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Our Blog: The Podium

Harassment and Reputation Risk

After many months of data breach disclosures and sexual harassment scandals, of frustration about perceived pay inequality and insular boardrooms, the largest financial institutions in the world have finally had enough. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, fired the first warning shot this year, when in January he issued his annual letter to CEOs, titled “A Sense of Purpose.” In the letter, Fink asked public companies not only to deliver increasing returns but to demonstrate how they make a “positive contribution to society.” And in March, the Council of Institutional Investors (CII), which represents 130 pension funds managing more than $3.5 trillion in assets, called for corporate boards to adopt stricter guidelines for executives violating sexual harassment codes.

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Strategic Messaging, Corporate Governance, Board of Directors, Reputation Management, Investor Relations, Corporate Communications, crisis communication plan, crisis preparation, Culture risk

A Cybersecurity Conversation with Prince Lobel

Global cybercrime damages are expected to exceed $6 trillion annually by 2021. From hacks of mobile payment and other non-traditional payment systems to data manipulation and sabotage, the external threats to operations and customer and investor perception seem to increase daily. We recently sat down with cybersecurity expert William S. Rogers Jr. of Prince Lobel Tye LLP, a Boston law firm whose attorneys handle matters of local, regional, national and international reach. Rogers, who is chair of the firm’s Data Privacy and Security Practice Group, discussed cybersecurity regulation and its impact on public and private companies.

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Strategic Messaging, Corporate Governance, Board of Directors, Reputation Management, Investor Relations, Cybersecurity, Investor Relations Trends, Corporate Communications, IR Compliance, crisis communication plan, cybersecurity communication plan, crisis preparation

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

The Five Things to Do Before Your Next Investor Day

Investor Days can be one of the most effective and cost-efficient  activities in your IR program – but only if you’re prepared.  Anyone who has worked “behind the scenes” of an investor day knows that it can be a logistical headache. You not only need to anticipate all the possible hiccups of hosting a live event, but handle the more substantive issues associated with telling your company’s story to a roomful of investors and analysts.

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Investor Day, Analyst Day, Investor Relations, Investor Event Planning, Event Planning

In Discussing CEO Pay Ratios, Context Is Everything

New disclosure rule presents an “apples and oranges” problem

As any communication veteran knows, every corporate “happening” creates a messaging opportunity. That is certainly the case with the impending round of pay-ratio disclosures. Starting this year, under an SEC amendment to Regulation S-K, which stemmed from a provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, most U.S. public companies will need to disclose the total annual compensation of their “median” employees, along with the ratio of that figure to the total compensation of their chief executive officers. Based on preliminary estimates, the highest ratios could exceed 350 to 1.

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Investor Relations, crisis communication plan, executive comp, executive compensation, CEO pay ratio, compensation, internal communications

Five Earnings Cycle To-Do’s for the Investor Relations Officer

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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Disclosure, Strategic Messaging, Investor Relations, Earnings, IR Compliance, reporting, Earnings cycle

Investor Relations and High-Frequency Trading: Q&A with Bill Harts of Modern Markets Initiative

Bill Harts is the CEO of Modern Markets Initiative (MMI), an advocacy organization devoted to the role of technological innovation in creating the world’s best markets. MMI engages and educates public audiences about the value modern market professionals provide to today’s electronic marketplace. Harts is known in the financial services industry as a pioneer of algorithmic trading, as well as an authority on financial market structure and applied technology for trading.

Q: Thank you very much for being here, Bill. Can you tell us about Modern Markets Initiative? What are your goals?

A: Modern Markets Initiative first came together in late 2013. Our mission has always been to educate people about what high-frequency trading is, how it works and most importantly, how it saves a lot of money for investors and continues to do so every day.  Also, we wanted to serve as a resource to let investors and issuers alike understand the important role of high frequency trading in the trading ecosystem.

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Investor Relations, high-frequency trading, HFT, equity trading, trading, equity markets

Q&A With Baruch Lev: The End of Accounting?

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.

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Disclosure, Investor Relations, Public Accounting, accounting regulations, IR Recommendations

IR Website Best Practices: Five Ways to Drive Corporate Storytelling

A great IR website is not only about compliance; it’s also about creating a space investors can look to understand the qualitative aspects of your company’s story. While providing financial data and reports is important, what separates the best sites in the world are those that focus on providing context on the company’s strategy and clarity about its execution and vision.

If you’re thinking about launching a new IR website or refreshing your existing site, here are five best practices that will keep your investors engaged in your corporate story.

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IR Website, Investor Relations, Compliance, Investor Relations Websites, IR Websites, IR Website Design, Website Design, IR Compliance

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

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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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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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