What would you give for a ten-fold increase in the number of people you could reach with your earnings announcement?
I’m not talking about the many (and often questionable) stock promotion outfits that promise to promote your release all over their websites and email it to their subscribers.
I’m talking about reaching more investors by engaging them via the technology tools you have available right now. I’m talking about the outstanding example set by Dell this week in the way they used social media to distribute their earnings report and messages.
For a good write-up that explains what they did, read the excellent blog by Dominic Jones: http://irwebreport.com/20110216/dell-inc-breaks-new-ground-for-social-media-in-investor-relations/
Quoting from Jones:
“According to Dell’s own internal statistics, yesterday’s campaign generated 1,169 posts mentioning the company’s financial results compared to 111 posts in the prior quarter. The potential audience for those posts was 3,458,658 people versus 243,590 in the last quarter.”
As Jones points out, the potential audience number does not include those on financial websites such as Yahoo, etc.
But numbers by themselves are not the point. What is key here is that those people who were posting were doing so because they were engaged with the company and with the messages Dell was hoping to convey.
Most of the time, companies push out the press release, hold the earnings call, and hope investors “get it.” But it’s no longer good enough to just keep putting out press releases and hoping for pick-up.
A growing percentage of your investors are already using social media in their daily lives. They’re coming to expect interactive communications and engagement from the companies they do business with and that expectation will increasingly apply to companies they invest in. This is changing the way effective IR is practiced.
The ones who really get it are the IR team at Dell.
On the other hand, also from Dell, something that will rank among the Dumb PR Moves of the year. A badly thought out PR stunt resulted in Austin police arresting a Dell employee. Read about it here: http://tinyurl.com/4o73lk9
I need to have gutters installed on a rental house in another state. Two roofers who were recommended to me to do some roof repairs also gave me bids on the gutter work. But I wanted to compare that with a bid from a company specializing in gutters.
I went to the website of a gutter contractor. Their “ask for a bid” link led to a form page that I dutifully filled in and submitted. But I never heard back. When I called several days later, all I could reach was a voice mail box. I left a detailed message and also asked if I should wait for a quote from them. Still haven’t heard back. If they call, do you really think I’m likely to want to do business with them?
So how does this relate to IR and PR?
I did a random check of the IR websites of a number of companies. I was surprised and disappointed at the percentage that did not show the name and phone number of the investor relations contact. At one company, in addition to not giving the name or phone number, the “contact investor relations” link led to a form to fill in as the only way to ask a question. And they make you also submit the “captcha” code graphic.
I don’t understand why companies do this. When I was an in-house IRO, I made sure my name and direct line phone number appeared on the website. I wanted investors to know my name and phone number. I wanted them to feel I was accessible and available. I wanted them to contact me to learn about the company.
If you want to be better understood by the market, why make it hard for people go get information? A determined investor will be able to sleuth the name and contact info. But why make them go through the effort? All it does is discourage some and annoy others. Discouraging and annoying current and potential investors is contrary to the practice of better investor relations.
For some thoughts on a better way to use your IR website, read this article published earlier this week in the San Diego Union Tribune business section. The link is to the online version: http://tinyurl.com/46fq8sp