It’s that time of year again. The eve of EOFY is upon us and it’s a busy high-stress period for IR and corporate communications professionals across Australia.
Although some of us self-confessed investment and finance enthusiasts might celebrate EOFY like it’s December 31, the pressure is on for publicly listed companies in the lead-up to, and the months following, a New Financial Year.
While caffeine pumps through the veins of corporate towers, and investors anxiously await financial results, IRO’s to-do lists can be overwhelming as annual reports, financial figures, ASX reporting and other regulatory obligations pile up.
But reporting on figures is just one small part of the EOFY equation for savvy investor relations and corporate communications teams in 2019. Now more than ever, companies need to embrace a more diverse portfolio of content delivery including the increasingly important ESG measures and communication strategies to reach investors with meaningful messaging they want, and need.
We know you’re busy, so we’ve done the hard work for you. We’ve put together five simple but often overlooked strategies to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes people make with EOFY corporate communications and IR strategies.
1. Take Advantage of Technology
Digital technology is making investment reporting interactive, engaging and easier for your company.
With nearly 30% of digital reports being accessed on mobiles utilising mobile friendly reporting is an imperative for companies wanting to reach their current and new investors.
Annual Reports and Sustainability Reports are no longer restricted to lengthy printed documents and plain PDFs. A growing number of companies are now embracing the preferred method of delivery – interactive reporting and comprehensive digital communication strategies. Taking corporate reporting online not only opens new opportunities to re- purpose financial data and develop valuable content, but gives shareholders more incentive to engage and interact with your company.
Companies can take a very creative approach that extends their branding such as the Russian telecom Rostelcom, and effectively show their strategic priorities . Another example is the creative approach taken by China Unicom.
And if we’re being honest, how many of us really have time to sit down and read a PDF full of static figures?
Digital technology provides an opportunity to reimagine investor insights and corporate reports, showcasing your company’s achievements while demonstrating an impressive digital IQ. Imagine financial statements brought to life with interactive infographics, sales and marketing plans explained with animated presentations and reports from the chair and management personally delivered as live video recordings. And that’s just the start.
Interactive corporate reporting and digital communication technology can also help save precious time in the already busy reporting season, by bringing together all of the regulatory reporting requirements together in one place.
2. Don’t Let Your Company’s Success Get Lost in Translation (or poor EOFY results)
Storytelling says a lot more about your company than last quarter’s figures.
That’s why it’s so important to build corporate reporting on a solid foundation of content that will appeal to investors and analysts whatever the financial weather. What a lot of IR teams tend to forget is pages of financial figures don’t tell the whole story. Millennial and Generation X investors in particular are often more interested in Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical decision-making regarding environmental and sustainability commitments. In the survey Sustainability Goes Mainstream: Insights into Investor Views, 82% of investors said company positions on climate change and resource scarcity had been a consideration in their investment decisions in the past 12 months, while social responsibility and good citizenship were priorities for 79% of respondents. An additional 5% of investors said CSR issues would be of importance to them within the next three years. So even if the numbers don’t look great on paper this year, emphasising CSR commitments along with performance highlights, company achievements and promising future projections, can be of far greater value to forward-thinking investors.
3. Get Social. Seriously.
Investors are waiting for news on EOFY results, so make sure they hear it from you first.
While retail investors are more inclined to want to understand the year that’s been and then the the strategy, investment and finance commentators tend to look at the bottom line and little else, and this can have significant influence on share market movement. That’s why it’s more important than ever for IR and corporate communications professionals to be on the front foot, with meaningful content prepared and ready to be distributed. And one of the fastest ways to do that, and reach investors where they’ll read it, is using social media. Recently we reported on the rising influence of social media on investors, including the finding that 41% of Ultra High Net Worth Investors in the Millennial and Gen X age brackets now use Twitter daily. There we learnt 94% of the top 500 companies in the US and the UK use social media for corporate communications. And that trend is now spreading to Australia. Companies are embracing range of socila media – such as Stockland active on twitter and also MGC Pharma, Scentre Group’s LinkedIn and Wooolworth’s.
4. Don’t Just Engage Investors, Educate Them
Not all of your shareholders are experts, so take advantage of any opportunity to mould their introduction to investing.
This is an important consideration and an exciting opportunity that so many IRO’s and corporate comms teams overlook. Naturally, corporate communications tend to target the seasoned investors and shareholders who already know what they’re looking for on the buy and sell. But for newcomers to the stock market, it’s a wild ride of thrills, spills and the great unknown. This is just another great example of why IR content needs to tell a story and engage the audience, whoever they might be. Particularly in the post tax-return New Financial Year, we can expect to see some fresh new faces trying their luck trading on the stock exchange for the very first time. Helping to prepare this next generation of investors is a growing trend of virtual stock market games. Investopedia’s Stock Simulator is ranked number one, but there is already a range to choose from including The Game by ASX, and StockWatch. They all have the common goal of providing a taste of the sharemarket experience, without any of the risk.
5. Embrace Outdoor Meetings and Remote Work Arrangements
A happy workplace creates better shareholder value (show this to your Director!) so, take it outside.
Most of us are guilty of spending far too much time indoors, and during the busy EOFY season IRO’s are often chained to the office all day (and maybe all night). But the truth is, we’re not doing ourselves, our shareholders or the companies we represent, any favours by working ourselves into the ground. Work-related stress is a significant contributor to staff absenteeism which is estimated to cost the Australian economy more than $33-billion a year. In one 12-month period, $133.9-million was paid in benefits to Australian workers for claims related to workplace stress.
So in the rush of EOFY and delivering these strategies for a smoother and more successful reporting period, remember to step away from the desk and if you can, get outside.
We all feel better when we’re immersed in nature and fresh air. And there is now an abundance of data on the health benefits of the great outdoors. Studies have found that people camping in a forest for two nights had lower heart rates and reduced levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), while a brisk walk in nature improved concentration, creativity and problem solving skills.
Many companies are allowing employees to have regular days when they work from home, such as Medibank, Macquarie Group, Westpac, Scentre Group and others have embraced this concept for the better employee productivity and health.
To further underline the importance of keeping your employees happy is the study conducted by Alex Edmans, a Professor of Finance at London Business School. He analysed 28 years of stock market data and evaluated the employee satisfaction rating and long-term value for listed companies.
What were the results? He found that firms with high employee satisfaction outperform their peers by a up to 3.8% per year and up to 184% cumulative returns. In other words, employee satisfaction causes good performance, this then leads to an increase in productivity and then higher stock market valuation.
We would highly recommend watching his TEDx talk on the Social Responsibility of Business.
So, whether you take a few days off to get back to nature, work virtually from your back verandah at home, or simply replace a few boardroom meetings with walking meetings in the local park, taking time outdoors will recharge those batteries and help you deliver your best EOFY IR strategy yet.