Negotiating a merger or acquisition can be all-consuming for a company’s management team given the complexity of such deals, and the stakes involved. These transactions can be as transformational as an IPO — more so, in some cases.
But even the very best merger or acquisition can fall apart if the management team doesn’t also develop a strategic communications plan to inform the outside world about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. This cannot be an afterthought. Time is of the essence.
Private firms face few regulations governing public statements, so communication missteps aren’t likely to violate laws and spur law enforcement actions.
For public companies, quite the opposite is true. There are legally binding rules in place, and a failure to comply with them can have serious consequences. As a result, it is vitally important that companies provide their employees with substantive training.
One of the most frequently asked questions we hear from executives running private life science companies is this: why are some firms in our industry generating a lot of buzz and interest among crossover investors while others are not? And a common follow-up is: What do I need to do to cultivate that kind of investor appetite for my company?
So it was no surprise that several executives raised these very questions during the Westwicke Partners’ Biotechnology Pre-IPO Crossover Investor Conference that we recently co-hosted in New York with William Blair, a leading and growth-oriented global investment banking firm.
Few will deny that analyst research still plays a key role in any investor relations strategy. And every time one of us sees a stock getting a healthy bump in the markets following an analyst upgrade or initiation, we can easily be tempted to believe that analysts wield an enormous amount of influence over a company’s valuation and success.
Should you make expanding research coverage your top IR priority? Have you found yourself pre-occupied with making the cut with analysts and adding more research coverage to your ranks?
However, before you potentially find yourself off course with a misguided plan, let’s consider a few perspectives.
If your company is publicly traded or a private company preparing for an IPO, then you likely have two separate communications tasks, one focused on reaching investors and financial analysts, the other on reaching customers and the general public — Investor Relations and Public Relations.
The two obviously perform different functions, serve different constituencies, operate under different mandates, and typically report to different executives internally. Investor communications are strictly regulated. IR professionals are responsible for communicating a company’s business model, financials and future expectations to analysts, institutional investors, investment bankers, and the like. They usually work closely with general counsel, the finance organization, and under the Chief Financial Officer. Missteps, such as divulging information that isn’t publicly available or engaging in marketing-style hype, can breach securities law and lead to a number of serious problems — shareholder lawsuits at the top of the list.
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.
When shopping for a major purchase, say for a new home or car, many people wisely draft lists of must-have features and optional nice-to-have features.
Compiling a list of needs and wants is also valuable to companies searching for an investment bank, especially given how frequently they fail to evaluate a key feature: the banks’ institutional sales forces. During my 18 years on Wall Street, I can’t tell you how often I saw companies make the mistake of considering the right sales force a want-to-have feature, when they should have considered it a must-have.
A CEO transition can be a time of great risk for a company’s stock as Wall Street attempts to determine all that the change signals. If a change in leadership is not communicated properly it could make your investors nervous. Effectively communicating the CEO succession can help boost confidence in investors — and prevent long term harm to your share price.
Here are a few guidelines to help effectively communicate a CEO transition:
When I started working in investor relations (IR) more than 25 years ago, little did I realize that “creative writing” would often boil down to finding clever synonyms for words like opportunity, growth, and transition — rather than drafting colorful, superlative-rich descriptions of corporate events and milestones. Is it possible to find a new way to express year-over-year financial comparisons or do the numbers in the financial tables mostly speak for themselves?
We are often faced with management teams that seek to fill their perceived “air time” and make their conference call stand out from the hundreds of other calls taking place. If this sounds familiar, and you find yourself wondering how much creative leeway to take with your own quarterly earnings calls, then keep reading as I explain where it’s possible to truly add value, and where it actually detracts from your objective.
A great company does not always make a great stock. And a great stock does not always make a great stock for a sell-side analyst to cover. What are analysts looking for when they launch on new names? What can you do to get an analyst to consider you for their coverage universe?
These three questions can help you determine the likelihood of getting an analyst to begin to write research on your company.