“Just keeping everybody on the same page at the same time.”
– Chuck D, when asked what was the hardest part of achieving continued success with Public Enemy
Every public company is the work of many hands. It takes the time and dedication of a diverse group of talented people to keep an organization thriving. Directors, officers, middle management and the C-suite are all proud of the work they do. Hard working people often like to talk about their work. Sometimes it’s all they feel comfortable talking about. While high-quality individuals who are passionate about the business can be good evangelists, there is a constant risk that they’re going to unintentionally go off-script. At its worst, this could become a breach of material disclosure regulations but, more commonly, it tends to muddy or dilute the message IR is sending to investors.
Some companies like to pack a whole team along to conferences, especially bigger conferences in fun places. A full roster running about the floor describing a view of the business acquired through their own personal fishbowl can turn into an IR nightmare. While there is bound to be a certain amount of message variation from person to person, it’s possible to thread the basic message through the staff in a way that allows everyone’s unique perspective and knowledge to be seen through the same consistent lens.
Simple, Readable Content
The content that you work so hard to make readable and adaptable to investors is material that your C-suite, co workers and all conference attendees should know intimately. They won’t, but its availability goes a long way. Sometimes having access to it and knowing of its existence isn’t enough.
If all attendees receive an email a few days before the event outlining the basic IR talking points, with the latest material attached, it will at least be front of mind. It will give the attendees a chance to ask questions and to familiarize themselves with the overall narrative.
An attentive IRO can anticipate that there will be analysts or investors ready to put the screws to an engineer or a segment manager, subtly or not-so-subtly. It helps to spend some time asking the same questions (or type of questions) that an analyst might head for. It’s important to ask these questions carefully, least your preparation be mistaken for a lack of trust or a low opinion of their ability. Try to genuinely understand their department – get them thinking and talking natural about their work. Be interested. Then, if it’s necessary, help them re-characterize parts that might be off-message or clip parts that might pose disclosure risks.
From an IR perspective, it’s always easier, less time-consuming and less stressful to bring as small a team as possible, and to have it consist mostly of IR and communications staffs, but that isn’t always practical. While it takes a bit of time and energy to make sure everyone is on message, it often makes up for itself in time that doesn’t get spent on damage control.