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Our Blog: The Podium

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

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

Reputation Management: Rebuilding Lance Armstrong

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

As bad as things look for Lance Armstrong amidst the doping scandal that has cost him seven Tour De France titles and millions in endorsement deals, he has an opportunity that few in need of reputation management ever have. This opportunity for reputation redemption comes not from his status as the most successful athlete his sport has ever seen, but as the founder of LiveStrong, an organization that provides support for people fighting cancer around the world. It is much easier to forgive athletes like Lance for “on-the-field” discretions when they also are known for altruistic works off the field.

Armstrong, however, like anyone in the middle of a crisis, needs to be realistic about what type of a reputation rescue is even possible. For example, can the career be saved? Could there be endorsement deals in the future? Can the hearts and minds of the general public be won over again? In Armstrong’s case, the cycling career is over, and so too are the endorsements. But his ability to regain respect as a leader in the cancer community and to take back the LiveStrong chairmanship he recently resigned is entirely possible.

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Reputation Management, Crisis Communications

Preparing for a Social Media Crisis

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

I recently participated as the designated “social media expert” as part of a crisis communications case study session at the 2012 NIRI Southwest regional conference. This year’s conference was held in New Orleans and the session centered on a fictitious publicly held bead manufacturing company (apropos for the conference host city) that found itself suddenly facing a major environmental crisis. During the true-to-life exercise, attendees took on the roles of the company’s corporate communications officers and were tasked with implementing all aspects of the crisis response plan.

In their new roles, the attendees had to make a number of decisions relating to the immediate actions of the fictitious company, “Beignet Beads & Baubles.” For example, should the company proceed with a press conference with the governor announcing a state grant that afternoon? Should management go forward with a scheduled presentation at a major investor conference in New York the next day? Should a planned announcement of a major plant expansion be delayed? As typically happens with a real crisis, the Beignet Beads & Baubles “crisis team-for-a-day” was given an increasing amount of information to complicate their decision-making process.

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IR Program Planning, Reg FD, Strategic Messaging, IR Website, Crisis Communications, Disclosure Policy, Media Relations, Shareholder Communications, Social Media, Investor Relations, Monitoring, Socialize IR, Activist Investors

Social Media for Investor Relations for the Marketing/PR Professional

By Dennis Walsh, Senior Consultant & Director of Social Media

It’s that time of year again: Back to School! For my first job out of college I worked as an educator. This year, for “Back to School” season, I thought I’d step back into my teaching shoes. The following is a quick lesson on social media for investor relations for the marketing and public relations professional.

Technology is constantly changing the way we engage with our audience, so professional communicators must never stop learning new techniques. As a seasoned marketing or public relations professional, you’ve likely got social media covered. But how fluent are you in investor relations best practices? If you work for a public company, you might want to rethink your social media engagement strategy.

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IR Program Planning, Reg FD, Crisis Communications, Public Relations, Disclosure Policy, IRO, Shareholder Communications, Social Media, Investor Relations, Socialize IR, Earnings, Investor Relations Firm

Achieving Nirvana for Your M&A Deal – Lessons Learned in Seattle

By Jim Buckley

At the recently concluded NIRI National conference in Seattle, I was invited to moderate a panel entitled Communicating the Deal: How IR Can Drive Success. The session featured a seasoned cast of practitioners who have successfully navigated an assortment of M&A transactions ranging from strategic purchases and spinoffs to hostile takeovers and going private. Participants were treated to valuable insights, anecdotes and lessons learned from Andrew Kramer of Interactive Data Corporation, Brian McPeak of Owens Corning, John Chevalier of Procter & Gamble and Kristy Nicholas of Expedia.

Deals have begun to pick up momentum again in recent years, with the Institute of Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances (a fabulous site if you need M&A data) estimating that there were approximately 15,000 deals in North America during 2011 amounting to $1.6 trillion. This is the equivalent of someone buying Apple, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Wal-Mart and General Electric – combined. Worldwide, that number rises to $5.1 trillion.

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Mergers & Acquisitions, Crisis Communications, NIRI, Speaking Engagements, Investor Relations, Activist Investors, Acquisitions

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

Five Crisis Communication Plan Essentials

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

*Originally appeared on OpenView Labs, the strategic and operational consulting arm of OpenView Venture Partners, a global Venture Capital fund that invests in expansion stage technology companies.

“In preparing for battle, I have always
found that plans are useless, but
planning is indispensable.”

- Dwight David Eisenhower

President Eisenhower could well have uttered the same quote about Crisis Communications. Developing a crisis communications plan is more about planning to mobilize for a potential crisis, than it is about writing step-by-step actions for specific pre-ordained scenarios. And this is what causes so many management teams to be confused about exactly what the components of a good crisis communication plan actually are. Here are five “Crisis Plan Essentials” to consider in order to get your team ready to communicate in a crisis.

1) Identify the Crisis Team

It’s important that the right people from the appropriate functional areas of the organization are ready to respond at a moment’s notice to a crisis and understand their responsibilities as members of the team. Along with the CEO and CFO, the team should include key people from public relations, corporate communications, investor relations, human resources, public affairs, sales and marketing. Make sure that at least two members of the crisis team have been media trained. A major crisis is no time to get your feet wet in media relations.

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IR Program Planning, Strategic Messaging, Crisis Communications, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Activist Investors

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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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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.

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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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