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Our Blog: The Podium

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

Three Step Approach to Social Media for Investor Relations

By Dennis Walsh, Vice President

I recently moderated a webinar hosted by NIRI on social media strategies for investor relations. On the panel with me were David Jackson, CEO, Seeking Alpha; RJ Jones, Investor Relations Officer, Zillow; and Andrew Shapiro, Founder, President and Portfolio Manager, Lawndale Capital Management.

The discussion made clear that professional investors are using social media - activists included. In addition, all public companies should have a social media strategy, even if the objective is just to monitor the online conversation.

If you are in charge of managing your company’s investor relations program, you might be wondering how to get started developing your social media strategy. Try following this three step approach:

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IR Program Planning, Reg FD, Shareholder Activism, Disclosure Policy, Shareholder Communications, Social Media, Investor Relations, Monitoring, Activist Investors

How Investor Relations Can Support the Buy Side’s Investment Process

By Dennis Walsh, Vice President

“Buy-side analysts truly value a company with a responsive investor relations program led by an informed IRO,” shares John Barr, Co-Manager of the Needham Growth Fund (NEEGX) and Manager of the Needham Aggressive Growth Fund (NEAGX).

Most strategic investor relations programs aim to increase institutional ownership with new long-term shareholders. But anyone who has ever worked in IR knows this is often easier said than done. Targeting quality potential investors and conducting outreach can be a major undertaking. Understanding the buy-side’s investment process for identifying long-term holdings is essential to your success. So what are the key elements of a typical buy-side’s stock picking process? At Needham, Barr’s research team sources ideas from a number of methods, including quantitative screens based on various financial metrics, reading trade publications, and talking to people such as buy-side colleagues. Barr says, “If your stock happens to be on our idea list and you call looking for a meeting then we’ll do it. If it’s not on our list, it’s unlikely that we will take a meeting.”

How can IR contribute? Needham analysts like to conduct their own research – it gives them an opportunity to develop their own point of view – so being undercovered by the sell-side is not always a negative. If your company is being considered as a new investment idea for a firm like Needham, a best-in-class IR program can support the due diligence process from start to finish. Consider these insider tips from Barr to help IROs better support the buy-side’s investment process.

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IR Program Planning, Corporate Access, Targeting, Investor Meetings, Non-deal Roadshow, Buy-Side, Needham, Roadshow Planning, Investor Relations

Employee Training: From Reg FD to “Wall Street 101”

By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner, Sharon Merrill Associates

When the SEC last month charged First Solar’s former head of investor relations with violating its fair disclosure rules, the announcement gave more than a few IROs pause. And for good reason. Lawrence Polizzotto paid a $50,000 fine for the violation. Although corporate IROs and the financial press have focused on the settlement with Polizzotto, perhaps more critical for public companies is the SEC’s treatment of First Solar itself.

Rather than charge the company separately, the SEC said it decided to forego corporate enforcement because of First Solar’s “extraordinary cooperation.” This included the company self-reporting the violations to the SEC and its “environment of compliance," which First Solar developed through its disclosure committee and additional Reg FD training for employees managing the company's public disclosure.

But how many public companies are actively training their staff in Reg FD, insider trading or even the general responsibilities that come with working for a public company? For example, while instruction against insider trading is something every public company should be providing, there are numerous examples of public filers whose employees claimed they did not know they were violating insider trading laws. Many companies expect their managers and reporting staff to understand what it means to be a public company employee, but may not take the time to teach it. And if it is taught, the training may consist of just a single session right before the IPO – perhaps never to be offered again.

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IR Program Planning, Reg FD, Wall Street, Investor Relations Agency, IPO, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm

Sell-Side Coverage – A Small Cap’s White Whale?

By Dennis Walsh, Vice President

I recently was interviewed for an article for IR Magazine titled, “Sell-Side Analysts: The Many and the Few.” The article discussed how some companies manage a full roster of covering sell-siders, while others struggle to maintain or attract just a few. In today’s market, it seems more common that IROs are in the latter situation and are frustrated by the limited return on their efforts to attract coverage.

There are many factors that contribute to the lack of adequate sell-side coverage, and all of these factors relate to the sell-side’s inability to make money by working with a particular company. Low trading volume plagues companies vying for attention from both the buy- and sell-side. The buy-side avoids low-volume stocks because they cannot easily get out of the stock, and the sell-side won’t cover a stock because the lack of buy-side interest limits their ability to generate trading commissions. It’s a vicious cycle. In addition, the lack of investment banking business may create a barrier to coverage. The bottom line is that the bank needs to make money in some way from the research coverage since they are not being compensated from the buy-side in hard dollars.

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IR Program Planning, Corporate Access, Sell-side Research, Targeting, Investor Relations Agency, Buy-Side, Sell-side Coverage, Investor Conference, Roadshow Planning, Small-cap IR, Investor Relations

Time to Revamp the Quarterly Earnings Call?

By Dennis Walsh, Vice President & Director of Social Media

And the Award for Best Quarterly Earnings Results Conference Call goes to….

Giving awards to recognize production of an earnings call may be a little premature, but several companies are spicing up what is generally considered an uneventful quarterly ritual by the investment community. It is encouraging to see companies embracing the use of new technologies and social media for investor relations. Before you follow their lead, we can’t forget what is truly important to our key stakeholders about the process: transparency and access to management.

So what is all the fuss about?

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IR Program Planning, Conference Calls, Earnings Call, Social Media, Investor Relations, Socialize IR, Earnings

REIT IR: This Investor Pool Isn’t Big Enough for the Two of Us

By Andrew Blazier, Senior Associate

A good friend and colleague of mine used to describe the universe of real estate investment trusts – REITs – as an “us girls” industry. It was difficult to break in, but once you did, the REIT community was so small, and so interconnected, that working within the industry could be done rather smoothly.

The publicly traded REIT community is indeed tightly knit. And the number of institutions investing in REITs isn’t much larger. When management teams go on roadshows or attend conferences, it’s not uncommon for them to meet the same individuals from the same funds four, five or six times in a year. I compare it to one of those small towns you see in Western films, with the two main characters squaring off to see who will ultimately control the town: “This investor pool isn’t big enough for the two of us.”

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IR Program Planning, Targeting, Investor Relations Agency, Investor Meetings, REIT, IRO, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm

Integrating Social Media into Your Investor Relations Program

By Howard Berkenblit, Partner, Sullivan & Worcester LLP
By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner, Sharon Merrill Associates

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.

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IR Program Planning, Disclosure, Reg FD, Investor Relations Agency, SEC, Securities Law, Disclosure Policy, Social Media, Investor Relations

The Greatest Social Media for Investor Relations Panel Ever*

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.

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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

Sharon Merrill Receives Awards for Investor Relations Excellence and Industry Leadership

The firm received a 2013 Bell Ringer Award from The Publicity Club of New England for an investor relations program it developed for a Fortune 500 client. The program included a highly successful investor day. The Publicity Club of New England’s Bell Ringer Awards recognize and honor excellence and achievement in the communications and public relations professions. In the past 17 years, the firm has won an award for investor relations in each of the 14 years it has entered a submission.

Dennis Walsh & Maureen Wolff
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IR Program Planning, Awards, Sharon Merrill Associates, Investor Relations Agency, NIRI, Investor Relations

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