Merrill tradition and take a lighthearted look at what’s in and what’s out in investor relations and related areas in 2012. Hope you enjoy, and have a happy and successful 2012.

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Hedge Fund, Board Communications, Annual Meeting, Investor Relations Agency, Proxy Access, Crisis Communications, Social Media, Investor Relations, Activist Investors

Is Your Investor Relations Plan Fit? Consider These 5 Steps.

By Dennis Walsh, Senior Consultant & Director of Social Media

As another year comes to a close, two things are probably on every IRO’s mind: New Year’s resolutions and next year’s investor relations plan. Every year, one of the most common resolutions is to get fit. People spend a tremendous amount of time and money developing new health and fitness plans to achieve that goal. This year, apply the same techniques to your IR plan in order to have a successful 2012.

Establish Achievable Goals

You may not be ready to compete in the Arnold Classic body building competition next year, but fitting into that new bathing suit by summer is certainly a realistic goal. When developing your 2012 IR plan, set equally realistic expectations. For example, expecting to grow your capitalization from a mid-cap to a large-cap in just a few months is likely an unrealistic benchmark. Instead, focus on more achievable metrics, such as meeting with a greater number of investors, attending more conferences, or increasing trading volume. Meeting these goals will support your ultimate goal of maximizing shareholder value.

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Holiday, IR Program Planning, Board Packages, Investor Relations Blog, Board Communications, Annual Meeting, Sharon Merrill Associates, Investor Relations Agency, Investor Meetings, NIRI, Investor Conference, IRO, IR Budgets, IPO, Shareholder Communications, Social Media, Small-cap IR, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm

Investor Relations: How May I Serve You?

“View from the C-Suite: What Management Wants from Investor Relations” was the theme for NIRI Boston’s April event. For a chance to listen to a panel of C-level executives speak candidly to a room full of investor relations professionals, I quickly reserved a car and “zipped” over to the meeting. The panel featured three esteemed executives from the region, including Richard F. Pops, Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer, Alkermes; David D.R. Hargreaves, Chief Operating Officer, Hasbro and Donald Muir, Chief Financial Officer, Lionbridge.

The audience was eager to hear what these top executives expect from a strong IR team. The panel consistently reinforced that IR professionals are most effective when they are knowledgeable, well organized, involved in strategic planning, and are able to stand up to management to ensure best practice.

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IR Program Planning, Board Packages, Corporate Access, Board Communications, Investor Meetings, NIRI, Disclosure Policy, Shareholder Communications, Social Media, Investor Relations, Earnings

Activists and Boards Share Common Ground on Communications

When it comes to corporate governance, board members and shareholder activists are usually on opposite ends of the spectrum. But at separate conferences in New York and Boston this month, the two camps expressed a surprisingly similar view about the most effective way to deal with the anticipated increase in shareholder activism in 2011: better communication.

According to a study by law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel (SRZ), 76% of activists surveyed identified “dialogue/negotiations with management” as the most effective activist strategy to achieve desired results. None of the other proposed strategies – shareholder resolutions, publicity campaigns, proxy contests or litigation – received more than 16% of the vote.

Results of the study were highlighted at SRZ’s Shareholder Activism Conference in New York, which I attended as part of an invited group comprised mainly of hedge fund and private equity fund managers.

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Shareholder Meeting, Board Communications, Shareholder Activism, Proxy Season, Proxy Access, Crisis Communications, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Activist Investors

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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.

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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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