11 Ways to Achieve Unified Messaging Between the IR and PR Department: Part 2
Last week, I shared a few ideas that IROs and PR professionals can use to help bridge the communications gap between their respective departments.
What follows are 11 specific areas where IR and PR can collaborate to develop an integrated communications strategy. Note: these ideas are based on an article: Opportunities for improvement: how investor relations and corporate communication can–and should–fit together.
The article is a bit old, but outlines several ways that IR and PR can work together that still has relevance in today’s world (I have paraphrased a bit below and updated the ideas where applicable; for example, I added in commentary about who should be responsible for the messaging on social networks, as well as who should be in charge of populating the accounts).
Lastly, I also put the original sections from the article into 3 main categories (Corporate Materials, Media, and External & Internal Communications) to make it easier to reference, although they are in no particular order of importance.
An integrated approach to communications means that both IR and PR have a say in the messaging of the corporate materials – particularly press releases and the annual report to name a few.
In addition to the collaboration on the corporate materials there is also value in having a strategic conversation between both groups to come to a general consensus on where the information should be housed.
As we mentioned in last week’s post, recognizing the strengths of each group is beneficial as it allows expertise to be shared in their specific areas. So the website, specifically the IR section, usually is the responsibility of the IR department.
Similarly, the *online newsroom is usually the responsibility of the PR group. So they would be responsible for keeping this section populated with up-to-date facts, figures, b-roll and images that would help a media outlet gather relevant information to write an ‘informed’ story about the company.
*As more companies are adopting social media, research has indicated that many of them are merging the ‘traditional’ newsroom (that is, one that houses standard items such as press releases and logos), with a social media newsroom. We will discuss how IR and PR can collaborate and effectively use social media newsrooms in a future post.
In general a good IR website provides investors and stakeholders with the context of your industry which helps in the understanding of your company’s business and overall investment proposition. Collaboration on the corporate materials that are posted on the website as well as having a strategic discussion of the best place to post the information on the website (which should also include cross-linking from your corporate website to your IR website) will help provide a well-rounded view of the company allowing all stakeholders to access the information that is relevant to them.
2. Press Releases Quarterly Financial Releases
As mentioned, IR and PR should both be involved in vetting press releases. When it comes to quarterly financial releases, IR typically holds the pen, but it is equally important for PR to review them as well.
The most important thing to remember is to keep the other group apprised of upcoming releases. For example, IR may want to weigh in on the quote from a product release, because it supports the growth perspectives that may have been shared in an investor presentation. Similarly, PR may want to add their perspective, or they may want to ensure a new product launch, or similar material event that has been previously disclosed, is included in the quarterly financial release and that the messaging is consistent.
3. Annual Report
Although the primary audience for the annual report is investors, many organizations recognize the broad range of audiences who receive the report, from customers to employees to suppliers. In my experience, the annual report is a great vehicle to convey your company’s investment proposition and can still be valuable as a marketing document to help stakeholders get to know your company and understand underlying business drivers and how the company stacks up to peers.
4. Financial/Corporate Profiles with the Business Press
PR typically deals with the media. So when it comes to media relations, PR can work hand-in-hand with the IR staff (especially around an article or interview that is focused on recent financials), preparing background on a given reporter, conducting the preparation session for the interview and handling the follow up activities. In addition, they can join efforts to identify stories that may attract media interest and follow up with a targeted pitch to a business reporter.
5. Media and Presentation training
The skills used by PR to train marketing and sales executives to make effective presentations can be readily transferred to help executives deliver their investor presentations more effectively. PR can prepare a list of potential Q&A for the media, while IR can add value by preparing Q&A based on previous quarterly calls and from other interaction/feedback from investors to help adequately prepare management. Depending on the skillset of people on each team, other feedback can also be gleaned, such as when there is not enough eye contact and if the presenter is speaking too quickly.
When it comes to putting together a corporate presentation for a roadshow or analyst day, the IR team should take the lead. But again, the PR team can add their two cents by providing questions from the media that could potentially come up to ensure the messaging is consistent. The ‘Analyst and Investor Meetings’ section below has more ideas on how PR can help the IR team develop the presentation.
6. Trade Press Coverage
Although a positive profile in The Wall Street Journal or CEO interview on CNBC are highly desirable, a strong trade press article can attract visibility with a more targeted core audience for your industry. Providing a link to the article in the online newsroom section of your website and sharing it over social networks (if you use them), can go a long way toward educating investors about your company’s market position, products or services.
It’s important to work together for consistency of messages and that information flow is ubiquitous and transparent. All of your stakeholder groups can and will see messages meant for others – hence the need for consistency. Working together also underscores the need to consider all stakeholders when crafting messages.
EXTERNAL & INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS
7. Analyst and Investor Meetings
PR can help IR develop the content for the investor presentations. It may be useful to include press clippings, customer testimonials or a video clip produced for a customer meeting that can be integrated into a PowerPoint presentation for analysts.
Your company may be exhibiting at a trade show attended by a number of important customers. Investors also could be invited to attend, with the company hosting an event for investors, customers and press.
9. Crisis Communication
A crisis can be an opportunity for collaboration and strategizing across all communication functions. PR’s input will be invaluable for the specific messaging for employees, while IR can hone in on the investors. Working together on the messaging is especially important when the information will likely be received in conflicting ways, such as a downsizing, which Wall Street loves but employees hate.
It is also important to hold town halls and prepare a crisis communication to the staff as well.
Responding to a crisis using social media is becoming commonplace for companies. So if you are using any social channels, you must have a plan of action in place to monitor these channels and respond (if you deem it necessary) to nip any crisis as soon as it starts. If you have separate social media for PR and IR, making sure the messages are consistent is crucial.
10. Social Media
More and more companies are using social media to share company information. Oftentimes, the PR, advertising and marketing departments are the first to use social channels. As companies get more comfortable communicating on social media, some begin sharing investor-related material. So it is essential that the messaging is consistent across all social media.
So if you have more than one Twitter account for example, you should clearly indicate what each account is used for – it is also helpful to indicate the person responsible for each account.
Having a separate Twitter account for IR is a good best practice as it helps followers keep track of all IR-related information by following one account. It also lets them know that they can ask IR-related questions on this specific account. And it helps your company monitor and stay on top of the questions they receive so they can use this information to update company material, messaging and FAQ’s.
If you have a Twitter account dedicated to IR, be very clear that it is an ‘official’ IR account for the company. You should also let people know how they can submit questions; recommend providing the investor relations email address or another way they can get a hold of you or the main IR contact. You should also ensure that the people in charge of the other Twitter accounts have a policy in place that if they receive ‘investor-type’ questions, they provide an IR contact name and email address.
11. Employee Communication
Employees often hold company stock through stock purchase plans or retirement savings accounts. Developing a program to educate employees about how the stock is viewed by the investment community–positive and negative–is an important role that can combine the expertise of the IR and PR staff.