SOURCE: Marketwire

Marketwire

October 15, 2009 09:02 ET

Marketwire and IR Magazine Partner at Canada Think Tank for Discussion on Social Media and Best Practices in Investor Relations

TORONTO--(Marketwire - October 15, 2009) - More than 40 of the country's top investor relations officers (IROs) and practitioners gathered on October 1 in Toronto for IR magazine's Canada Think Tank to discuss social media as a new investor relations channel, as well as governance trends and new regulations, building support for the IR function and the post-crisis buy-side landscape. The invitation-only event also gave leading investor relations professionals an opportunity to offer guidance and share best practices for those new to investor relations during Marketwire's "Investor Relations Ask the Expert" segment.

Maintaining targeted, transparent communication and managing social media were themes that found their way into all of the day's discussions. Communication has always been a vital part of investor relations, but because of this past year's tumultuous economic economy, impending regulatory changes and the explosion of social media, IROs have had to master new and improved ways to reach analysts, investors and the financial media.

Think Tank Highlights / Key Facts

  • More and more Canadian public companies are entering the social media space and becoming the voice of authority on their company, products and employees. Rumor and erroneous information can spread quickly across social networks, and many companies have found great benefit in actively listening to and engaging in the online conversation so they can act and react when necessary.

  • Creating and instituting corporate social media policies is proving difficult for many companies, particularly those with a large employee base and those with operations across many regions or countries.

  • Social media policies, like all internal policies, need to be introduced, explained and enforced across the company and boundaries of what is acceptable behavior by employees in social media channels need to be set. Controlling the message is impossible, but ensuring employees are educated on best practice is not.

  • Monitoring the ever-changing media landscape, the flood of information and the endless supply and source of real-time data is challenging. Customizing content via RSS and personal news pages can help sort and manage the volume, but it is still proving overwhelming for many across the industry.

  • Many companies are finding success in replacing more traditional city-to-city road shows with "virtual" presentations and shareholder meetings. For a globalizing audience, this allows for broad reach and often improves communication by allowing more and wider participation, and a virtual or online format can also mean cost savings for the company.

  • Communicating with employees has always been good practice, but with social media being so pervasive, it's more important than ever. Companies need to tell their employees the same corporate story told to investors (or at least a version thereof) -- how the company is performing, strategy, growth plans, etc. With social media, every employee can become a brand ambassador or a brand detractor. Why not give them a good story to tell?

  • The economic downturn put many companies in "survivor mode," meaning it is more important than ever to target communication to the right analysts, media outlets, stockholders, etc. while working with reduced budgets and restricted human resources.

  • Many IROs have learned to focus on quality, transparent communications and have realized that it is never a good idea to "bury your head in the sand," -- perhaps this is even more important during a downturn. You need to tell your side of the company's story and counter any negative information or stakeholder concern.

"Investor Relations Ask the Expert" Quotes

Marketwire asked participants at IR Magazine's Canada Think Tank 2009 to offer their advice and provide insight to those just entering the practice of investor relations:

Linda Armstrong, director, IR Matters, says that identifying peer groups, studying their best practices and networking are invaluable for practitioners, as is working hand-in-hand with your company's management team.

  • "Interview your management team and understand their goals and the investor relations program. Understand the strategy of the company and how you can align your IR program to be onside with and meet the goals of the corporation. That involves more than just interviewing your president, CEO and CFO, and you might want to extend it across other areas of the business as well."

Tim Herrod, manager, investor relations for PotashCorp, spoke to the importance of taking a strategic approach to communications, and explained that the expectations from your board, senior management and investors are that you are their liaison and facilitator of information. Communicating in the role of IRO is different than it is in other disciplines. Mr. Herrod also encouraged those new to the practice of investor relations to always think about doing things better.

  • "Have an attitude of continuous improvement. The expectations of the investment community, of senior management and your board are continuously evolving, and whether it's the use of technology, managing your budget better, or allocating your resources better, you absolutely have to be raising the bar and always be focused on delivering the best you can with what you have. You don't necessarily need to have the biggest budget; you just need to be thinking in a way that will result in the best use of your resources to meet objectives. Technology is certainly very important in this -- how you use your website, how you package your communication tools to deliver the 'why invest?' message and to, of course, meet all of your corporate disclosure objectives."

Yvette Lokker, director, communications & professional development at the Canadian Investor Relations Institute (CIRI), shared her thoughts as a first-time Think Tank attendee.

  • "I was impressed by the program and the quality of the discussion among the panelists and participants. Staying current throughout the year on hot topics and best practices for investor relations is crucial to executing a successful investor relations program."

Greg Secord, vice president, investor relations at Open Text, recommends those new to a company or to an investor relations role in general take the time to familiarize themselves with the structure and accumulate knowledge from a variety of internal and external sources.

  • "Learn operations. Sometimes immersing yourself in the company as early as you can and learning about the operations and the products can be a huge advantage in the long term for building your credibility as an investor relations professional. And listen. Listen to your shareholders, listen to your analysts and take the opportunity to be a sounding board. Often when you are new to the role within your organization, they'll see that as an opportunity to offer you lots of different pieces of advice and information that you may not read in the research reports."

Resources

Marketwire offers a variety of services to help IR professionals communicate effectively with their audiences, including the Social Media U.S. and North America full-disclosure press releases and the Easy IR workflow solution for news distribution to the financial community. For more information on all of Marketwire's communication and news distribution solutions, please call 800-774-9473.

About IR Magazine and IR Magazine Conferences

Published in New York and London by its parent company, Cross Border, IR magazine is the only global publication focused on the interface between companies and their investors. IR magazine conferences provide the worldwide IR audience with a forum for discussion, information and communication. They are an opportunity for IR professionals to educate themselves about new industry services, network with others in the industry, and get practical advice from a wide range of experts. For more information, please visit www.irmagazine.com.

About Marketwire

The only fully integrated North America-based global newswire, Marketwire, Inc. is a full-service partner to IR, PR and MarCom professionals seeking top-tier press release distribution, media management, multimedia and monitoring solutions. Marketwire's customer-centric corporate philosophy focuses on being the best by infusing every aspect of its business with the following core attributes: precision, adaptability, innovation and simplicity.

Marketwire delivers its clients' news to the world's media and financial communities, fulfilling disclosure requirements in North America in compliance with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), and serving as Primary Information Provider (PIP) with the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA). With a reputation for technology leadership, Marketwire offers innovative products and services -- including Social Media, Search Engine Optimization, News Dashboard coverage reports, exclusive access to networks such as the Canadian Press Wire Network, Easy IR and Easy PR workflow solutions, and more -- that help communication professionals maximize their effectiveness while ensuring accuracy and best practices. Having merged companies (Market Wire and CCNMatthews) in April 2006, and enjoying a combined history of 25 years of service, Marketwire is now majority-owned by OMERS Private Equity, which manages the private equity activities of OMERS Administration Corporation and today has $4 billion of investments under management. The group's investment strategy includes the active ownership of businesses in North America and Europe. For further information visit: www.omerspe.com.

Marketwire distributes the majority of press releases issued by publicly traded companies in Canada and serves more than 11,000 clients worldwide through 20 offices on four continents. For more information, visit us at http://www.marketwire.com/.

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