When I first published the Best Practices In Shareholder Communications (originally titled Trust & Transparency) in 2003, the investor relations industry was less than a year from the passing of Sarbanes-Oxley and under three years post RegFD. “Transparency,” once a shareholder communications ideology, had become law – and that made investor relations websites very important.
This was why the Best Practices guide was created and over 18,000 copies printed and distributed.
I pulled my coveted first edition off my shelf to see how investor relations websites have changed in eleven years. Overall, not that much has changed, regardless of the SEC’s 2008’s “web disclosure and eproxy” guidance and 2013’s “social media” guidance. Let’s go through this together over a few IR Room Fundamentals blog posts.
Firstly, in 2003, the web was not as mature as it is today:
- Online stock information was not as ubiquitous as it is today – the WSJ still printed “stock prices”
- Yahoo chat boards were the only heavily trafficked “social media” location
- Broadband was a luxury, not du rigor
- Cell phones were still quite dumb
- There was no “social media”
- It was five SEC Chairmen ago
What has not changed – nor will it ever – are the core financial tangibles that drive investors, both institutional and individual. That’s what investor relations websites first set out to deliver.
What has changed, much of it bypassing IR, is the realization of the power that content has online. It fuels the web. PR and marketing teams have excelled at this. Titled “content marketing” and “though-leadership,” it’s the very core of product and company differentiation via telling intangible corporate stories. Unfortunately, the risk of RegFD and the predatory nature of The Street is still a shackling element for many IR departments. The depth and amount of “stories” have not changed much in eleven years.
Regardless, the investor relations website plays an essential role in delivering intangibles, if not in exact content, but in tone and, of course, its demonstration of transparency.
Investor Relations Home Page: 2003 best practices
Create a strong first impression for investors by offering easy access to up-to-date information. Enable visitors to obtain important information quickly so they can make intelligent investment decisions.
Make sure the design of the IR website is visually branded with the corporate site. Navigation and visual continuity should match the new look of the corporate site. Use a “vanity” URL for a seamless online brand experience
- Make it easy for shareholders to find what they’re looking for. Organize information and website navigation in several categories relevant to investors.
- Display current, automatically updated information such as stock quotes, recent press releases, upcoming events, contact information and downloads.
- Include a brief mission statement or company profile, outlining your commitment to customers, partners, and investors.
- For easy updating, use color and stylesheets for design elements, rather than graphics.
Investor Relations Home Page: 2014 best practices
Everything from 2003 remains appropriate for 2014.
NEW IR ROOM FUNDAMENTAL: Our “How Investors Consume Investor Relations Content” study reports that “Investor Presentations” are the most popular content on your IR site.
- A new recommendation is to clearly showcase the most recent webcast / slide presentations directly on the IR homepage. Don’t make investors hunt for this coveted content.
We will follow-up with more 2003 – 2014 comparisons.