The following is a modified article that I wrote for, and was featured in, Canadian Investor Magazine (V2I1). For magazine enquiries please visit www.canadianinvestor.com :
So what do you do?
““So what do you do?” That’s usually the second question I am asked by most border guards and custom agents. My reply is often, “Investor Relations,” which always leads to a blank stare. In this profession, travel is almost always a requirement, and it can be a blessing and a curse. I love to travel, but those awkward custom agent conversations wear me down.
I don’t blame the agents; I am still trying to explain to my wife exactly what it is I do. So the issue must be with my profession or my explanation. Unfortunately, the Investor Relations profession is still not well understood. So let me try to explain what (IROs) Investor Relations Officers actually do. If you understand their role in the company, it may make it easier for you to engage with them, and dig a bit deeper into your current or next potential investment.
What do we do?
Simply put, our job is to explain our company to the investment world. But it’s usually not that simple. Most companies are extremely complex, so the explanations tend to be that way as well. Our audience is quite diverse; so we need to craft a slightly different message for each type of investor. That means telling our company story in a way that is meaningful to each one, providing the key information they are looking for. We speak to retail investors, institutional investors, analysts, sophisticated high net worth investors, stock brokers, fund managers and various stakeholders in the company. IROs are also the gatekeepers to the senior executives. CEOs and CFOs do not have time to speak to every investor that calls the company with questions. The IRO handles all incoming calls leaving the senior executives to run the company.
Like many investors, I am a fan of Warren Buffet. He has a special way of explaining complex scenarios that both novice and sophisticated investors can understand. He likes to pretend he is speaking to his two sisters. I like that, but I twist it a bit and pretend I am speaking to my uncle the customs agent. I need to be able to explain my story to him quickly and clearly so he can understand it and then send me on my way. I also don’t want to provide any false or misleading information which might get me locked up.
How do we do it?
Although communication methods have changed in recent times with the rise of social media, the heart and soul of a great IRO is still their ability to interact and converse with investors. Great IROs have the ability to engage with their audience face to face or on the phone. But, the reality is, most public companies have hundreds or thousands of shareholders and speaking personally to each one of them is a daunting task. So how do most IROs communicate with the investment community? Most communication now happens online – at least to start anyway.
IROs invest a great deal of time in the corporate website. All material corporate information must be located there and should be easy for investors to find. It must also remain current at all times to stay in compliance with security regulations. A seasoned IRO will know their company website inside and out and will be able to speak to each section in depth and provide colour to areas that may be filled with technical and industry jargon that may be confusing to the average investor. All corporate websites will have a “contact us” page and the IRO contact details will be provided there. Send the IRO an email with your specific question, or simply give them a call.
The communications world is rapidly changing, and social media is the main driver pushing these changes. In the past three to four years, I have seen early adopters in the public-company space, experiment with new technology that is enhancing investor communication possibilities. Public companies are using Facebook, LinkedIn, Slide Share, Twitter, blogs, Google Earth interactive platforms, Flickr and various other social networks to spread their company news and engage with their audience. The security regulators are trying to keep up to ensure disclosure policies are not being violated but it is an endless battle. The rules will need to change. Watch for companies to start disclosing material information in ways other than the traditional news wires.
What skills does a seasoned IRO possess?
Like any profession, IROs come in all sizes and shapes. There are no set standards or requirements to enter this career so there can be a huge variance in the skill sets between IROs. The Canadian Investor Relations Institute (CIRI) works hard to provide educational courses and, a professional certification with the IVEY school of Business, for advanced IROs. But the reality is, it’s a real mixed bag. Seasoned IROs will possess skills in finance, marketing, communications and securities law. The majority of IROs enter the profession with some of those skills and learn the rest on the job. Your IRO should be knowledgeable about the industry their company is in. They should know how the company is valued, they should be able to compare the company to its peers and they should be able to explain the company’s business drivers and how there company will drive shareholder value.
The great IROs are said to be a hybrid of a CEO and CFO. They can speak to the big picture of the company and also break down the financials to a granular level.
How should the IRO be able to help you?
Your IRO should be able to help you understand the company and explain all the technical, financial and industry jargon in everyday language. They should be able to answer your phone calls and emails in a timely fashion and guide you through the corporate website and help you locate any information you need. Good IROs can help you navigate your way through the traditional mailing materials you may receive like the Information Circulars, MD&A and Financial documents.
But don’t ask them to provide any insider information. They shouldn’t be providing any information to you that has not already be released to the market through proper disclosure policies. And they shouldn’t be telling you to buy the company stock. If they do, it’s time to sell.
Get to know your IRO
The IRO can be a great resource for any investor and I urge you to get to know the IROs of all the companies you invest in. If the company happens to be presenting in your community or showcasing themselves at an investment conference, take the time to the visit them and meet the IRO and the other senior executives.
I guess I am hopeful that one day, in my lifetime, a customs agent will ask my profession and then give me a knowing look and send me on my way. But, until that day comes, I’ll just smile, keep my story simple and be thankful that I have my Nexus card.
Jon Bey is the President /CEO of Steel Rose Communications in Vancouver, B.C. SRC is a boutique IR firm that specializes in Investor Relations services for publically listed Jr. Resource companies. Jon is a Board member of the BC Chapter of CIRI and is Professionally Certified in Investor Relations. Information on SRC can be found on their website at www.steelrosecommunications.com“
Like what you’ve read? I will be writing more articles for a few publications in the coming months, so look out for those
In the meantime, we have more good stuff on our blog, take a peek here. And, come on over and say hi on Twitter : @SteelRoseComm . You should also check out Canadian Investor Magazine on Twitter : @CanInvestorMag.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it!
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Puppies are the greatest
But, here’s the thing, … Puppies need to be taken care of.
And, as with your social media program, the time you invest at the start will make all the difference in years to come. So do it well; and if you need help, get it, you will be glad you did.
Learning to have pets
Puppies are a responsibility.
You need to feed them. You need to walk them. You need to love them. Pet them.
You need to give them a place to live. A space to play too, and let loose.
Dogs used to sleep in ‘doghouses’. Now they sleep at the end of your bed. ie. they are more a part of our lives than ever before. An extension of who we are. Our family.
People buy their dogs all sorts of toys, bones, booties, bells, and whistle; but your relationship really depends on the quality of the interaction with the dog.
Puppies/dogs are not free.
Learning to start a Social Media Program
Social Media is responsibility.
The tools are ‘free’, but the time commitment is not. What you do with it, and how well you do it, is up to you.
You don’t want to let your puppy down. If you are going to commit to doing social media, you might as well commit to doing it well.
Building your social media presence requires you to be a homemaker. Building your ‘castle’, whatever the size; but one that is inviting, full of love, acceptance, for you, and your loved ones.
Bells and whistles are neat and all, but your content creation is what you’re building. ‘Content is king’. Concentrate on interactions.
It can be overwhelming. Sometimes it is best to start with one puppy, and see what you can handle. Perhaps start by simply Monitoring social media, see what it is all about, and figure out where you fit in.
To reap the benefits of Social Media, you have to get involved. Pups thrive on a firm schedule – try to be consistent with your social media. You need to build your presence, you need to feed your followers with content, you need to utilize your network.
Puppies are the new Social Media (Tweet Me)
Social Media and Puppy Similarities
- Easy to fall in love with
- They are social, participate in your life
- Can alert you to potential threats
- Require a serious commitment
- Can be a distraction, and even annoying at times
- Require your attention, suffer without it
- Can make a real mess if left alone, and potentially cause serious damage
- Thrive on a firm schedule
- Benefits increase the more time you spend with them
Woof woof, paw paw
Perhaps you find social media overwhelming. Perhaps you can’t commit to doing it right by yourself. If you need some help, let us know, we are here to help.
Or, if you just want to tell us of your own puppy to social media comparisons, that’s cool too. We would love to hear them.
Woof you later!
(Related post : Puppies are the new Social Media Pt.1)
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Romeo and Juliet can teach us a lot about Social Media
But, before you test my Shakespeare knowledge, I am talking about Jon’s new puppies, Romeo and Juliet =========>
Romeo, Juliet, and Social Media
(intro by Jon Bey)
I have often heard that the answer to your question is usually right in front of your face. The secret of course is figuring out what that question is. Well as things happen sometimes, my question appeared at the end of business meeting in mid-December. I was asked if I wanted the perfect Christmas gift for my children – a puppy.
The answer was yes, we had actually been looking for a puppy, and the timing was right. The real shock was when I realised we were going home with two puppies, not one. My daughter instantly named the black, girl puppy Juliet, and the golden boy soon after inherited the name Romeo, which seemed to fit perfectly.
Once the puppies were home, and we started preparing the home, and ourselves, for the upcoming adventure; I soon recognised the similarities between the lessons we were going to teach our children about puppies, and the lessons we teach our clients about Social Media.
Puppies are the new Social Media
Puppies are new, exciting, fun.
Puppies are somewhat unknown. What makes them tick? What will they do next?
They are soft, warm, and fuzzy. Always playful. Always up for cuddles. Puppies are quite simply one of the easiest things to fall in love with.
Puppies lick and/or paw you when they want something. Sometimes they just bark; possibly warning you of some impending danger, someone lurking outside; or maybe they are just wondering where you are.
Puppies are ‘Man’s Best Friend’. They are always there for you, always ready to say hello, always ready for a walk, ready for some pats, ready to give back love.
Puppies are considered by many to be ‘more social than other pets’. They participate in your life. A source of wonder. A conversation piece with friends. Say hello to neighbours as you walk around the block. Meet new friends at the dog park.
Getting a new puppy can change your life
And, this is the way many people feel as they enter into the world of social media, elation as to the potential Social Media holds for you, and your business. Excited to get involved, eager to buy into their ‘new puppy’ experience.
Social Media generally does all the things mentioned above, and more.
In fact, ‘social never sleeps’. It’s always there. Always on. There is a constant conversation going on around you. Interact/engage, and it can be your best friend.
Through Monitoring your Social Media, you can gain insight into the conversation surrounding your brand, or lack thereof, perhaps even finding some issues that need to be resolved.
It is an opportunity to expand your horizons, find new things, get more information on issues you are interested in, meet new people, while building existing relationships.
Puppies are the greatest
But, here’s the thing, … (stay tuned for Puppies are the new Social Media Pt.2)
Woof woof, paw paw
(Related post : Puppies are the new Social Media Pt.2)
Woof you later!
… and, yes, here is a video of Romeo and Juliet …
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This past weekend in Vancouver, the BC Lions completed a remarkable season by winning the Grey Cup at home, almost effortlessly. The fascinating part of the story – the team had one of its worst starts in franchise history. I can’t remember a team in my lifetime, in any sport, starting that poorly, and winning the championship. So what happened this year in the Lion’s Den? And what lessons can an IRO learn from our Lions?
Good Companies – Bad Results
Let’s be realistic – bad things happen to good companies. It happens every day. Many decent companies collapse when things go bad. And, many also manage to survive the first collapse, only then to stagnate soon thereafter. Then there are a select few that manage to right the ship, and strike gold. The Lions did it, what was their formula for success?
Build the Management Team
Every business needs to assemble a strong leadership team. In the corporate world, we hire the Board of Directors, and the Senior Management team. The BC Lions hired Wally Buono as the GM, and his Coaching Staff to run their company.
Once the leadership was in place, the next task was to devise a Corporate Strategy. The Lions needed a roadmap to lead them to the Grey Cup. What would they stand for? How would they accomplish their goals? This is an exciting time in the life of a company, and hopefully an IRO will be a part of this early development in the company’s life.
Gather the Assets
With the leadership and strategy in place, it is now time to gather the assets. For a Mining Company, this would be the projects. For the Lions – their players. The mining execs would have a game plan to gather the assets, identify exactly what they were looking for, and then sign contracts to secure those assets. Sound familiar? As the years progress, the Mining Company acquires new projects, and releases old assets that may not have worked out as planned. Each season Wally, and his coaches, identified the team strengths and weaknesses, cut loose their weak players, and targeted new assets that would strengthen their team.
Future Looks Bright
As the Lions’ season approached, the company looked great. They had a strong leadership team, an excellent game plan, valuable assets, and excited, invested stakeholders. Their Investor Relations and Communications team were primed for success, as well, especially as they were hosting the Grey Cup in their state-of-the-art $750 Million renovated stadium – a marketing dream season! There would be enough worthy news to keep the stakeholders engaged the entire season.
The Season Begins
Then the games started and disaster struck. After a dismal 0-5 start, local media declared the Lions “A disaster, and by far the worst team in the league”. Stakeholders were calling for management’s termination, and for the assets to be divested. Blow up the team and start over. Sound familiar?
Fast forward to the end-of-season press conference. The team management were asked what was going through their minds when they were 0-5? Were they scared of losing their jobs? Did they doubt their leadership? Did they question their players’ abilities? Did they change their game plan?
What Did Management Do?
Sometimes companies have the right team assembled, they comprise a great strategy, assemble a fantastic asset, but when they implement the plan things go horribly wrong at the start. That was the case with this year’s team. Was it time to panic? No. Was it time to blow up the team and management? No. It was time to assess the situation, stick to the game plan, and make minor adjustments. When things go wrong, leadership needs to assess what is wrong, and fix it before it is too late. Wally and his team did a great job of communicating with their stakeholders. They were honest, transparent, and available. They didn’t sugar coat the situation, they laid out the facts and repeated their messaging. “We are a good team, we have the right people and we are going to get better.”
Role of the IRO
The IRO has a crucial role to play with the Senior Management team in these situations. The IRO has to be the eyes and ears of the company, listening to what the Stakeholders are whispering , or perhaps screaming. Today’s IRO has to be Social Media savvy, plugged in to the areas where the information is flowing fast and furious. Ask the hard questions. Know where to find the answers.
Communicating and Engaging
In turn, the IRO has to get the message to the Street. And, simply sending out a press release won’t cut it anymore. And yet, joining a few social networks after a crisis strikes is too late. If the IRO is not already plugged in, and engaged, through social media by this stage in the process, it’s too late. The IRO has a vast array of communication tools at his/her disposal today; and the good IRO’s know how – and when - to use these tools to communicate effectively in every situation.
Stick to Your Vision
Wally and his coaches persevered through a difficult stretch this season. They were bent, but they didn’t break. They made minor adjustments to their plan, but kept the focus on the big picture, and worked at improving their team one step at a time. Wally may never coach again. His final season may be his most memorable, and that’s saying a lot for arguably the best coach in the history of the CFL. I will remember the stand he took for his players, and coaching staff, after their brutal start. “We have a great team, and we are going to turn this around. We have to be more accountable for our effort and mistakes, and that starts with me.”
What Are Your Thoughts?
Connect With Us
At Steel Rose Communications, we help public companies focus their Corporate Strategy, and devise an IR game plan. Could your team use some coaching assistance? Contact us, we would love to help.
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In another post, we discussed the WHY of Social Media, mainly citing that ‘your customers are having a conversation without you’, and therefore, you should be joining in on that conversation, somehow. And, there’s more than one way to utilize all that is Social Media.
WHAT am I doing here?
You can generally break your social media activities into 4 main categories:
What is being said about your brand? What are your competitors doing? What content are they creating? Who do they follow? Are they any good at ‘this social media thing’? Can you see ways to differentiate yourself from them? Keep up on the latest research or trends, find opportunities, get inspiration for your own blogging/writing.
Establish your profile, raise awareness of your brand, engage followers, perhaps reach out to other content creators. Build interest in your content.
Build relationships with industry peers, potential investors, influencers and the public. Find researchers and experts in your field. Connect to executives. Build trust with and among industry peers. Help media, and collaborators find you.
Work and collaborate more effectively. Create/join groups, choose tools and tags that relate to your industry, support your professional development.
Maybe you utilize one, or maybe you utilize all of the above categories. Perhaps you use Twitter for Monitoring, Facebook for Connecting, and/or a blog for Communicating. Why didn’t he mention StockTwits? … Generally, how you approach social media, what tools you should use, depends on your goals, assets, and audience. There are many unique examples of internal and external uses of social media.
How are other companies using social media?
a) Internal social media use example: Deloitte using Yammer.com, The Enterprise Social Network
“Steve Jobs once said, ‘innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea.’ Deloitte is a massive global organization with hundreds of offices, but now, we all have one, common ‘hallway’ called Yammer, and it is always 10:30PM.”
— US & Global Managing Director of Technology Innovation, Deloitte LLP
b) External social media use example: How Provident Security uses their blog
“Use social media for Customer service”. “We don’t sell online”. “Acts as an internal reference for out team”.
- Mike Jagger, Provident Security
What’s with the tangent?
Now, we are a Investor Relations and Corporate Communications firm, yet neither one of the above examples has anything directly to do with ‘selling’ anything, marketing, lead generation, ROI, etc. The point is, social media is much more multi-faceted than just straight marketing. The above examples are meant to get you to take a creative look at how social media can help your objectives, and how your company can potentially further integrate social media.
Again, how you and your company will use social media, what you will do with it, depends on what your goals are.
WHAT is stopping you?
So, with all the potential of Social Media, what is the one thing stopping CEOs from jumping on board? … more on this very soon.
How do make use of social media?
Do you have any unique examples of you or your company make use of social media?
Social Media SOS?
Still need help defining your social media goals and objectives? Still don’t get how social media applies to you? Just don’t know where to start? We are here for you. Let us know your questions. Reach us at @steelrosecomm, find us on Facebook, LinkedIn, leave a comment below, or even email us.
Talk soon …
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