Public Relations: Beeline for the Buy Side - Pharmaceutical Executive


Public Relations: Beeline for the Buy Side
How IR officers can take control of shareholder targeting programs.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Be realistic. As much as you may want certain investors to hold your shares, a growth investor isn't going to be interested in the status of your turnaround, just as the momentum investor isn't going to be compelled to invest for the duration of a long-term strategic vision.

The identification of the ideal target begins with a realistic evaluation of the investment outlook for your company. Develop a clear understanding of the financial benefits of investing in your company and ensure that presentations and investor materials communicate those benefits.

How much time do they have for me? Investors may have eight meetings a day, six of them involving competing investment ideas. Managers also have to stay on top of their existing investments, identify new ideas, and deal with the internal demands of their firm. The face-to-face meeting is a critical event that requires on-point communications that generate enough interest to entice the investor to want to look deeper. Meetings with existing holders should be viewed as critical "check-ups" in which investors are analyzing the health of their investments.

With mutual funds and large portfolios holding dozens and occasionally hundreds of positions, and the potential universe of investments often many times larger, the adage that the most important impression is the first impression has never been more true.

How do I maximize communication? From SEC filings to the chat room, the spectrum of information sources and communication channels continues to grow. The challenge is to maximize efficiency and maintain a consistent company message while monitoring third-party communications for accuracy.

There is no better tool than transparency. If your company communicates openly, the opportunity for misinterpretation or misinformation is greatly minimized, and you will spend significantly less time reacting to rumors and conjecture. The companies that struggle the most with disclosure regulations are the ones that do not have a practice of open communication.

Written communications are an important basis from which to build all other communications. Ensure that they are available through your website, and archive your conference calls for at least two years. Announce publicly when you will be participating in an investment conference or other well-attended event where you will be speaking about the financial aspects of the company. Have replays available of these activities for those who couldn't listen live. Establish a disclosure committee that meets to discuss the key communication points regarding the company and current industry issues. Have appointed spokespersons who are briefed regularly regarding the company position on important topics. It's also fine to say, "I'll get back to you on that question," but just be sure you do.

How do I measure results? People often think you can't measure investor relations or that the measurement is stock price performance, but neither is true. Devoting a significant amount of time to investor relations activities warrants development of a measurement program.

As with any part of the company, the key to effective measurement is good goal setting. For example, you can establish a goal for the number of days you will allocate to investor meetings and how many meetings you want to conduct. Target the number of conferences you will attend. Analyze your current shareholder base and honestly assess its appropriateness relative to the financial outlook for the company.

When targeting potential investors, every minute needs to be maximized— especially because you are diverting your attention from managing operations. If you're going to do it, do it right, so valuable time isn't squandered. Regardless of how the sell side evolves, senior executives taking a more active role in their buy-side activities will benefit.


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