In politics, there is an age-old debate as to whether elected leaders should vote according to the wishes of their constituents, or vote their conscience as the people’s representative. We have seen politicians criticized for using polling too extensively to guide policy (see Bill Clinton) — and not enough (see Barack Obama). When I worked as a political consultant prior to entering the IR profession, we used polling to gauge the electorate’s opinions on a certain issue – not to change policy, but to determine what audiences need focused communication and how messaging should be used to address misperceptions. And this is exactly how IR practitioners should use our own version of polling – the investor perception audit.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed about investor perception audits by Broc Romanek of TheCorporateCounsel.net. The podcast is available here: http://bit.ly/doE4gw. An investor perception audit is a survey of a company’s capital markets audiences – past, current and potential institutional investors as well as sell-side analysts. Typically conducted by a third-party via telephone to protect anonymity, the perception audit usually includes questions about the company’s strategy, prospects for growth, communications, management strengths, and catalysts for investors to purchase stock, among others. Think you already know what they perceive about your company? Certainly, investors and analysts are usually not shy about voicing their opinions. However, many companies are often surprised at the feedback they receive when investors are not speaking face-to-face with management. Continue reading
Earlier this week I moderated a NIRI webinar with three senior-level investor relations officers representing the finance, real estate and retail industries. The panelists highlighted some new initiatives that IROs should consider in 2010 which, according to the Chinese calendar, is The Year of the Tiger. This just might have been the world’s only “Tiger”-related discussion in the past few weeks that had nothing to do with a certain golfer with a PR problem.
Within Chinese culture the number six is auspicious and considered good for business. So in keeping with this theme, here are six ideas that arose from the panel discussion that are worth considering as you develop your investor relations plan for the coming year. Continue reading
To whom is the corporation accountable? Before SOX, majority voting, proxy access and “say on pay,” director elections were democratic in name only, and the lines between board and management were blurry at best. Except for the occasional gadfly at an annual meeting, boards rarely communicated with shareholders directly.
Today, after nearly a decade of turmoil in the markets and changes in the regulatory environment, the insulated board is a thing of the past. Shareholders are coming to view directors as leaders whose perspectives may diverge from those of management, who are empowered to exercise independent judgment on matters of consequence, and who are accountable for corporate performance.
A small but growing number of boards, recognizing that investor expectations have changed, have made dialogue with shareholders a formal priority. They are experimenting with new approaches for nurturing this interaction and learning from the experience. Although systematic programs for board-shareholder communications are still atypical in Corporate America, it is not too early to make some observations about what the more successful efforts have in common. Continue reading