Online efforts keep investors in the loop

IR Web sites should go beyond basic information to ensure all audiences are engaged.

IR Web sites should go beyond basic information to ensure all audiences are engaged.

Thomson Financial (TF) reports 75% of institutional investors access IR sites at least weekly (25% do so daily), and 90% say a site impacts perception of a company. As such, having a good corporate IR Web site is extremely prudent.

Kelly McPartland, TF's director of Web hosting services, sees three trends driving companies to do more with their IR sites. "The regulatory environment demand[s] better usability and more open, clear communications," she says. "Investors also demand more, and tech tools are getting better."

B2i Technologies founder and CEO Troy Ussery says it's vital to remember that IR sites are designed to educate people on the opportunities and risks associated with investing.

"Communicate that investment thesis clearly, concisely, and quickly," Ussery says. "It'll be in near constant motion. That's the problem with static data. Opportunities and risks are constantly changing."

Paolina Milana, Market Wire's VP of marketing, says investors' main complaint is being unable to find IR sites. In fact, the best ones are fully developed and branded, and include all information that investors and analysts want organized in a way that's easily accessible in multiple formats.

"Investors and analysts aren't looking for bells and whistles - to them, that's just noise," Milana says. "Make sure any bells and whistles serve solely to make the site user-friendly and easily accessible. Look at CISCO, GE, and Microsoft - they're among the best. It's function over form every time."

TF surveyed 400 institutional investors last year and found access to investor presentations was most important.

"Governance, data on debt or fixed income, earnings estimates, and video were some of the most desired features," McPartland says. "Ad hoc comments [revealed they] were looking for CSR, branding, strategy, mission-reputation drivers."

It's also important to embed corporate information (governance, management team, bios, etc.) in the IR Web page. "Nothing can be more than two clicks away," Milana says. "Never link away from your site."

Michael Becker, VP of global disclosure and financial reporting services at Business Wire, advises using technology to cater to individual preferences. Incorporate RSS feeds, and don't limit terms, questions, or topics people can input to get e-mail alerts.

"A good site is not one size fits all," he says. "Microsoft has speech transcripts, podcasts, and MP3s. You can listen on the train or at the gym. GE's site allows you to specify what you want to receive."

Many companies rely too much on PDF documents. Experts agree that posting in HTML in addition to PDF allows for increased SEO, as search engines can't scrape PDF documents. Posting lengthy documents is never a good choice because it's rare that someone will download or read 200 pages online. Milana advises breaking out press releases into categories and/or years.

Becker says FAQ sections are efficient. Ussery likes good Q&A sections, such as ISCO International's, which invites communication with the CFO. While interactivity is desirable, McPartland advises limiting information required from investors; research shows that 32% don't want to give personal information or register to access information.

Most investors want five years of historical data, says Milana. She suggests providing webcast archives for a least a quarter and checking with lawyers about archiving issues.

CEO blogs aren't often included on IR sites. Market Wire sponsors IR Magazine's think tank series, and the majority of attendees at a March 22 session indicated they didn't want CEO blogs on their IR sites because there's discomfort around managing disclosure issues and the payoff is uncertain. "Only 8% of the Fortune 500 host any sort of blog," Milana says. "Even Google doesn't have a CEO blog. There's a reason."

Becker thinks having a CEO blog is subjective. "As long as the CEO isn't discussing non-public material information, it's a great way to lend a personal feeling," he says. "It's no different than a road show meeting with analysts who are assessing CEOs and CFOs. Sometimes blogs can help. There's been a lot of talk lately about Sun Microsystems because the CEO has a blog that's [widely] read and highly regarded."

Technique tips


Link your IR home page to the corporate home page

Archive information, post it in many formats

Explain investing opportunities and risks


Bury an IR site or the information that's on it

Let an IR site become static

Link away from an IR site

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