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Our Blog: The Podium

Sharon Merrill EVP & Partner David Calusdian Elected to NIRI Board of Directors

Sharon Merrill’s Executive Vice President & Partner David Calusdian has been elected to serve on the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) Board of Directors. David will serve a four-year term, which began at NIRI’s annual meeting on December 4, 2013. Calusdian continues a legacy of NIRI board leadership at Sharon Merrill as agency President and Partner Maureen Wolff served on the board from 2003 – 2007.

Jeffrey D. Morgan, president and chief executive officer of NIRI had the following to say of the four NIRI members elected to serve on the board: “These four individuals are representative of so many NIRI members in their interest in advancing NIRI’s mission and in their genuine passion for the investor relations profession.”

Sharon Merrill, Chairman and CEO of Sharon Merrill Associates, said “We are proud to continue our firm’s legacy of leadership on the NIRI national board. After Maureen’s tenure on the NIRI board, culminating in her serving as Chairman, we are delighted that David is sharing his investor relations expertise as a NIRI board member. Congratulations to David and the newly elected directors.”

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Investor Relations Agency, NIRI, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm

Shareholder on a Shelf: An Earnings Tradition

By Dennis Walsh, Vice President

The Shareholder on a Shelf is a new tradition that has become the holiday gift of choice for IROs to their executive management teams. The story of the Shareholder on a Shelf is as follows:

“Have you ever wondered how the SEC could know;
If you’re naughty or nice in making your reported revenues and margins grow;
For 79 years it’s been a big secret;
Which now can be shared, if you promise to keep it.

At reporting time the SEC sends me to you;
I sit in the shadows to watch and report on all that you do;
My job is an assignment from Ms. Mary Jo White herself;
I am her helper, a friendly scout shareholder that sits on a shelf.

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Holiday, Investor Relations Blog, Reg FD, Sharon Merrill Associates, Investor Relations Agency, Guidance, IRO, Shareholder Communications, Earnings Call, Investor Relations, Earnings, Investor Relations Firm, Activist Investors

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

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

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

SEC Gives Social Media for IR Its Blessing

By Dennis Walsh, Vice President & Director of Social Media

The SEC finally has provided guidance on the use of social media for investor relations. The guidance came in a report on its investigation to determine whether Netflix CEO Reed Hasting had violated Reg FD. In a Facebook status update on his personal account, Hastings said Netflix had streamed 1 billion hours of content in June 2012, calling into question whether the post was selective disclosure of material information.

In its report, the SEC clarified that companies can use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to announce key information in compliance with Reg FD. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, but with some key caveats.

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IR Program Planning, Reg FD, Investor Relations Agency, SEC, IR Website, Disclosure Policy, Shareholder Communications, Earnings Call, Social Media, Small-cap IR, Investor Relations, Socialize IR, Earnings, Investor Relations Firm

Social Media for Investor Relations for the Marketing/PR Professional

By Dennis Walsh, Senior Consultant & Director of Social Media

It’s that time of year again: Back to School! For my first job out of college I worked as an educator. This year, for “Back to School” season, I thought I’d step back into my teaching shoes. The following is a quick lesson on social media for investor relations for the marketing and public relations professional.

Technology is constantly changing the way we engage with our audience, so professional communicators must never stop learning new techniques. As a seasoned marketing or public relations professional, you’ve likely got social media covered. But how fluent are you in investor relations best practices? If you work for a public company, you might want to rethink your social media engagement strategy.

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IR Program Planning, Reg FD, Crisis Communications, Public Relations, Disclosure Policy, IRO, Shareholder Communications, Social Media, Investor Relations, Socialize IR, Earnings, Investor Relations Firm

The Guidance Effect, Re-visited

By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner

Three years ago, on the heels of the greatest collapse U.S. financial markets have experienced in decades, in conjunction with IntelliBusiness/eventVestor, we published a study, “The Guidance Effect: Improving Valuation” (PDF 875 KB), that evaluated the impact of increased transparency on equity valuation during the turbulent first quarter of 2009.

The findings supported the thesis that issuing quantitative financial guidance contributes to improved stock performance. Given the climate of fear and uncertainty that permeated Wall Street during the study period, we hypothesized that providing guidance – and thereby increasing transparency for investors – likely had an unusually pronounced affect on stock price behavior at the time.

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Disclosure, Reg FD, Sharon Merrill Associates, Guidance, Earnings Guidance, Earnings Call, Investor Relations, Earnings, Investor Relations Firm

Investor Relations for the New CFO - Six Steps for IR Success

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

*Originally appeared on Samuel's CFO Blog. Samuel Dergel is Director and Search Consultant at Stanton Chase International. Mr. Dergel specializes in Executive Search for Chief Financial Officers.

As the new CFO of a publicly held company, somewhere on your extensive “to do” list is implementing an effective investor relations program. Whether or not the IR function was a well-oiled machine when you arrived, or virtually non-existent, there are key areas you need to address immediately to ensure that you are effectively taking the IR reins. So here are six steps for success as you accept responsibility for the IR function.

1) Understand your shareholder base. Research the investment styles of your shareholders to determine why they may have bought shares– and what might cause them to sell. See what type of investor concentration you have in your shareholder base. Identifying whether your shareholders are weighted toward a growth, value or income investment style, for example, can offer insight as to what they are expecting the company to achieve near or long term. Also investigate whether there are known “activist” firms among your shareholders, and what catalysts usually cause them to initiate a proxy fight. Make it a priority to speak with your shareholders by phone as soon as possible, and then meet them in person within your first few quarters as CFO. Also consider an investor perception audit to understand the sentiments of your shareholder base -- and identify any misperceptions about the company -- to most effectively build your IR program.

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Disclosure, Reg FD, Board Communications, Conference Calls, Investor Relations Agency, Investor Meetings, Guidance, Disclosure Policy, Shareholder Communications, Earnings Call, Social Media, Investor Relations, Earnings, Investor Relations Firm

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

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How do you ensure that investors clearly understand your strategy, growth drivers and market position? The most effective way is through a perception study. By periodically taking the investment community’s pulse you can avoid the knowledge gaps and misperceptions that hurt valuation. Download our free whitepaper, Why Perceptions Matter, to learn more.

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