Category Archives: Investor relations

74% of Buy-side analysts access news releases on their street portal

At the highest level, investor relations is not about disseminating news but more accurately delivering news to a defined – and contractually obligated – set of “customers.” These customers are, of course, investors and the contract is clearly the holding of issuer shares.

When this vocabulary of customers and contracts is used, it is fairly easy to see why the once greatly trumpeted “web disclosure for investor relations” fizzed out. In fact, it was not a topic at the NIRI annual conference this year.

Briefly, web disclosure is the SEC’s 2008 and 2012 guidance that allows issuers to use their corporate websites and/or social media as a Reg FD media. Sounds logical… especially if you are a communications pundit… however, it can be terrible customer service. Rather than placing material news releases within their Street Portal (Bloomberg, FactSet, etc.), web disclosure disrupts this professional workflow – forcing institutional investors and analysts to interact with issuer news ad hoc. That is the exact opposite of what these customers want.

What, me biased? Of course I want you to use a wire service. Preferably ours. To counter this slightly predisposed view, we commissioned a study from industry stalwart Rivel Research. Rivel surveyed 291 Buy-side analysts, worldwide.

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74% reported they read / access issuer disseminated news releases within their capital markets Wall Street intelligence portals like Bloomberg, FactSet and Thomson. Place your news where the customer wants it. 

It is important to understand that analyst research is a mosaic and the surveyed North American analysts cited more than a single news source: directly from an issuer (39%) and general Yahoo!-ish news portals (14%) – totaling over 100%.

The take-away from this? If the attraction of web disclosure was the need to contain costs, I suggest you merge the strategy of your news distinction in unison as the strategy of the individual news itself… and then speak with your newswire representative – ahem – preferably ours. We have several clients that range from micro to mega-cap, who sculpt an intelligent, targeted high efficacy plan for their shareholder communications – including utilizing web disclosure.

As discussed here, spend where it drives your business to excel.

11 questions answered about building your first IR website

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Please CLICK HERE to listen to all ARCHIVE podcasts in the series.

Although my pedigree is deep (and biased) in regard to investor relations websites, I felt having an independent voice present “must practices” for the development and management of an IR website.

(Admittedly, my goal would be to sell you one of our excellent IR Rooms.

We asked our small-cap expert Bernie Kilkelley for his advice – in the fourth session of our six-part webinar series “What You Must Know Before and After Your IPO.” Bernie has a deep knowledge both for large and small company investor relations.

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Q: When should a newly public company launch its website?  Is it important to have the website ready right after the IPO?

Yes it is critical to have your IR website ready to go as soon as the company is public.  Your IR website is the most important source of information for investors that is under your control, so you should make sure it is effective.  Surveys have shown that 75% of institutional investors and analysts use the IR websites of companies they own or are considering buying at least once a week.  So you can be sure that once a stock starts trading there will be a lot of investors and analysts looking for information and the first place they will typically go is to your IR website.

Q: When should you start developing the IR website and who should be involved?

The IRO should be the project manager for the website and the work should be started as soon as the company files to go public.  The site can be developed and kept in a test environment so that it is ready to be turned on live after the IPO.  The team should include your general counsel and corporate secretary, finance, and corporate communications or PR.

Q: Is it best to use a vendor that specializes in IR websites, or is it okay to build the IR website using internal resources?

If your company is large enough where you have an in-house staff that designs and maintains your corporate website, you should certainly use their expertise to make sure that your IR website has the same look and feel as the corporate website.  But in developing the content for the IR website and maintaining the site, I recommend using one of the vendors that specialize in this.  This is especially true for smaller companies that don’t have in-house web designers.  By using one of these vendors you are making sure you have the latest technology and the expertise they bring from having done many other IR websites.  These vendors also can bring data feeds and other resources to your site that help automate information such as stock quotes, historical prices, news release archives and webcast archives.

Q: What are the requirements for an IR website?  Are there different requirements for a small cap company vs. a large cap company?  

The SEC has several regulations that need to be followed if a public company has a corporate website.  As part of the Sarbanes-Oxley rules from 2002, companies are required to post Section 16 filings of changes to insider ownership the day they are filed, and must keep them archived for one year.  In 2005, the SEC issued rules that filing companies need to post their 10-K and 10-Q financial statements in XBRL format.  There are also rules pertaining to Notice & Access of proxy materials that were issued in 2009, which require companies to post proxy materials on an independent website.  This doesn’t have to be the company’s own site, but if a company doesn’t post the materials on their own site it should have easily accessible links from the IR website.

While the SEC requirements regarding corporate websites are not extensive, there are many best practices that have evolved over time.  There are several basics that should be part of every IR website no matter what market cap or type of company.  Having a good IR website is a relatively easy and inexpensive way for a small cap company to look bigger by providing the same level of information as a large cap company.  This sends a message to investors and analysts that your company is committed to IR and to attracting investors.

The first basic item is a clear and visible link from the corporate home page.  My preference is to have a direct, one-click link on the home page that says “Investors.”  Some companies put the IR site as one of several links under an “About Us” menu, but that just makes investors and analysts spend time searching, which you don’t want.

The second basic is that the IR website should have a similar design as the corporate website, or at least have similar graphics and navigation.  You want to have continuity with the corporate home page and website so that investors don’t feel like they’re on a different site.

The third basic is to have an easy to navigate menu that lists all the contents of the IR website, without a lot of sub-menus.  I’ll get into what those contents should include, but without an easy to use menu it makes it difficult for investors to find what they want.

The fourth basic is an easy way for investors to request info and/or sign up for an IR email list or an RSS feed.  As part of this, it is also important to have contact information.  If possible you should include the name and email of the investor relations person for the company so that investors have a point of contact, not a generic email.

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email_bkBernie Kilkelly is a senior investor relations practitioner with over 25 years of experience in designing and running successful IR programs to help companies build shareholder value. His background includes serving as head of investor relations for three public companies in the financial services sector, including Delphi Financial Group, Inc. from 2001 until its acquisition in 2012 by Tokio Marine Group at a 76% premium to its stock price. In addition to serving as a corporate investor relations officer, Mr. Kilkelly has worked at leading investor relations and financial/public relations agencies in New York, including Morgen-Walke Associates, Makovsky & Co. and Robinson Lerer & Montgomery. Mr. Kilkelly is a recognized leader in the investor relations community and has served as a director of the New York Chapter of the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) since 2007. He was NIRI-NY Chapter President in 2012 and is currently serving as Vice President-Communications, responsible for the chapter’s website, newsletter and social media.

Connect with Bernie in LinkedIn here.

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Q: What are the must-haves for the content of the IR website? 

Some of the must-haves are:

  • Company profile
  • Stock quote
  • Historical pricing
  • Fact sheet – make sure you have a pdf that can be easily printed
  • News release archive
  • Quarterly earnings archive with releases, conference call webcasts, slides or transcripts if available – make quarterly financials available in multiple formats including Excel downloads
  • SEC filings – make these filings easily searchable and available in multiple formats including XBRL
  • Bios of executive officers and directors – photos are also nice to have
  • Corporate governance info such as board committee members and charters
  • Calendar of events – make sure to include an archive of past events and copies of presentations
  • Current investor presentation
  • Analyst coverage – list of analyst name and their firms
  • Frequent asked questions page – this typically includes basic info on the stock such as the symbol and CUSIP number, trading exchange and transfer agent info.
  • Contact info and an easy way to sign up for email alerts or RSS feeds

Q: What other bells and whistles can be added to set a website apart? 

I don’t recommend that newly public companies add too many bells and whistles to your IR website when it is first launched.  A lot of the bells and whistles you can find on IR websites are for large cap companies that have a long trading history so have many long-time shareholders.  Many of these websites will have cost-basis calculators, history of stock splits – which may not be appropriate for new companies with no history.

Q: Can a company use its IR website as the primary way to disclose information to investors and analysts?

The SEC issued guidance in 2008 on the use of corporate websites for dissemination of information, and whether this would satisfy Reg FD requirements.  In general, the SEC said that companies could use their websites to disseminate info but the hurdles for satisfying Reg FD are very high.  For example, companies had to make sure that the public knows that the website will be used as the primary way to communicate.  As a result, very few companies are doing this.  NIRI did a survey in 2012 and 88% of companies said they had no plans to use their website as the exclusive means of disseminating info.

Q: Should you be concerned about the traffic to your website and are there ways to increase visitors?

You should be regularly monitoring the traffic to your website and your IR website host should provide you with regular statistics on the number of unique visitors and page views so that you can see how investors are using your site.  They should also be able to provide you with info on where visitors are coming from, for instance are they coming from Google searches on your company name or are they coming from brokerage firm sites like Fidelity or eTrade.  One easy way to drive traffic to your IR website is to include a direct link to the IR site on your press releases, rather than using the corporate website address.

Q: Should you be careful about linking to outside data sources?

Yes, when you are using outside data sources for stock price or historical information, make sure to clearly indicate the source and include necessary disclaimers.  For links to items like conference call transcripts, you may want to provide an intermediate screen that indicates the user will be redirected.  The SEC included guidance on the use of hyperlinks to third-party information in their guidance on corporate websites.

Q: Should you include social media feeds on your IR website?  

If your company is using social media as part of your IR communications strategy, you should integrate this onto your IR website to give it increased visibility.  But for most newly public companies, I would recommend waiting and focusing on the website itself first and getting that right before spending time and resources on launching a social media program.

Q: Is it important to have a separate IR website designed for use on mobile phones?     

With the majority of internet traffic migrating to mobile devices it is increasingly important to have mobile versions of websites to optimize the user experience.   Many older versions of mobile IR websites remove most of the graphics and slim down the content, which can make the site much less effective.  As part of the initial design of your IR website you should work on development of a mobile site and if possible launch it together with the main site, or sometime soon after.

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How to target and reach investors: Free webinar, August 18, 2:00 PM ET

6-part investor relations educational series for OTC Markets and Nasdaq Capital Markets listed companies

NEW YORK, August 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Vintage, the capital markets, corporate services and institutional & fund services division of PR Newswire, is pleased to invite CEOs, CFO, investor relations departments and senior executives at entrepreneurial start-up organizations and emerging growth companies to attend this new educational webinar series: “What you must know BEFORE and AFTER your IPO” 

Session 5:
How to target and reach investors
DATE: August 18, 2015
TIME: 2:00 PM ET
LENGTH: 30 minutes
PRE- REGISTRATION: http://prn.to/targeting

Pre-registration is recommended to save time on event day.

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With first-hand “how-to” advice specially structured for small and micro-cap companies, this six-part series will walk listeners through the steps needed to transparently and effectively communicate with current shareholders and prospective investors. The cadence of the series will be casual, delivered succinctly and in plain English.

The webinars, and archived podcasts, are moderated by Bradley H. Smith, PR Newswire/Vintage’s director of marketing, and features the investor relations expertise of Tad Gage and Bernie Kilkelly of Darrow Associates.

There is no fee to attend and there will be a live Q&A session.

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What you must know BEFORE and AFTER your IPO

Session 6: How to present and network at an investor conferences     
DATE: September 15, 2015
TIME: 2:00 PM ET
LENGTH: 30 minutes

After the live session, the webinars will be available for 24/7 listening both online and as a downloaded audio podcast.

Session 1: How to set-up and manage the IR function
Session 2: How to compose your first quarterly earnings release and SEC filing
Session 3: How to host your first earnings call  
Session 4: How to build your IR website
Log-in here: http://e.prnewswire.com/Before-and-after-IPO-master-page.html

“This six-part series will not be presenting any investor relations ‘best-practices.’ We’ll be delivering the investor relations ‘must-practices,” said Smith. “As they become a publicly traded organization, emerging growth companies have unique challenges, especially as they work to present themselves to new shareholders at par with large and mega-cap issuers. Darrow Associates have distilled these ‘must-practices,” into a short, concise task list.”

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About Vintage:

Vintage, a PR Newswire division, is a top-three provider of full-service regulatory compliance and shareholder communications services, delivered across our three practice areas: Capital Markets, Corporate Services and Institutional & Fund Services. Founded in 2002 and acquired by PR Newswire in 2007, Vintage has evolved to become the industry’s intelligent value choice. We deliver a flexible balance of people, facilities and technology to ensure that regulatory compliance and shareholder communications processes are efficient, transparent and painless. Services include IPO registrations, transactions, virtual data rooms, EDGAR & XBRL filing, typesetting, financial printing and investor relations websites. www.thevintagegroup.com 

ABOUT Darrow Associates

Darrow Associates is an investor relations and financial communications firm with offices in Melville, New York, New York City, Austin, and Silicon Valley. The Darrow Associates team of professionals brings more than 120 years of combined investor relations and Wall Street experience across a range of market sectors and market-caps to its client base of nearly 20 companies. Darrow Associates’ professionals have significant experience in partnering with public and pre-IPO companies in the technology, telecommunications, media, business services, alternative energy, clean technology, healthcare, financial services, industrial, and aerospace and defense industries.  Additional information is available at www.darrowir.com.

Media Contact:

Bradley H. Smith
Director of Marketing, IR and Compliance Services
PR Newswire & Vintage
+1 201.942.7157
bradley.smith@prnewswire.com

Is an investor relations website required by the SEC?

There is no SEC regulation that requires a public company to have an investor relations micro-site (IR website) however most all issuers have an IR website and savvy investors expect to find one. The Shareholder Confidence 365 study reports that 70% of investors said they would not invest in a company that does not have an IR website.

What is required:

SHOPCARTSarbanes-Oxley requires that issuers post Section 16 (forms 3, 3/A, 4, 4/A, 5, 5/A ~ insider trades) to their IR website or corporate website by the end of the next business day. Section 16 files must be sortable from other SEC files. Companies can link off to the SEC.gov website for this sub-set, however IR Room fundamentals direct that this not done as it interrupts the investor’s experience.

Sarbanes-Oxley also requires specific corporate governance documents be accessible to investors on an issuers’ IR website or corporate website. IR Room Fundamentals direct a well-defined “corporate governance sub-section” for these disclosures: audit committee charter, compensation committee charter, code of conduct, code of ethics and the identification of the audit committee’s financial expert.

Regulation G of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act defines disclosure rules regarding GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and non-GAAP financials. The regulation specifies that companies reconcile the non-GAAP financial measure to the most directly comparable GAAP measure in SEC files, press releases as well as audio (webcast) recordings on your IR website. The disclosure must also include the reasons why the non-GAAP information is useful to investors.

The SEC’s Notice of the Annual Meeting and Availability of the Annual Report and Proxy Materials (Notice & Access) requires that issuers post proxy and supporting materials – letter to shareholders, annual report and annual shareholder meeting invitation – on their IR website or corporate website. Issuers cannot link off to the SEC.gov website and the proxy materials must be posted “in a manner that does not infringe on the anonymity of a person” – which means no personal-data based cookies. IR Room Fundamentals direct that the investor relations website clearly guides a shareowner to the appropriate proxy voting portal, depending on their status as a Registered Shareholder or Beneficial Shareholder.

And finally, all issuers must post their 10-K and 10-Q XBRL files and accompanying instance documents to their IR website or corporate website. Issuers cannot link off to the SEC.gov website for this.

IR Room fundamentals view a well-managed investor relations website to be balance of corporate transparency and brand marketing. 

The Strategic Shopping List for soon-to-be public companies

I was pleased to participate as a panelist at a discussion titled The IPO and Beyond…Experts Provide Insights about Preparing for Life as a Public Company. As follow-up from that that discussion, Vintage Is the only invited organization that can tactically work with a Emerging Growth Company right from their initial (pre-IPO) in-house S-1 drafting session (watch our video) all the way to getting their shareholder communications tools launched (IR website, earnings call, news distribution, etc.) and certainly their EDGAR and XBRL regulatory filings.

Due to this in-house organic breadth of services, we created the “strategic shopping list” that we suggest to public companies.

The strategic shopping list has three buckets.This list does not name products or services, nor is it by department. It is by goal.

  1. Compliance
  2. Transparency
  3. Communications

The next questions we ask:

  1. Which goal are you spending the most money on?
  2. Which goal will best help your company grow?

Without fail, “compliance” tends to be the “most money” answer and “communicate“ as the answer for “help company grow” – which for IR generally means acquiring more investors.

And there lies the problem… the answer to both questions must be the same. At least that’s how we build budgets in marketing.

rebalacing51
Above: Out of balance.

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Above: A better balance – same spend, just reallocated for growth.

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FIRST UP: Compliance

Lower your compliance costs… remember, there is no “luxury compliance.” Compliance is a binary function – you either are or are-not. Tactically, XBRL is an obvious discussion here. Without exaggeration, clients who have switched to us from the high volume XBRL provider have saved five-figures. Those five-figures are better spent on growth initiatives.

Click here to match-up your current XBRL workflow to see what an appropriate spend should be.  We’ll discuss Transparency and Communicate in later blogs.

Have a great day.

The behavior of IR and its impact for emerging growth and small-cap companies

I am hesitant to equate a single action or a single product (even our own!) to a specific reaction from the Street(s). This may be a visceral knee-jerk from a slight “career veering” that exposed me to the greasy underbelly of stock promotion.

Shareholder communications for emerging growth and small-cap companies is a chicken-egg mosaic. Media, message, past performance, tactics and strategies are all interwoven: slicing out one element, news release distribution for example, is too myopic. However using a mosaic-eye-view, you can see a pattern of behavior… an overall IR culture of shareholder communications that begets and rewards success.

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How green is your mosaic:

Emerging growth and small-cap companies have two core challenges as they become a publicly traded entity:

  1. Sell their product in a competitive free market environment
  2. Sell their stock in a competitive capital market environment

Although their two markets’ audiences are different, both are driven by transparency and content – and a company has a much better chance of success if they have their tactical mosaic of communications elements firmly situated.

Emerging growth and small-cap companies study:

For this study, we reviewed the openly-visable shareholder communications of 240 SEC reporting micro and small-cap companies. As a measurement of success, we’ve selected the Average Daily Trading Volume: it is quite simply “proof of sale.”

The individual communications elements are:

  • News releases per year – either over twelve (12+) or under eleven (11-): this is an indication of newsflow and communications consistency.
  • Robust and distinctly identified investor relations website: this is an indication of transparency and financial branding.
  • Earnings webcasts: this is an indication of financial growth (ie: actually having earnings to report).
  • XBRL compliance: this is an indication of transparency and professionalism.

Results:

Of the 240 companies we reviewed, only 79 had measurable volume. From that subset, we compared the shareholder communications elements of the top 25, by volume, with the bottom 25. As you see in the visuals below, the differences are meaningful, especially with news distribution and quarterly earnings webcasts.

OTC HEAT MAP_t

OTC HEAT MAP_b

The difference in trading volumes is equally meaningful: 25 times more trading volume.

Quarterly aggregate trading volume Daily averaged trading volume
Top 25 21,212,352 848,494
Bottom 25 42,864 1,714

Where the companies do to align is with market-cap: the difference is minimum. This indicates that the companies in this study are in scale to one another and that market-cap itself is not a factor. This is VERY important apples-to-apples point. A shareholder communications study across varied market-caps is fundamentally (business persona) flawed.

Combined market-cap Average market-cap
Top 25 1,742,210,171 69,688,406
Bottom 25 1,186,534,000 47,461,360

Obviously, this study does not measure any qualitative factors including the actual content being communicated. However, it does dramatically indicate that just the act of communications can deliver material impact. It’s important to understand that although this study is based on public companies, the lesson is the same for private organization.

Summary for emerging growth and small-cap companies:

1.) News releases and distribution drives audiences. If you are not able to internally identify and generate news consistently, engage an external PR or IR firm.

2.) Set-it and forget-it microsites, like an IR website, are not drivers. They are important for branding and as a hub of your investor materials.

3.) Multimedia events, like webcasts, are an important mosaic element. Use rich media and visual presentations whenever possible.

Lastly, as a final view across all 240 companies, within the complete subset of 79 companies that had measurable daily trading volume, 50% issued 12+ news releases annually. The remaining subset of 161 companies had no measurable daily trading volume – 80% issued 11 or fewer news releases.

This study does not follow all the behaviors a micro or small-cap company may demonstrate: participation at investors conferences or even stock newsletters for example. It does highlight the behaviors common to all smart communicators – regardless of market-cap.

Micro and small-cap companies are invited to CLICK HERE to learn more about our role in helping you succeed. Conveniently price-bundled in intelligent value packages, I may add.

The single practical tip that will improve every one of your financial disclosure news releases

There’s one thing we have oodles of here at PR Newswire / Vintage – and that’s practical insight on to improve the results of your news releases. Most all of the tips are “PR” focused (rightly so) and based on making your content more discoverable.

Investor relations’ news releases (earnings call alerts, earnings results, etc.) are a different content animal than PR. Simply, financial-based news releases are coveted content. People – aka: investors, analysts and financial media – proactively seek your news. They are knocking on your digital door begging for more information. Looking at this with a marketing lens, it’s a incredible position to be in.

So, what does IR need to do to take full advantage of this traffic? Insert this call-to-action after your first paragraph in every single news release:

Receive [COMPANY] updates via email: [link to email alert page]

That’s it. One side-bar sentence, right up top. Don’t worry about “storytelling flow,” tone or cadence. Just paste it in.

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NEW YORK, July 13, 2015 /PRNewswire/ —  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nihil minus, contraque illa hereditate dives ob eamque rem laetus. Quis est, qui non oderit libidinosam, protervam adolescentiam? Cum audissem Antiochum, Brute, ut solebam, cum M. Non autem hoc: igitur ne illud quidem. Duarum enim vitarum nobis erunt instituta capienda. Immo istud quidem, inquam, quo loco quidque, nisi iniquum postulo, arbitratu meo. Verum tamen cum de rebus grandioribus dicas, ipsae res verba rapiunt; Duo Reges: constructio interrete.

Receive [COMPANY] updates via email: [link to email alert page]

An potest, inquit ille, quicquam esse suavius quam nihil dolere? Quamquam id quidem, infinitum est in hac urbe; Quid in isto egregio tuo officio et tanta fide-sic enim existimo-ad corpus refers? Quid, quod homines infima fortuna, nulla spe rerum gerendarum, opifices denique delectantur historia? Quid, si etiam iucunda memoria est praeteritorum malorum?

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Tactical points:

  • Don’t anchor/embed the link to your email alert page. Cut & paste the full, entire link. This is very important because not all news portals (technically) accept embedded links onto their pages.
  • If your email page has an “ugly” non-vanity URL, ask your PR or marketing department for help with a shortened URL. Bit.ly is an example of this type service.

HERTZ

This small change to all your financial disclosure news releases will assure you that interested stakeholders always get your material news, SEC filings and whatever they select directly from you.

Especially important, this creates an investor relations database of names that can be cross-checked against other lists including investor conference attendees and targeting databases. This will help you hone discussions with investors. 

This is content marketing mecca.