In January, NIRI Boston hosted a discussion about all things digital in the world of investor relations and corporate communications. This program provided perspective on the changing nature of investor outreach, social media best practices, demand generation and other topics.
Jerry Sisitsky, VP of IR of Constant Contact, moderated the panel which included: Jeff Bray, Director of IR at Imprivata (a former buy sider); Amanda Sibley, Manager of Demand Generation at HubSpot; and Rob Bradley, VP of IR at LogMeIn.
The night began with a discussion about how IROs can help influence buying decisions. Jeff Bray explained that building a model and putting a story together is a process that usually takes multiple discussions with management. He went on to add that it’s important to have access to different types of information and that “every investor fits into a bucket (e.g. growth, small cap core etc.) and they all screen stocks a different way and have a bias.” He further mentioned that investors will expect to hear consistent messaging.
A discussion about using digital channels to communicate with the investment community followed. It was mentioned that a digital channel for communications is akin to what many technology companies are doing in terms of driving customers to paid subscriptions.
Rob Bradley shared that his shareholders welcomed LogMeIn’s IR blog and Twitter handle as a means of communication, particularly during a time of crisis. LogMeIn had taken the step of creating a blog and Twitter handle several years ago and publicized that it intended to use these as portals for material information, thereby obtaining Reg. FD coverage. Shortly thereafter, as luck would have it, a short seller published a note that caused confusion in the market. After conferring with management, Rob and his general counsel worked quickly and closely on a rebuttal that was issued via the blog within hours of the short report’s publication. According to Rob, this rapid response was applauded by the company’s analysts and investors and enabled it to quickly and effectively convey its side of the story.
The night followed with a discussion headed by Amanda Sibley on why a brand should be on social media. According to Sibley, “the most basic reason is because your customers expect you to be on social media. Not necessarily just for company information but for brand awareness, customer service and complaining or complementing a brand.” According to Amanda, brands on social media should have a specific goal or goals in mind.
When asked how to deal with security and safeguard content before going live and how to handle regulatory requirements, Rob answered that his company purchased a leading password manager, Last Pass, to maintain security integrity. According to Amanda, HubSpot has become stricter regarding who has access and the ability to post to social. Additionally, it was suggested, most corporate passwords should be encrypted and limited to a specific number of people who know the password.
Speaking to regulatory requirements, Jeff explained how institutional investors tend to obtain their information about breaking corporate developments. According to Jeff, FactSet’s StreetAccount is the most common platform that investors use to filter corporate news. Using StreetAccount, one can track news from many companies simultaneously and receive virtually real-time information. This proves particularly useful in earnings season when benchmarking to consensus.
Jeff opined that institutional investors are less reliant on other social media platforms or emails from the company. In fact, he pointed out, the average long-only institutional investor often cannot even access Twitter of Facebook from their desktops or networks. They rely much more heavily on tools such as Bloomberg.
Some have argued that social media seems to be more of a monologue than a dialogue. In Rob’s experience, it depends on the function of the handle, blog etc. He adds that a product team will have more of a dialogue, whereas the IR audience tends not to talk back much. In Amanda’s experience, those who are looking for a dialogue are not generally “the ones that are complaining about the stock price.”
Thank you to Investis for serving as NIRI Boston’s premier sponsor for this event.