My top goal as an investor relations officer is to be able to speak about the company’s business as if I were the CEO. You might laugh at the hubris, but I honestly believe we should all have that goal.
If we are able to strive for this, we go a long way in making the IR function increasingly more relevant and effective. Why? Because it means that not only analysts, but also institutional investors will increasingly turn to the IRO to provide information and colour on the company’s progress and prospects. For many, this is already the norm, but it should be the norm for all senior IR folks.
IROs are unsurpassed among company managers to tell the story to the Street in a compelling way as we hear the questions and deal with the issues from the Street every second of every day.
We intuitively understand the real question behind the question, and are groomed to listen and then thoughtfully respond. We also tend to be extremely consistent in our message delivery, which, for obvious reasons, is important to the investment community.
In the past 10 years I have done hundreds of one-on-ones myself – typically three days of non-deal roadshows per quarter – as well as investment conference one-on-ones. This provides corporate access on an ongoing basis, allowing the company to support more corporate events. As senior management roadshow time is typically planned months in advance, IROs can also provide more ‘on demand’ access, which can be key in a rapidly changing industry.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we as IROs always capitalise on the unique position we have in the organisation and dedicate at least part of our time to doing one-on-ones and non-deal roadshows ourselves.
Yes, the Street will initially push back. And yes, the investment community needs to speak to the CEO and CFO from time to time. But that doesn’t mean we can’t significantly increase the number of investors we can reach by being willing, ready and able to take it on ourselves.
The impact it has is tremendous. By doing these activities solo*, the IRO gains credibility and an even greater understanding of the Street. It also further cements the IRO’s relationship with investors. And an IRO’s relationship with the Street remains our greatest strength to the company we represent.
*I use the term solo loosely. I am an advocate of there being, at all times practical, two people from the organisation at any meeting with the Street. For many roadshows and one-on-ones, I bring along a content expert on a particular area the Street has had questions on, and we tag-team. I deal with the overall story and financials, and the content expert handles his or her area of expertise.
Janet Craig is an experienced investor relations officer, having spent the last 15 years working in publicly traded companies, including heading up investor relations at Nortel Networks and ATI Technologies.
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