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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

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

Follow These Simple Steps to Deliver a Better Investor Presentation [Video]

Sometimes the difference between success and failure when delivering a presentation is not the presentation slides at all. The problem most often is the presenter’s delivery. In the video below, Sharon Merrill Executive Vice President & Partner David Calusdian provides tips on how to get the most out of your presentation delivery.

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Investor Presentation, IR Program Planning, Investor Relations Agency, Presentation Training, Media Relations, IPO, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm

How Do I Know You’re Lying? Your Body Told Me So.

5 Useful Tips for Reading Body Language in a Business Environment

By Dennis Walsh, Senior Consultant & Director of Social Media at Sharon Merrill

In business, people aren’t always completely honest. I know…stop the presses! As investor relations professionals, we are constantly playing a poker game with Wall Street. So how do you know if someone is not being completely truthful with you? Read their body language.

Nonverbal communication, or body language, often sends a different message from the spoken word. The way a person shakes hands, gestures while talking, or even crosses their legs, sends subtle but clear signals about the real meaning behind the message. Even a simple touch of the nose may indicate that a person is being untruthful.

Many Wall Street firms have hired body language experts to train analysts and portfolio managers to identify the nonverbal cues that executives give. So it’s beneficial for CEOs and CFOs to recognize these signals, to ensure they aren’t unwittingly conveying the wrong message.

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Investor Presentation, Interviews, Investor Day, Investor Meetings, Presentation Training, NIRI, Media Relations, Shareholder Communications, Roadshow Planning, Investor Relations

Reputation Management for The Great Pumpkin

A Halloween Lesson with Apologies to Charles M. Schulz

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

Year in and year out, Linus sits in the neighborhood pumpkin patch trying to impress Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally with a personal introduction to The Great Pumpkin. 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.” But every year, The Great Pumpkin disappoints, and as Linus puts it, there’s “nothing compared to the fury of a woman who has been cheated out of tricks or treats.” Now there’s a holiday icon in desperate need of reputation management. Here are three tips to reestablishing a positive personal brand whether you are a fictional cartoon character, disgraced athlete or corporate executive.

1) Determine Your Desired Brand Identity

Before you begin the reputation rebuilding process, decide what you want the essence of your new personal brand to be. Philanthropist? Industry expert? Respected business Leader? After you’ve determined your desired personal brand, develop a strategy to take action and then communicate to your key audiences. For example, in the years after Jimmy Carter’s failed presidential re-election bid, he re-branded himself as a humanitarian very successfully through his work with Habitat for Humanity. As for The Great Pumpkin, I’d recommend taking the same approach as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and finally make good on his toy delivering promise.

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Strategic Messaging, Presentation Training, Reputation Management, Crisis Communications, Media Relations, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations

Media Training: Preparing your CEO for a Successful Interview

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

I recently spoke at the NIRI Fundamentals of IR Seminar on “Media and Communications,” and the part of the presentation that generated the most discussion was on how to conduct “media training” for CEOs, CFOs and other corporate spokespeople. Of course, the most difficult part of media training can sometimes be convincing the executive that they need help. But once you clear that high hurdle, there are three basic steps to help prepare senior management for a successful interview.

1) Establish key messages. Without significant interview experience or preparation, your CEO is likely to a) offer rambling responses to questions, b) divulge too much information, and/or c) miss an opportunity to convey the messages you want to get across to customers, investors, employees or other important stakeholder audiences. Prior to the interview, create three to five key messages and supporting proof points that you want to make sure appear in the story. When you are developing key messages, think about the audience for the particular interview and the points that you want to convey to that specific stakeholder group. Look at it this way: if you were writing the article for the reporter, what messages would you include? Those are the messages that management should use in the answers to the reporter’s questions whenever possible. Politicians often do this very well. For example, earlier this year British Labour leader Ed Miliband famously repeated his position on strikes taking place in the UK in several successive questions during a BBC interview.

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Presentation Training, Media Training, Media Relations, Investor Relations

The Firing of Terry Francona: Lessons in Crisis Communications

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

The firing of Red Sox manager Terry Francona offers a few valuable lessons in crisis communications, especially those relating to the unexpected departure of an executive. For those of you outside of Red Sox Nation, let me offer a little background: the only living manager of Boston’s professional baseball team to win a world series (twice!) is now unemployed after missing the playoffs following a disastrous September collapse. To be technical, Francona wasn’t fired; the team declined to pick up the option on his 2012 contract. While the debate over letting Francona go is an ideal subject for a sports-focused blog, the way the decision was communicated offers two valuable lessons to anyone in crisis communications.

1) Take a Deep Breath: When a decision is made suddenly to release a senior executive, care should be taken to think through the communications timeline. The Red Sox put Francona in front of the microphones the day after the final game of the season for no reason other than to discuss the final calamitous loss. If ownership had even an inkling that the team would be sending Francona on his way, why put him in front of reporters to awkwardly answer questions about his future? To make matters worse, the very next day Francona held a press conference to announce his departure, which was then followed by another media gathering by the Sox brass to discuss the action. Why two additional separate press conferences? The Sox would have been better served to have one well rehearsed press conference (including Francona and the Sox higher-ups) to address the disastrous end of the season and announce that the time was right for a managerial change. In any crisis situation, take a deep breath, think a few steps ahead and plan all messaging and timing of external communications accordingly.

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Strategic Messaging, Presentation Training, Credibility, Crisis Communications, Media Relations

It’s Time to Face Social Media for Investor Relations

“But social media for investor relations won’t work for my company!”

The use of social media is radically changing the way our society communicates – and the investment community is no exception. But many investor relations officers still refuse to use social media as an IR tool. I’ve heard any number of reasons why “social media for IR won’t work for my company.” Our business model is primarily B2B. The retail shareholder base is small. Our market cap is less than $500 million. My corporate counsel tends to be conservative regarding disclosure. Notwithstanding the huge volume of research that supports the use of social media in IR, I think it would be easier to land a lunch with Warren Buffett than to convince the typical IRO to set up a Twitter account.

I recently spent a whirlwind of a week focused on social media in investor relations. The NIRI Westchester Connecticut chapter invited me to serve on a panel discussion entitled, “Investor Relations and Twitter – To Do or Not to Do?” with Darrell Heaps, president & CEO at Q4 Websystems (@darrellheaps), Dan Dykens, co-president at Meet the Street (@meetthestreet), and Doug Chia, senior counsel & assistant corporate secretary at Johnson & Johnson (@dougchia). I was pleased to see that more than half the room had at least been on Twitter. Two questions seemed to preoccupy the audience: “what should we know about using Twitter,” and “how can we use it as part of an effective IR strategy?”

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Disclosure, Strategic Messaging, IR Website, Crisis Communications, NIRI, Disclosure Policy, Twitter, IRO, Media Relations, Speaking Engagements, Shareholder Communications, Social Media, Investor Relations, Monitoring, Investor Relations Firm

Preparing for the Media: A Checklist for a Positive Interview

In our media relations work at Sharon Merrill Associates, we spend considerable time training senior management on dealing with the media. To be sure, not all interviews are investigative reporters looking to break the next big scandal. Of course, reporters also are not being paid to write a glowing advertorial about your company either.

Treat every media interview request as an opportunity, not as a threat, and you will see increased positive coverage of your company. Not all of your coverage will be 100% positive, and there may be occasions where the facts in a story are not completely precise. But increased media coverage overall can have tremendous benefits to your sales, marketing, recruiting, investor relations and other critical corporate functions.

Still nervous about speaking to that reporter who called you out of the blue? Here is a checklist to make sure that you make the most of your media opportunities:

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Crisis Communications, Media Relations

Crisis Communications: How to Best Prepare for those “Uh-Oh!” Moments

Recently, I served on a panel at the Publicity Club of New England’s “An Inside Look at Crisis Communications” program, along with other corporate and crisis communications veterans from the Boston area. We each shared some of our most memorable cases including events involving government funding cuts, infant product recalls, massive layoffs, insider trading, embezzlement, and my favorite of the evening – the potential euthanasia of all the animals at two state-run zoos.

While the cases ran the gamut of companies private and public, from small start-ups to large multinationals, in industries from consumer goods and high tech to pharmaceuticals and law firms, there were some consistent themes that arose from the discussion.

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Strategic Messaging, Crisis Communications, Media Relations, Speaking Engagements, Social Media, Monitoring

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