• The Real Value of PR to IR (published inPR News November 4, 2013)

I recently wrote a new Money Matters column for PRNews.  I like how Matthew Schwartz is leading PRNews.  The tips and how to nature of the publication is always worth a read.  I thought I would share the column with you on our blog, as well.  Enjoy. 

I’ve worked alongside some of the best investor relations professionals in the business.  They are smart, focused and often jaded about the value that public relations can bring to the party.  And in many cases, quite frankly, they are right.  Too often, PR is simply serving the role of echoing the messages of the quarter or year.

The real value of PR to IR is actually quite different.  PR brings tremendous value to the party to help build value for the corporate brand.  It may not be recognized as valuable “this quarter”, but as we all know, great brands are in business for hundreds of quarters, not just one.  Here are six of my favorite ways to ensure PR becomes an indispensable partner of IR.

Identify Your Corporate Influencers – we want the right people to be telling our company’s story to the world.  With today’s algorithms, we can identify the exact influencers, in order, as it relates to each aspect of the corporate reputation.  We can know who matters for sustainability vs. financial strength vs. pipeline.  There are never more than 50 influencers who drive the majority of share of conversation for the largest company in the world.  For sub-topics, there are usually less than 20 people who really matter.  Who are they and what is the right list of people who should be telling your story vs. what you have today?  Hint: your media list is not on target today.

Understand How Search Impacts Reputation — most analysts are not allowed to speak publicly and, if we are honest, most of their coverage of companies looks the same.  It’s pretty generic.  So how are they learning?  One way is via the IR team.  Another way is via search when they aren’t calling anyone.  We need to determine the exact search queries that an investor would ask a search engine to find out more about every key aspect of your company.  Make that query yourself, look at what you find and ask yourself if you like how your story is being told.  Chances are that you are not thrilled with what you see or you’ll see that the basic information is there, just not the real insights needed to shape thinking.  Hint: take your questions from your Q&A, shorten them and use for search queries to get started.  

Share Content 365 – now that you know who has influence and you know what people search for, it is a matter of you sending out the right content into the earned media world, along with the right keyword tags.  For example, if you want to ensure all investors know about your pipeline, then send out an update on a different aspect of your pipeline every month.  As you do this, keep using the same 10-15 keywords related to the search queries your investors are making.  The result, over time, will be that your full pipeline will start to show up in a more uniform way.  Hint: your “corporate speak” is not using the right 15 keywords today.    

Track Issues Differently – more than 90% of issues are known in advance for a company and its brands.  There are few surprises in life.  If you set up the right tracking system, in advance, you will be more knowledgeable about any issue an investor could bring up.  You’ll never be surprised, you’ll know if the issue is real or just a flash in the pan, and they will realize you treat your corporate brand with respect.  When you are surprised, of course, it has the opposite effect.  Investors start to think you are not on top of things.  Hint: create a spreadsheet and list out every issue you can imagine for any product or topic for your company.  Share with a multi-function team to complete. You’ll get to 90% in no time.

Expand Corporate News Flow – we work with hundreds of brands in all industries.  We know, from experience, that a healthy brand has 2/3 of its content flow driven by blogs and twitter.  Mainstream media is a catalyst and blogs and twitter carry that news further.  Your twitter account for your corporation should be following the exact network of people who you believe will care and share your news worldwide.  You can and should set a goal of expanding your corporate news coverage by 25% next year.  You can do it if you have the right followers on Twitter and the right mix of coverage.  Hint: Spend your time on twitter learning who has real influence in sharing corporate news.  Algorithms help.

Know Your Rankings – when I was at Novartis awhile back, we evaluated all rankings with importance to the global corporate reputation.  It turned out that there were 43 rankings at that time (2003), of which 22 were quantitative and 21 were qualitative.  We couldn’t impact the quantitative rankings, since those are based on results.  However, we did dig deeper into the qualitative rankings, some of which we were not even on, and figured out, over time, how to build the most relevant position for our company.  The key is that we took the time to figure out what mattered….and, equally, what was a complete waste of time.  Hint: the majority of rankings have nearly zero impact on your company’s reputation.

There are many more ways to create value for your corporate brand that will help build long-term value.  If you stay focused on how to impact hundreds of quarters while IR works their magic for the current quarter, you end up improving the reputation of your company and enhance its value.

It’s certainly good to partner with IR for the quarter’s news, but just keep reminding yourself that this is not unlocking the real value you have for your company.

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Become a Storytizer

I believe that Storytizing will replace advertising in importance over the next 3-5 years.  Storytizing relates to how we can share our full story directly to the person we are targeting.  We live in an era where we don’t need to “wake people up” with an ad, move them to a site and then hope they can navigate to the right information, once they are there.

Today, we can already deliver our corporate story directly to our target audience.

I know that when we talk with Wall Street, we talk with PowerPoint.  If we didn’t have slides, we would probably forget how to walk and talk at the same time.  For better or worse, that’s how we roll.

When we talk with Main Street or the larger investor audience that could not make the presentation or call, there are new ways to share our full story directly to our target audience.  One example that we make is the Content Capsule (www.nextworks.com).  Imagine discussing a new addition to your pipeline.  You have a video from the presenter, surrounded by FAQ’s, key slides, text with further insights with links back to your website, a white paper and images of how the product works.  All of that can be provided directly to an influencer or the general public via an email, Facebook post, your website or even a banner ad.  Here is an example from our work with BMC Software.

We can also liven up our websites.  Your IR colleagues know how to tell the company story.  Listen to what they say and then take your images on your website and liven them up.  For example, imagine you have a photo on your site of a new product you just launched.  When you touch the image on your website, you get additional information via embedded links right in the image.  You are now giving a virtual tour of the product without making the audience do much work at all.  Here is an example for a new book.

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