In politics, there is an age-old debate as to whether elected leaders should vote according to the wishes of their constituents, or vote their conscience as the people’s representative. We have seen politicians criticized for using polling too extensively to guide policy (see Bill Clinton) -- and not enough (see Barack Obama). When I worked as a political consultant prior to entering the IR profession, we used polling to gauge the electorate’s opinions on a certain issue – not to change policy, but to determine what audiences need focused communication and how messaging should be used to address misperceptions. And this is exactly how IR practitioners should use our own version of polling – the investor perception audit.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed about investor perception audits by Broc Romanek of TheCorporateCounsel.net. The podcast is available here. An investor perception audit is a survey of a company’s capital markets audiences – past, current and potential institutional investors as well as sell-side analysts. Typically conducted by a third-party via telephone to protect anonymity, the perception audit usually includes questions about the company’s strategy, prospects for growth, communications, management strengths, and catalysts for investors to purchase stock, among others. Think you already know what they perceive about your company? Certainly, investors and analysts are usually not shy about voicing their opinions. However, many companies are often surprised at the feedback they receive when investors are not speaking face-to-face with management.