IR and PR: All About Smart Communication
Last week, Lois and I attended a NIRI Boston chapter meeting which included a panel discussion with three buy-side analysts (from The Boston Company, Putnam Investments and Cambridge Trust) sharing approaches for valuing companies. As the conversation progressed, we were struck by how similar the counsel these analysts offered to IROs and executives about how to best communicate with them was to what we share with our clients in dealing with the media. These truly can be considered basic tenets of good communication.
1. To establish credibility to help them understand your business...efficiently. Like the media, these analysts are looking at huge volumes of companies and don't have the time to dig deep into every company.
2. Answer the easy questions honestly. When it comes to questions of topics such as marketshare, address the questions head on. The analysts (or media) will either already know or be able to quickly find it out.
3. When offering up metrics about the company, make a long term commitment to making them available...in good times and in bad. An example of this on the media side is with executive access after earnings calls. If you decide to make the CEO or CFO available to speak to the media, commit to this approach quarter after quarter, no matter the results.
4. If you believe in what you are doing, stick with it. By this they meant not changing course frequently because the stock price is not responding. Consistency builds credibility. Again, this holds true with the media. It's necessary to communicate messages consistently over an extended period of time in order for them to gain traction.
5. Target analysts appropriately. Make sure you understand what interests the analyst from an investment perspective and the kinds of companies he/she covers before targeting them. At that point be sure to provide the right kind of information to drive interest and the right frequency of contact. With regard to media, my experience is that the programs that begin with focus and the right level of homework before outreaching are those that yield the highest return.
Participating in this discussion gave me yet another data point on the synergies between public relations and investor relations. As a matter of fact, a year or so ago there was a quote in a NIRI publication that spoke to this: "By getting IR and PR together, it can develop a clear and accurate picture with rich details to show how the company is meeting its numbers, achieving management's goals and objectives and executing the strategy laid out in previous quarters."
If there are synergies you'd like to point out, please do, as I think there is always room for these two functions to work more closely together.