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.
Like a well-written book, your website should drive a compelling narrative that an investor will want to consume. The best websites are ones that funnel users through a story without barriers to functionality -- investors should be able to “flow” through your IR website so that they walk away knowing all essential elements of your corporate narrative, objectives and vision.
Two pillars of an intuitive IR website are:
Navigation: Intuitive navigation creates a great online environment and experience. When executed properly, good user flow can lower your site’s bounce rate (the rate at which people exit your site without visiting other pages) by allowing for a seamless transition from one web page to another. Elements of intuitive use include fewer menu options, less text and more visuals that guide the user to calls to action. Sticky navigation for your top navigation menu can also help users easily access the main menu no matter how far down they have scrolled on the page.
Easy access to presentations and events: Presentations and events are pertinent sources of information for investors and analysts. This underscores the importance of providing easy and intuitive access to this media on your website. As public companies build their roster of events and presentations, it can be tempting to fragment these materials by type across several pages; however, it’s important to instead group content in one place so that investors can find what they’re looking for within a “one-stop shop.”
Grouping related materials requires fewer clicks on the user’s end, which increases post-event engagement among investors. Your website is your opportunity to capture your events for those who weren’t able to attend, so it’s best to include as many interactive elements of your presentations as possible, including video, downloadable information and interactive slideshares. The idea is to ensure your investor has as much access as possible to your events, as they are a critical component of telling your corporate story and informing investors of your value as an investment.
Mobile viewing has now surpassed desktop viewing overall, which means your mobile phone is now a critical storytelling medium. According to key findings from the latest KPCB mobile technology trends, in the U.S. in 2015, 51% of a user’s online time was spent on mobile.
As we continue to consume more content on our phones, the medium itself is changing the way we tell stories and engage with investors. New technology creates new expectations, meaning elements of your company story should be prioritized differently on mobile versus desktop.
For instance, you may prioritize events on your mobile site over reports, since you know based on website analytics that your users view your calendar on mobile, but they aren’t so keen to view a PDF. As with your desktop website, your main goal with mobile is to ensure your investors have walked away knowing more about your company -- so it’s essential to know what types of information your audience is gravitating toward on mobile.
In November 2016, Google made an important announcement about its search engine optimization (SEO) algorithms: mobile-first indexing. According to Google, “our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”
With mobile traffic increasing at rapidly growing rates year over year, the importance of a fast and well-designed mobile site can’t be overstated. Earlier this year Google and Twitter also announced Accelerated Mobile Pages, which will strip down HTML on mobile sites to allow for very fast loading. The faster a page loads, the more likely someone will remain on your website – so make sure to include a review of your IR website’s mobile strategy.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are fast becoming a standard for public companies globally and across all sectors. Also known as environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives or sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI), CSR has moved beyond a “nice-to-have” item within a public company’s corporate narrative.
According to the US SIF Foundation’s 2016 Report on Sustainable and Responsible Investing Trends in the United States, “as of year-end 2015, more than one out of every five dollars under professional management in the United States — $8.72 trillion or more — was invested according to SRI strategies” (US SIF Foundation, 2016, http://www.ussif.org/trends).
In recent years, there has been an increasing expectation among clients and consumers that public companies have a positive societal or environmental impact, beyond their corporate business objectives. For investors, these consumer expectations translate to key drivers of revenue, which ultimately influence their investment decisions. CSR, like other elements of your corporate story, demonstrates your company’s core values, goals and position within your market -- all elements that investors consider when assessing your company’s future revenue potential.
Remember: your IR website’s main function is to show investors who you are. Think of CSR as a key revenue-driving metric that also drives public relations, talent recruitment and brand awareness.
Company information and strategy
Your company information and strategy make up the narrative of your corporate story. Potential investors look to this content to gain a sense of your company’s strategy, values, goals and accomplishments. You may want to be more creative with these sections than others, and ensure you’re showcasing your company brand and story with text and visual elements. The key is to keep your story engaging and concise, so that your investors can get a sense of who you are at a quick glance.
Besides a conventional About Us section, here are two ways to make sure your core IR website content stands out:
Video and infographics: Video saves time, and will compel current and potential investors to know more about who you are as a company. According to Hubspot, 59% of executives say they would rather watch video than read text content, and 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others.
Investment proposition: Apart from your overall brand image, an investment proposition is an integral element to your IR website – it communicates the nature of your business to your prospective investors, stating your market position or your company’s future plans for advancing in the market. Your investment proposition answers the “Why invest?” question, which is the one question every investor researching your company has in common.
Access to financial data
While compliance requires the inclusion of regulatory filings and some governance information, providing access to financial information is about more than just remaining compliant. Your financial information provides investors with vital context that will help them make decisions about investing in your company.
The following are best practices that serve to tell your past and present corporate story, while enhancing communication with investors:
- Supplemental earnings materials (webcasts, presentations, etc.)
- Financial press releases
- Annual reports and commentary
- Historical stock data (5+ years)
- Detailed share price
- Total return calculator
- Historical price lookup
- Interactive analysts center
- Analyst forecast data
- Corporate profile and strategy
- Regulatory filings
- Corporate governance charters and documents
Financial information may be considered another valuable communication touchpoint with your investors, which is why it’s important to go above and beyond with interactive and easily accessible information.
You also can get creative with your annual reports by making sure they are easy to digest online. An online annual report may be as static or as interactive as you would like, depending on the resources for the project. Some ways to create a better online experience for your investors include:
Responsive design. Ensure your report is easy to digest on all platforms, including desktop, mobile and tablet.
Thoughtful story layout. Share thought leadership pieces as separate “stories” to give investors the control to choose what they read first.
Downloadable data. Complement the online experience by including downloadable spreadsheets or PDFs throughout your report, so that investors can take information from the digital experience.
Technology and storytelling have never been so intertwined. As your primary storytelling vehicle, your IR website is most effective when investors are able to consume content in ways that are intuitive, visual and meaningful. When you follow these best practices, you will ensure your IR website’s place as the primary source of information for your investor and analyst audiences.
Last month Q4 released its newest whitepaper, IR Website Best Practices, which outlines what IR teams need to know about building websites that tell the best corporate story for investors; this blog post is an excerpt from the whitepaper. For the full text and examples of great IR websites that optimize for investors using mobile, corporate social responsibility content and more, download the whitepaper here.
About Q4 Inc.Q4 is a global leader in cloud-based investor relations and capital market solutions. Thousands of brands around the world use Q4 website, webcasting, CRM, analytics and surveillance solutions to better connect with their investors and understand the capital markets. In June 2016, Q4 launched Q4 Desktop, the industry’s first fully integrated investor relations platform, which integrates communications tools, surveillance and analytics into a fully featured IR workflow and CRM application. Q4 has offices in New York, Chicago, Toronto, Copenhagen, and London. Visit www.q4inc.com to learn more.