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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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.
Global merger and acquisition activity set an all-time high last year, breaking the previous record set in 2007. According to an EY survey in October 2015, 59% of executives planned to actively pursue acquisitions in the coming 12 months. Given that this number is significantly higher than the 40% reported in the survey a year ago, we very well could see another record-breaking year for M&A in 2016.
It’s the ability to tell a compelling story that will get the investment community excited about your company. It’s also a great challenge for even the largest public companies in the country.
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.
As you may have heard, the SEC has stated that public companies may announce material, non-public news on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, provided that companies take appropriate steps to alert investors which outlets they will use. Depending on your perspective, that may sound either intriguing or daunting.
But if that’s as far as it goes for your company – a quick reaction followed by little else – then all of the recent discussion spawned by the SEC’s ruling will have been little more than a wasted opportunity.
Sharon Merrill and the law firm Sullivan & Worcester recently co-hosted an educational seminar with investor relations and corporate communications officers on using social media for public companies. We presented an overview of the legal issues related to using social media for disclosure purposes, and we also provided six building blocks for developing an investor relations social media strategy.
By Dennis Walsh, Vice President & Director of Social Media
*Okay, so I may be biased since I was the moderator, but this panel session at the NIRI’s 2013 Annual Conference had all the elements necessary to help IR professionals develop a strategy for using social media for IR.
Attendees heard from David Urban, Director of IR at Johnson Controls; RJ Jones, IRO at Zillow; Broc Romanek, editor at TheCorporateCounsel.net; Chris DeMuth, portfolio manager at Rangeley Capital; and Sheryl Joyce VP Marketing & Communications at Q4 Websystems.
The key take away from the panel was that IR professionals should take control of or insert themselves into their company’s social media strategy. Since marketing and PR departments typically "own" social media, the challenge for IR departments is twofold: 1) ensure that all activity is compliant with public company regulations, and 2) ensure the messaging is consistent with the overall IR strategy.
IR Program Planning, Disclosure, Reg FD, Strategic Messaging, Investor Relations Agency, IR Website, NIRI, Disclosure Policy, IRO, Speaking Engagements, Earnings Call, Social Media, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm, Activist Investors
By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner
Three years ago, on the heels of the greatest collapse U.S. financial markets have experienced in decades, in conjunction with IntelliBusiness/eventVestor, we published a study, “The Guidance Effect: Improving Valuation” (PDF 875 KB), that evaluated the impact of increased transparency on equity valuation during the turbulent first quarter of 2009.
The findings supported the thesis that issuing quantitative financial guidance contributes to improved stock performance. Given the climate of fear and uncertainty that permeated Wall Street during the study period, we hypothesized that providing guidance – and thereby increasing transparency for investors – likely had an unusually pronounced affect on stock price behavior at the time.
By Jim Buckley
One of the investor relations issues that companies often struggle with is the “quiet period.” Here I’m not talking about the SEC mandated quiet period related to IPOs, other public offerings or around the release of lock-up agreements. Those all have defined legal parameters and lines drawn around what companies can and can’t do. I’m referring to the quarterly quiet period – where individual companies determine if, when and how they want to stop talking to the investment community as they approach the end of the quarter.
The quarterly quiet period is one of those gray areas that investor relations is famous for, and there is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach for companies. The fundamental principle behind the quarterly quiet period (or QQP) is straightforward. At some point around quarter end, management has knowledge of the company’s quarterly performance. So investors start calling in the last two weeks of every quarter and asking “How are things going?” They want to get a read on upcoming results through tone and demeanor. As a result, over time, companies began to institute a quiet period with the Street to avoid taking these calls. Makes sense, right? But how does each company handle its QQP? That’s where things start to get a little fuzzy.
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.
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