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Digital IR Communications Best Practices Guide

Digital IR communications, with its ever-evolving range of tools, plays a key role in a company’s efforts to connect with current and potential investors. But as attention spans shrink and competition for people’s time increases, it’s imperative for IROs to think ahead to ensure their message is heard.

Remember when a mobile strategy was optional? In today’s mobile-first society, it’s a necessity. Smartphones and tablets are the preferred routes for conveying and accessing information—nearly 60 percent of searches are now done on a mobile device. In 2016, desktops accounted for 46 percent of total IP traffic, and Cisco projects that by 2021 that figure will fall to just 25 percent.

It’s more important than ever for IROs to “think digital” – to use responsive technology that constantly adapts to the ways people consume information. In this guide to digital IR communications, you will find the latest best practices for IR communications in strategy, content, design and technology for a variety of communication channels, from websites to press releases.

A MORE EFFECTIVE IR WEBSITE

You know investors and analysts rely on your IR website for the latest financials and corporate announcements, but it’s become increasingly important to spotlight other facets of your company, from your social responsibility efforts to executive thought leadership. With technology changing the way we find and access information, it’s not just important to think about what content is on your IR website, but also how your audience consumes it. Website visitors are on the move and multitasking, so you need to ensure your IR website can keep pace in a mobile-first world.

Thinking Digital for Communications

By 2021, consumer video-on-demand traffic will nearly double and a million minutes of video content will be posted on the internet every second. In fact, 59% of executives would choose to watch a video over reading text if both were available on the same topic. Though your IR department may not be producing its own videos, you may want to consider posting other suitable videos that your company has produced, such as corporate or marketing videos, on the IR website.

When selecting which videos to share, consider:

  • Message: A video that includes key messages reinforcing the corporate story and providing insight into strategy may resonate more with the investment community.
  • Duration: In an age of shrinking attention spans, shorter videos with a succinct message are often better received than longer videos. On social media, most videos are typically no longer than two minutes.
  • Relevance: Before posting a video on your IR website, ask yourself whether the subject matter featured in the video is relevant to your audience.
  • Presentation: If possible, embed your companyproduced video content on your site, so that visitors stay on your site, where you can provide complementary content. HTML5 players and HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) can help ensure your video is better optimized for a variety of devices and connectivity.

WEBSITE VISITORS ARE ON THE MOVE AND MULTITASKING, SO YOU NEED TO ENSURE YOUR IR WEBSITE CAN KEEP PACE IN A MOBILE-FIRST WORLD.

3 ELEMENTS TO ENSURE YOUR IR WEBSITE IS UP TO SPEED

1. Design for Modern Web Users

  • Responsive design helps ensure visitors receive a customized experience when accessing your IR website. Investors and analysts are using a variety of smartphones and tablets to access information, making responsive design critical to creating a consistent user experience across devices
  • A clean grid or tiled layout that incorporates white space seems to be a growing trend in website design, making it easier to locate featured assets while pushing low-priority content to secondary pages (such as historical data)
  • A featured content section that includes the latest quarterly results, SEC filings, webcasts, corporate presentations and news releases at the top of your homepage will help increase the visibility of your announcements and simplify navigation for users
  • Place call-to-action buttons, particularly those helping investors contact your company or sign up for news updates, in a consistent, visible location across your IR website (e.g., along the top navigation area)
  • Use a clean, modern design with large images to evoke an emotional connection with your audience. Interactive slideshows can provide variety and engagement.

2. Relevant and Engaging Content

  • A corporate profile that includes your mission statement and describes in a clear and concise way what the company stands for and why shareholders and potential investors should care can serve as an important first impression. It also helps support the non-financial tangibles which many investors care about. You can use the corporate profile to introduce visitors to your leadership team with management and director bios. Think creatively about how you can profile your executives, including video clips from event appearances and interviews
  • Financial data is among the most sought-after content on your IR website, so feature your most recent earnings reports, fact sheets and presentations prominently. It’s also helpful to provide fundamental data, ownership data and live stock data, and an archive of all materials for reference
  • A downloadable version of your company’s latest earnings report makes it easier for visitors—especially those using mobile devices—to access financial information
  • Highlight marketing materials that provide insight into your company’s strategy and value proposition to your customers. Think about how you can weave product marketing and thought leadership assets such as videos, guides and infographics into the IR story on your site
  • Consider integrating your company’s social media feed to give visitors a real-time view into the latest happenings. An active social presence can capture the energy of your brand, keep visitors informed with up-to-theminute posts, and add context to your IR website content.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) can help improve the visibility of your content in search results and extend your reach to potential investors. Start with keyword-rich headlines and website content that aligns with the terms (e.g., company and brand names, industry terms) your audience may use. From there you can work with your web team or a partner to improve cross-linking between your IR website and other sections of your corporate site, backlinking (increasing the number of external sites that link to your IR web pages), and optimizing the tags and descriptions on each page to ensure your IR website is indexed appropriately by search engines.

3. Technology

  • Create an internal review and approval workflow for marketmoving news that limits the amount of collaboration over email and file saving on external hard drives (including USB). Consider a dedicated online collaboration platform which is designed to manage sensitive information.
  • Partner with an IR website provider that offers technology features such as:
    • A process to transmit and upload content to your IR website. Email is not a recommended method for transmission of sensitive information, as it is too vulnerable to hacking.
    • HTTPS/SSL which ensures all communications between your IR website and a user’s browsers are encrypted.

IR WEBSITE TECH TRENDS

A website built on an open-source platform taps into a community of developers who are constantly creating new modules, identifying and fixing bugs, and working to improve the user experience. This enables greater flexibility in building and maintaining the site, and accelerates innovation.

Cloud-based infrastructure enables your website to handle millions of hits per month and scale up and down as needed. This kind of support can be especially helpful during high-traffic events such as earnings events.

A WEBSITE BUILT ON AN OPEN-SOURCE PLATFORM ENABLES GREATER FLEXIBILITY IN BUILDING AND MAINTAINING THE SITE, AND ACCELERATES INNOVATION.

5-STEP IR SOCIAL MEDIA CHECK-UP

  1. Assess Your Goals
    Are you looking to build awareness through social media, engage in a conversation or promote an upcoming event? Proceed with caution as it comes with additional regulatory risk.
  2. Collaborate with Corporate Communications
    Get together with your corp comm colleagues to determine how you can help contribute IR content into its pipeline. Think about corporate content, such as product launches and plant openings that might also interest investors.
  3. Make Sharing Easy
    Make sure you’ve added “like” and “share” buttons to your press releases, blog posts, reports and videos. Empower your audience to amplify your messages.
  4. Consider Guest Posts
    Is there an influencer or analyst at your company who can provide industry commentary or best practices through your company blog or on your IR website (or both)? Creating a regular stream of content can spotlight the expertise of your subject matter experts, increase the visibility of your IR website, and keep visitors returning between corporate announcements.
  5. Create Posting Guidelines
    What are the do’s and don’ts for your company’s social media strategy? What is appropriate for posting? What will be reserved for the IR website? Make sure everyone involved in posting IR content is trained on disclosure rules.

WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF HTML5 PLAYERS AND HTTP LIVE STREAMING (HLS), THE WEBCAST EXPERIENCE FOR VIEWERS OF EARNINGS, INVESTOR DAY AND AGM EVENTS IS BETTER THAN EVER.

HOW TO DELIVER MORE ENGAGING IR WEBCASTS

Webcasting technology has continued to evolve to keep pace with the streaming demands of a mobile-first audience. With the introduction of HTML5 players and HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), the webcast experience for viewers of earnings, Investor Day and AGM events is better than ever. The use of video for these events continues to trend upward as companies realize the benefits of putting the faces of its executive team front and center to improve trust and engagement.

Engagement/Interactivity

  • Video is being used more by IROs who understand the benefits of personalizing their executive communications, adding a greater human element to IR events, and improving engagement with remote audiences. Today’s webcast technology, which features adaptive streaming and HDquality broadcasting, has vastly enhanced the video experience of years ago.
  • Foster discussion with “Ask a Question”, survey and polling features. Particularly for non-earnings events like shareholder meetings, giving your webcast audience a platform to ask questions and submit feedback is a great opportunity to increase participation and create a dialogue.

Technology

  • Responsive HTML5 webcast players adjust your broadcast to the optimal size and layout of each user’s device, from desktop to mobile.
  • HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) detects a user’s available bandwidth and automatically adjusts the stream to avoid interruption. Consider an analyst viewing your webcast on a train. Rather than facing the dreaded buffering wheel when passing through an area with a weak signal, the user will see a lower-resolution video until the signal becomes stronger
  • Embed your webcast into your IR website to create a seamless user experience between your IR website and presentations. Keeping your audience on your site can encourage them to explore related content after the event.
  • Monitor analytics to get important insights into which investors, analysts and journalists joined your webcast, how long they participated, and how engaged they were (e.g., did they ask a question or respond to a poll) but ensure any analytics is collected in compliance with applicable privacy laws.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS AND TRENDS

Many IROs are still cautious when it comes to incorporating social media channels into their communications plans, but interest and use are growing. Twenty-eight percent of IR practitioners now make social media part of their strategy, according to a recent survey by the National Investor Relations Institute. Social media can be a powerful platform—actually, many platforms—on which to tell your company’s stories and monitor the conversations about your company in real time. Within the investment community, 77 percent of investors and analysts have investigated an issue based on information viewed on digital and social media, according to a Brunswick Group survey.

Social Media Tips

Whether your IR department has already embraced social media or is still deciding the best way to join the conversation, consider these tips:

  • Ask your internal experts about how to best weave IR-related content into your social strategy. Your company may have a dedicated social media team or it could fall under another department. Whatever the structure, a good place to start is with your corporate communications and marketing leaders to discuss which messages and content are appropriate and how they fit into the identity of your company’s social channels. Some accounts may be geared toward specific brands and a consumer audience while another could be focused on corporate news.
  • Drive traffic to your IR website. Include IR website links on all relevant social posts, such as major changes in company leadership or marketmoving news. Direct people to key digital assets, such as financial data, earnings reports and presentations.
  • Publish announcements and promote events. Use social posts to highlight upcoming announcements and IR-related content, but remember this approach does not meet regulatory requirements for disclosure.
  • Monitor online activity. Pay attention to the conversations that are happening about your company. Use this to help gauge sentiment in the marketplace and inform your IR communications strategy.
  • Integrate social media feeds on your IR website. If your company has an active Twitter account, adding a widget can give visitors a real-time view across your company—from product-related posts to thought leadership. If your social platforms aren’t updated daily, think twice about giving the feed real estate on your IR website.

6 WAYS TO OPTIMIZE PRESS RELEASES

Today, the audience for your IR press release can extend beyond the financial community. By optimizing your release for search engines, you can help increase the discoverability and reach of your financial news:

  1. Write a concise, keyword-rich headline and include two subheads that summarize the news to make it easier for outlets to use your words in their own news summaries. Headlines and quotes that are verbose force journalists to interpret your news in their own words which can lead to a gap between your message and how it’s conveyed to the marketplace.
  2. Link to your IR website, webcasts and multimedia content (e.g., highresolution images, logos and videos).
  3. Use simple language and lists. Write in a conversational manner but get right to the point. Your audience wants quick access to the numbers and drivers, especially in an earnings release. Bullet points of need-to-know information make it easy for a reader to identify the key points.
  4. Link to your corporate social media channels to offer a view into your company activity, and give readers a real-time view across your company— from product-related posts to thought leadership.
  5. Consider translating your release to accommodate the regional preferences of investors and media in markets across the globe. Translations are more common in Europe and Asia than they are in North American markets.
  6. Tap the talent of your newswire provider’s experienced editors who can help with proofreading and formatting.

CONCLUSION

Digital communication is evolving quickly and it’s incumbent upon the IRO to continually evaluate and integrate new technologies that engage shareholders, prospects and markets around the world while meeting regulatory requirements. Embracing newer communication channels, becoming educated about social media, and optimizing IR content for mobile are critical. A well-executed and dynamic digital communications strategy can help make a lasting impact on your company’s reputation and its ability to deliver on its overall business objectives.

A WELL-EXECUTED AND DYNAMIC DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY CAN HELP MAKE A LASTING IMPACT ON YOUR COMPANY’S REPUTATION AND ITS ABILITY TO DELIVER ON ITS OVERALL BUSINESS OBJECTIVES.

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