It can be easy to assume there is no room for innovation in investor relations, whose principles stand on regulatory requirements and reporting.
Modern IR teams continue to show us that creativity can be found—and executed—in the profession. The industry has drastically evolved to include more modern forms of communication and brand development.
So how can IR professionals create value and interest for issuers?
The answer: A combination of a compelling company story and leveraging creativity to stand out against the noise.
In this article, you’ll learn the innovative ways that modern companies are seizing the attention of institutional and retail investors—based on the advice of Alyssa Barry and Caroline Sawamoto—Principals and Co-Founders at irlabs. We’ll reveal:
It’s common practice for an IRO to wear multiple hats and be expected to be an expert on a range of tasks such as understanding financial statements inside and out, copywriting, and keeping the C-suite organized (all while simultaneously influencing strategy). As of late, many IR professionals are also required to be experts in ESG, as the mandates continue to land in their department.
On top of this range of job requirements, IROs must also be creative while having a solid grasp of social media trends and strategies in order to reach new levels of success. And so, IR teams need to think outside the box and find new ways to reach their desired investment community.
In recent years, the industry has seen fundamental investors wanting to know, understand, and sometimes even touch and feel the product or see behind the curtain of the companies they're investing in. IROs can create visibility and engage investors through digital marketing initiatives that help to achieve earned media. Examples of these “investor relations stunts”, as the irlabs team calls them, include:
There are several different factors IROs need to consider when trying to differentiate a compelling story from a bland one, including:
So with all these points in mind, what can IROs do to improve their storytelling?
IR professionals must articulate a story concisely and clearly while ensuring their storytelling engages their desired audience. Relevance and timeliness are factors investors will be looking for in your messaging as well. Remember—we live in a digital age that cultivates quick and fleeting engagement levels. Your messaging must be creative, engaging, and to the point, if you want to make a splash in your industry pool.
The role of IRO is also one of the only career paths that have full access to C-suite-level executives. By having a seat at the table, they can significantly influence the strategy and direction of a company while simultaneously enabling management teams to drive innovation forward. This provides ample opportunity for IR professionals to brand themselves as thought leaders. Without breaching material nonpublic information or obligations, IROs have the opportunity to create a personal brand on Linkedin—or any other digital platform—by sharing what goes on behind the scenes and what a day in the life of an IRO looks like.
An IRO must evaluate how their messaging resonates with the desired audience regularly. It should be standard practice to have a core number of key pitch points that everyone across the organization (including the board of directors and senior management) can eloquently speak on. These points should be revisited regularly (we recommend a semi-annual basis) to ensure timeliness. However, keep in mind that it isn’t necessary to reinvent the wheel on a regular basis if you’re seeing success in your strategy.
If your messaging isn’t resonating, or you’re having difficulty breaking into a particular market, it may be your strategy—not the messaging. Sometimes, companies target the wrong type of investor, so it’s important to evaluate strategic factors when reviewing your messaging.
It's important to note that an IRO should know all upcoming company milestones and goals to succeed in their role. Your strategy and its messaging should foreshadow certain events, as investors will want to know about upcoming goals and how the company plans to reach them successfully.
At the end of the day, your desired audience wants to know:
Brand thought leadership is a tactic that often isn’t leveraged enough in the IR industry. This includes ebooks, white papers, tool kits, and other forms of downloadable content. These resources can have a significant impact on brand awareness, contribute to positive perceptions of the brand and your management team, and position you as a forward-thinking industry leader. By requiring the reader to fill out a contact form in order to access the resource, IROs can see who’s interested in their messaging and follow up accordingly.
This goes hand-in-hand with another differentiating strategy—building relationships the old-fashioned way. While it may sound archaic, it’s become common practice to spend high-dollar amounts on digital marketing with the hope that it solves company problems and brings long-lasting investors. However, nothing truly beats in-person conversations, meeting investors face-to-face, and nurturing leads with personal, individualized messaging such as key quarter highlights, upcoming events, and more. In the long run, this personalized messaging will significantly impact how a company is perceived.
Before creating an IR plan, IROs should take the time to learn more about their current investors while getting a better understanding of their ideal holders. And though this may seem simple enough, IR professionals must have this conversation and create alignment with the C-suite before moving forward. It may be uncovered that there are differing views on how the shareholder base should look. The conclusion to this conversation will significantly impact the tactics found in an IR plan.
Remember—investors want to know the company story, so a typical IR plan should always include key messages that revolve around what the company does and who its investors are. This way, IROs can create strategic messaging that can be reviewed and relied on when writing news releases, updating corporate decks, or drafting any copy to ensure key messages come through.
IROs should also conduct research and analysis on the company's competitive landscape to be included in the plan. This allows IR professionals to have a thumb on the pulse of their industry and be confident that their executed strategies will be effective and timely.
Remember: While key messaging, important targets, conferences, and other key objectives are important to include in an IR plan, IROs should always consider how to step out of the box and bring creativity to their strategy.
As we move through 2023, many companies are working to better understand how to engage with their retail audience.
Various companies have found success in pulling non-objecting beneficial owner (NOBO) lists for digital marketing initiatives and subsequently putting together a well-thought-through drip campaign. This strategy can lead to the desired traction a company is looking for due in part to having the capability to review the campaign analytics and using it to get in contact with retail investors, brokers, high-net-worth individuals, and day traders, who then forward the information to professionals in their circle. It’s also important to note that having a strong call-to-action paired with content that creates excitement will positively impact engagement.
A successful drip campaign can follow a simple format::
IROs can see further success in retail investor engagement by learning how to leverage earned media opportunities. This strategy requires IR professionals to put in the time and effort in order to learn how to pitch their company properly.
Engaging with retail investors comes down to experimenting with various tactics to find the one that works best for your company and the audience you’re trying to attract. New levels of success can be achieved when IROs build strategies around creativity and consistency.
As the economy grows increasingly volatile, IROs are encouraged to consistently be engaged and nurture relationships with current—and potential—shareholders, as well as other audiences in your community, such as partners. Because while the markets may be difficult, if IROs and their companies nurture relationships now, it opens doors in the future when the time is right to cultivate new investor relationships.
If you’re interested in learning more about bringing creativity to your shareholder engagement strategy, Alyssa Barry and Caroline Sawamoto’s Winning IR episode is now available on Apple Music, Spotify, and all the other places you listen to content.
PS: Do you have an IR subject you’re passionate about? If so, we invite you to share your insights on Winning IR—Irwin’s interview-style podcast. Reach out to email@example.com to learn more.