We were recently asked to participate in a panel discussion hosted by the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI). The topic was “Creating a Strategic IR Plan,” which is something we at Westwicke, discuss frequently. Joining me on the panel were Gregg Lampf, Vice President of Investor Relations at Ciena and Mary Turnbull, Director of Corporate Access at Raymond James.
It was a great event with a lively discussion, and the points made further validate the importance of being thoughtful and strategic in planning investor relations objectives and activities.
Here are some key takeaways from the panel discussion:
- Develop a 12-month strategic IR plan with clear objectives. Every company has different investor relations goals, and it is important to identify what are the most important objectives over a 12-month period, and what is realistically achievable. It is equally important to identify action items that accompany each objective so that you can lay out a plan and then measure your success. Common objectives that we define with our clients include increasing visibility, broadening the shareholder base, setting achievable and realistic expectations, and creating shareholder value through transparency and consistent messaging.
- Create an IR calendar. Stick to it as best as you can. It’s important for executives to participate in Wall Street conferences, non-deal road shows, and other events that can showcase their company’s story. But it’s just as important for leadership to remain focused on running the business. We often see companies get distracted by attending too many non-core events. You can’t be everywhere. So decide well in advance which events you’ll attend, which you’ll skip, and stick to your plan.
- Solicit feedback from investors and analysts. There are many opportunities to hear from investors and analysts — after a quarter is reported, a non-deal road show, a conference, or any impactful newsflow. You can’t do meaningful strategic planning in a vacuum, so be sure to gather input about what’s important to your current shareholders and target investors. As part of gauging sentiment, it is also important to hear how your messaging is resonating and being interpreted. We have found that investors and analysts are willing to share their opinions — we keep the conversations short, focused and confidential. Please refer to our blog on Perception Audits for more information on soliciting feedback.
- Consider hosting an analyst/investor day. Many companies choose to host an “analyst/investor day.” When executed well, these can be a great forum to communicate your strategy and showcase your leadership team while deepening your relationships with analysts and investors. We have recently analyzed key trends of analyst days hosted by companies in the healthcare sector, and we have found that three key considerations for planning purposes: (1) analyst “days” are really meetings as they getting shorter and now range from 2-3 hours on average — prepared remarks should be 2 hours or less to allow time for Q&A; (2) include key opinion leaders, clinicians, customers or outside experts in addition to the management team; and (3) be prepared for several analysts and investors to attend via webcast instead of in person — the slides need to be clear and accessible.
- Leverage tradeshows and industry meetings. This is another great way to meet with analysts and investors without incurring additional travel and time out of the office. Analysts are often happy to set up booth tours, dinners or other special events — this also gives you a good pulse on how prevalent investor attendance is at a given meeting and what issues may emerge. In addition to getting valuable face-time with the Street, this can help shape your overall messaging.
- Be strategic and consistent about what to disclose. As your business evolves, it is important to evaluate whether you are reporting and guiding on the most relevant metrics. In addition to looking internally, also be aware of the metrics your peers disclose. If you need to adjust the way in which you report or metrics that you provide, we recommend that you communicate the change with advance notice and in some cases, offer both “the old way” and “the new way” for a period of time in order to maintain transparency.
- Don’t focus on short term fluctuations in your stock price. We realize that this is hard to do — but you are managing your business with a strategy and vision for long term performance. The creation of shareholder value should be considered through a similar lens. Outside of solid execution, pillars of solid IR performance include consistent and clear messaging, transparency, accessibility and credibility.
At Westwicke, we pride ourselves on balancing both strategy and tactical execution when we work with our clients as their IR partner. Creating an annual IR strategy is an important piece of the programs we put in place. For more information on how we work with our clients, take a look at our comprehensive IR Guide.