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Our Blog: The Podium

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

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

Crisis Communications: Preparing for the Unexpected

When you do work in crisis communications, you’re often asked to share war stories alongside other communications professionals on conference panels. The cases that are analyzed run the gamut of private and public companies, from small start-ups to large multinationals, in industries from consumer goods and high tech to pharmaceuticals and financial organizations. But there are consistent themes that typically rise from these discussions.

“Somebody’s Watching Me”

In the age of social media, somebody is watching every move that companies and their employees make. And more and more frequently, they are reporting their findings and opinions as fast as Twitter and Facebook will allow. Social media are not only accelerating the pace that information is being delivered but reshaping the entire communications landscape. In today’s crisis situation, anyone and everyone can now add their opinion into the conversation at a moment’s notice.

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Strategic Messaging, Crisis Communications, Investor Relations

Investor Relations for Industrials

Communicating That 1+1 = 3

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

Investor relations for industrialsA well-known portfolio manager once said to me that he loved diversified industrial companies “for their break-up value.” If you’re in the industrial space, this is the polar opposite of how you want investors to think about your company. For an industrial, it all comes down to ensuring that investors see your company as being more than a sum of its parts – not less. Here are four tips to ensure that investors believe your company is worth more than its breakup value.

Synergize! An industrial company’s collection of businesses can either be viewed as just that - a disparate group of autonomous operations individually contributing to the corporate P&L. Or they can be seen as interconnected, mutually supporting components of a single profit-generating machine. The first way to demonstrate that your company’s whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts is to communicate how the portfolio management philosophy of the business fosters cross-selling throughout the organization, driving revenue growth. Also focus on how management realizes cost synergies across the enterprise, such as through lower fixed costs due to shared overhead or greater combined purchasing power.

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Investor Presentation, IR Program Planning, Investor Meetings, Crisis Communications, Media Relations, IPO, Shareholder Communications, Industrial Investor Relations, Investor Relations, Earnings

Keeping the Activists at Bay: Five Steps to an Effective Response Plan

The new reality is that no public company, no matter how highly regarded or well managed, is immune from activist attention. The number of activist campaigns waged against public companies increased in 2015 to 375 according to the research firm FactSet.

Once an activist surfaces, every move a company makes can have a profound and cascading effect on its long-term viability.  Therefore, it is essential to craft response plans before any sign of danger emerges.

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Targeting, Wall Street, Shareholder Activism, Investor Meetings, Buy-Side, Proxy Season, Proxy Fight, Crisis Communications, STREETSCOPE, IRO, CFO

Are You 'The Great Pumpkin' in Need of Reputation Management?

A Halloween Lesson with Apologies to Charles M. Schulz

Every year Linus sits in the neighborhood pumpkin patch trying to impress Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally with a personal introduction to The Great Pumpkin. On Halloween, she forgoes trick or treating to wait for the Great Pumpkin as he “flies through the air and brings toys to all the children of the world.” When The Great Pumpkin disappoints, you can imagine the fury of a kid who has been cheated out of tricks or treats.

What to do if you are in The Great Pumpkin’s shoes, in desperate need of reputation management? Whether you are a corporate executive, a disgraced athlete or a fictional cartoon character, here are three essential steps for reestablishing a positive brand. 

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Credibility, Reputation Management, Crisis Communications, Public Relations, Investor Relations

Press Conferences in a Crisis: Belichick and Deflate-Gate

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick held two press conferences to address the “deflate-gate” controversy that has taken over sports headlines since the Patriot’s dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots, and Belichick as its head coach, are accused of underinflating game-day footballs against league rules.

After nearly a week of increasing hype and Patriot’s silence, Bill Belichick took the podium on Thursday morning in an attempt to quell the deflate-gate firestorm. His performance was lacking both in content and delivery and, thus, only fanned the sports talk radio flames that had been raging since the crisis broke. Then, in a surprising move, Belichick returned to face the cameras again on Saturday. He performed better in his second press conference and public reaction was more positive. Let’s take a look at some “lessons learned” from both of Belichick’s press conferences during the Patriot’s deflate-gate crisis.

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Presentation Training, Reputation Management, Crisis Communications, Public Relations

Sharon Merrill President and Partner Maureen Wolff selected as 2014 NIRI Fellow

Sharon Merrill Associates President and Partner Maureen Wolff was selected as one of five new National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) Fellows. NIRI Fellows are recognized leaders who represent the ideals of the investor relations (IR) profession, and have distinguished themselves on the basis of their integrity, leadership, involvement and contributions to the IR profession throughout their careers.

Sharon Merrill, Chairman and CEO of Sharon Merrill Associates said, “Maureen is extremely well deserving of this great honor by the National Investor Relations Institute. She has been a leader in the advancement of the investor relations profession for the past 30 years and an ardent supporter of NIRI. Congratulations to Maureen and the 2014 class of NIRI Fellows.”

In the NIRI announcement of the Fellows Class of 2014 , NIRI CEO Jeff Morgan said, “I am delighted to honor these five outstanding individuals who have been so important to the development of the profession and to NIRI’s success. NIRI Fellows are nominated by their peers, and represent the highest standards in the investor relations profession and in our community. We look forward to honoring them at the 2014 NIRI Annual Conference this June.”

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Awards, Sharon Merrill Associates, Investor Relations Agency, Crisis Communications, NIRI, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm, Activist Investors

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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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