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Our Blog: The Podium

2020 Annual Shareholder Meetings: New SEC Guidance and Going Virtual

By David Calusdian, President

The option to hold a solely virtual annual meeting has been with us for several years now, but we certainly will see a dramatic increase in the number of companies using these purely online events this coming proxy season.  Broadridge’s virtualshareholdermeeting.com platform lists 140 virtual or “hybrid” (offering a virtual option to supplement the in-person meeting) events on its platform alone from now through the end of May. And we’ll be sure to see more of these events in the coming weeks as a result of the SEC’s new annual meeting guidance due to COVID-19 travel and gathering restrictions. 

Below we have shared the SEC’s guidance around three major areas relating to annual meetings, including 1) changing the date, time and location of meetings; 2) holding virtual or hybrid annual meetings; and 3) providing flexibility regarding shareholder proposals.  We have also included links to helpful resources, and proxy and news release examples relating to virtual or hybrid annual meetings. Of course, since state law governs the conduct of annual meetings, please refer to those corporate codes as well as any limitations provided by your stock exchange. 

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Investor Relations Agency, Investor Meetings, Crisis Communications, IRO, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm, Corporate Communications

COVID-19: A Guide for Communicating through an Unprecedented Crisis

By Maureen Wolff, Chief Executive Officer

The fast-moving COVID-19 outbreak is presenting many unique challenges for companies around the globe as they determine how to best manage the business impact, protect their employees at large, and communicate an immense amount of information and change effectively with their employees, shareholders, customers, the media and more.

The following are 8 tips for business practices and communications with core stakeholders as you formulate policies in the wake of COVID-19. 

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Investor Relations Agency, Investor Meetings, Crisis Communications, IRO, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm, Corporate Communications, Employee Communications

The Sharon Merrill 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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Succession Planning, Investor Relations Agency, Crisis Communications, Investor Relations, Corporate Communications

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

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

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

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

When It’s Time for a Change: Replacing a Director

Note: This is the finale in our three-part series on succession communications.

As you’ve no doubt noticed from our previous posts on communicating CEO and CFO transitions, there’s no such thing as a “standard” executive announcement. And messaging board-level succession carries additional nuances you’ll need to consider as you frame a board change in the best position for long-term success with the investment community.

To assist in that effort, here are five points to guide you in announcing a change on your board.

1. Change is good. Change carries inherent uncertainty, and investors typically frown on that. However, institutional shareholders, and shareholder activists in particular, have emphasized board refreshment in recent years as a means of improving corporategovernance. Proxy advisers Glass Lewis and ISS also view it favorably. The theory here is that more frequent board turnover opens a company to new thinking and the best possible strategic benefits in the long run. Put another way, your board either can be stagnant or growing. Approach your announcement from a confident perspective, because chances are your shareholders will welcome the addition of new viewpoints.

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Investor Relations Blog, Succession Planning, Corporate Governance, Crisis Communications, Investor Relations, Corporate Communications, Succession Communication

When It’s Time for a Change: CFO Succession

Note: This is the second in our three-part series on succession communications.

A new CEO is the highest-profile personnel announcement a company can make, but a new CFO isn’t far behind. As with any executive transition, the reasons can vary widely – from termination to mutual separation to a legitimate retirement. Regardless of the rationale, however, you’ll need to negotiate a different set of questions when communicating a CFO transition.

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Succession Planning, Crisis Communications, CFO, Corporate Communications, Executive Transition, CFO Transition, Succession Communication, Transition Communication

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Delivering 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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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