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Our Blog: The Podium

Is the Annual Report a Thing of the Past?

By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner

Annual reports are so 1997.

When the National Investor Relations Institute recently asked me for my thoughts on the public company practice of producing a glossy annual report, the premise of the question was not, “How can companies do this better?” or “Please provide some helpful tips for designing annual reports.” It wasn’t even as minimalist as “What’s the least expensive, most simplified way to produce an annual report?” No, the question was much more fundamental: Why, in this age of technology and pressured IR department budgets, should companies bother to create an annual report at all?

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IR Program Planning, Board Communications, Annual Report, Strategic Messaging, IR Website, IR Budgets, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations

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

Sharon Merrill Associates Wins Platinum Super Bell Award

Sharon Merrill Associates on Monday captured The Publicity Club of New England’s coveted 2012 Platinum Super Bell at its annual Bell Ringer Awards, which annually recognizes the region’s most successful communications and public relations campaigns. We won the Platinum Super Bell for our investor relations program for Gibraltar Industries, recognizing us as “best in show” among the “Gold” winners in each of the 20 communications campaign categories. In addition, the agency also received a Gold Bell Ringer Award for best Investor/Financial Relations Campaign.

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IR Program Planning, Strategic Messaging, Sharon Merrill Associates, Investor Relations Agency, Investor Relations

Social Media + Investor Relations = Socialize IR

By Dennis Walsh, Senior Consultant & Director of Social Media

Let’s face it; you can’t ignore social media any longer…even as part of your investor relations strategy. You were hoping Facebook would go the way of MySpace and Friendster, but it keeps on growing and has even made its way into our world with its initial public offering.

Talk of Twitter used to elicit laughter in the board room. Now, competitors are using it to promote their brand; hedge funds are using it to decide when to make trades; and rumors spread like wildfires over the Twittersphere. Twitter companion site StockTwits has evolved as a popular platform for traders to share investment ideas. Add to that: YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, LinkedIn, oh my! IR pros certainly put up a good fight, but it’s time to embrace social media…it’s here to stay.

Feeling a little overwhelmed? We’d like to help you with that.

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IR Program Planning, Investor Relations Blog, Reg FD, Strategic Messaging, Sharon Merrill Associates, Investor Relations Agency, IR Website, IPO, Social Media, Small-cap IR, Investor Relations, Socialize IR, Investor Relations Firm

What makes for an effective investor presentation? [Video]

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

We’ve all seen bad investor presentations at various conferences. But what makes them bad? The purpose of an investor presentation is to convey the company’s investment thesis. If the presentation does not succeed in articulating the investment thesis in a memorable way, it has failed. So how do we ensure good presentation slides — and success? In the video below, Executive Vice President & Partner David Calusdian offers up some advice.

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Investor Presentation, IR Program Planning, Strategic Messaging, Investor Relations Agency, Investor Meetings, Presentation Training, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm

Developing an Investor Relations Program for an IPO Company [Video]

By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner

Companies planning to go public need to be able to hit the ground running on the day of the IPO pricing with an investor relations program. In order to prepare, Sharon Merrill President and Partner Maureen Wolff provides tips on what to do before and after the S-1 filing in the videos below.

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Investor Presentation, IR Program Planning, Disclosure, Strategic Messaging, Investor Relations Agency, Investor Meetings, IR Website, Guidance, Board Structure, Disclosure Policy, IPO, Investor Relations, Earnings, Investor Relations Firm

Five Crisis Communication Plan Essentials

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

*Originally appeared on OpenView Labs, the strategic and operational consulting arm of OpenView Venture Partners, a global Venture Capital fund that invests in expansion stage technology companies.

“In preparing for battle, I have always
found that plans are useless, but
planning is indispensable.”

- Dwight David Eisenhower

President Eisenhower could well have uttered the same quote about Crisis Communications. Developing a crisis communications plan is more about planning to mobilize for a potential crisis, than it is about writing step-by-step actions for specific pre-ordained scenarios. And this is what causes so many management teams to be confused about exactly what the components of a good crisis communication plan actually are. Here are five “Crisis Plan Essentials” to consider in order to get your team ready to communicate in a crisis.

1) Identify the Crisis Team

It’s important that the right people from the appropriate functional areas of the organization are ready to respond at a moment’s notice to a crisis and understand their responsibilities as members of the team. Along with the CEO and CFO, the team should include key people from public relations, corporate communications, investor relations, human resources, public affairs, sales and marketing. Make sure that at least two members of the crisis team have been media trained. A major crisis is no time to get your feet wet in media relations.

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IR Program Planning, Strategic Messaging, Crisis Communications, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Activist Investors

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

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

Prepare for Proxy Access Now – Avoid an Activist Horror Story Later

Hello again. We took a bit of a hiatus from blogging this summer, but we are now back to share a Halloween story sure to scare you straight!

Unless you are one of the 33 Chilean miners that were trapped underground for the past two months, you have likely been watching the drama unfold on Capitol Hill as the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenged the legality of the SEC’s new proxy access rule 14a-11, which allows qualifying shareholders to nominate directors for election at shareholder meetings and requires the corporation to include those nominees in the standard proxy statement. The petitioners claim that the new rules are subjective and violate federal and state law and the United States Constitution, and that the SEC did not assess the effect of the rules on efficiency, competition and capital formation. As a result, implementation of the rule has been delayed pending a resolution of the Court of Appeals. So the new proxy access rules will most likely not be implemented until the 2012 proxy season, at the earliest. Upon hearing this news, public corporations across the nation let out a collective sigh of relief.

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Shareholder Meeting, Board Communications, Strategic Messaging, Annual Meeting, Shareholder Activism, Investor Relations Agency, Proxy Season, Proxy Access, Crisis Communications, Board Structure, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm, Activist Investors

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