Are You the Full Package?
Packaging Matters. Every book is judged by its cover. If your story isn’t packaged properly, it will fail to gain the attention of investors no matter how compelling or interesting it is.
In my article entitled Uncover Your Company’s Great Story we explored how your company can refine its message. Hopefully, you’ve boiled down your company’s story to it’s purest and most compelling form. Now we need to package the story so it generates the impact and share of mind your story deserves.
Time is Not On Your Side
The horrible irony when communicating to investors is that the longer it takes you tell your story, the less impact it has, and the less your investors will remember. The following tips on packaging will help you condense your story into digestible nuggets to increase its effectiveness.
I cannot overstate the importance of using powerful visuals when engaging investors. Every conference call, investor event and meeting should be accompanied by an up-to-date high quality presentation. You are failing your investors if you’re not consistently using visuals to talk about your company, its performance, its five year plan, and your progress against that plan.
You can fail to present your company in one of two ways:
- A failure to provide any visual tools at all. If you’re still getting on a conference call or conducting investor events without visual aids, you are quite literally in the dark ages. If cost is a concern, then platforms like join.me can provide you with the webcast tools you need at a reasonable price.
- You can also fail when you use poorly designed visuals and presentations. As powerful as visual aids can be, they can also do damage when they are misused and poorly designed. Yes, that PowerPoint slide with six bullets in 20 pt font constitutes a failure to present.
In the hierarchy of communication tools, writing is somewhere near the bottom. Our minds are simply not evolved to read and fatigue quickly. A PowerPoint presentation (although appropriate in certain circumstance) is probably second from the bottom, especially when it is misused. Why limit yourself to these tools? Never before have companies had such affordable access to such a vast array of media technologies. Underutilized media technologies such as Prezi, video, animations and infographics give companies unprecedented ability to rapidly communicate their message with high impact. However, as powerful as they are, when they’re misused they can also be very damaging.
Avoid the Cliche
If you are creating a video to discuss your company’s strategic objectives or results, whatever you do don’t put some cartoon illustration of a hockey stick stock chart pointing towards the stratosphere next to your CEO or CFO. Investors will laugh at you. I’ll laugh at you. Everyone will laugh at you. And your credibility will take a hit.
Investors, by their very nature, are cynical beasts. Using cliche visuals will only harm your company’s credibility. Your visuals must be meaningful and grounded in reality.
Report Using Clear Language, Scoreboards and Graphs
In section one we talked about how to simplify and distill your story. Don’t go and ruin it when you report. Report in a way that is accessible to the lay person without the use of jargon, lingo or legalese. In addition, if the way you consolidate your financial information is confusing, or if it significantly impairs the transparency of your operations to your investor, you will only succeed in damaging your credibility.
Your report should be a story
Good reporting should seamlessly integrate your financial results with your company’s operational narrative, strategy, and five year plan. This means your investor relations team must work closely with both your finance and operational teams to develop the quarterly narrative.
Reporting that is cryptic or makes your operations an unpredictable black box will impair your company’s credibility in the capital markets. Every company has information it cannot disclose for competitive reasons. Make sure you are striking a fair balance between helping your investors understand your company’s performance and keeping your competitors at bay. If your financial performance is unpredictable / indecipherable then you will trade at a discount and your cost of capital will be higher than necessary.
Whether it is an MD&A, news release or webcast deck, your reporting should be structured so that the most important information is in the front and the details are in the back. Start with the big picture first before getting into the specifics. While the structure of your reporting should remain consistent over time, it should not be regurgitated boilerplate. Every quarter is different so the story must reflect this.
Expectation is the root of all heartache. Investor relations can enhance shareholder value by using every tool at its disposal to manage capital market expectations. If your company doesn’t provide guidance, it can help to point your investors to publicly available and reliable macro-economic statistics that serve as forward or real-time indicators of your operational performance.
Management should set realistic operational and financial milestones. Then, use a scorecard to consistently measure the company’s progress against these milestones regardless of success. This will build investor confidence and management credibility. It should go without saying that your future estimates should be influenced by an element of conservatism. Investors prefer it when you under-promise and over-deliver.
Companies that package their story using powerful visuals, engaging media and clear language enhance shareholder value by increasing investor attention, awareness and understanding. Conversely, companies that fail to package their story properly will almost always trade at a discount.
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