Using PR Targeting and Measurement Strategies for Investor Relations

By Farah Merchant, Global Disclosure & Financial Reporting Services, Business Wire

Targeting, monitoring and measurement are essential to every successful public or investor communications program.

So how do you do it?

The first step for any effective program is to identify or ‘target’ your organization’s correct audience. If performed early on in the communications program, a great deal of time and money will be saved. The earlier you can set up your conversation monitoring, and metrics, the more time you have to make adjustments or changes, as the data dictates.

The Barcelona Building Blocks, the first set of PR measurement rules, were introduced in June 2010 at the Second European Summit on Measurement by The Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles and include the following tenets:

  • Goal setting and measurement are fundamental aspects of any PR program.
  • Measuring the effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs.
  • The effect on business results should  be measured where possible.
  • Media measurement requires quantity and quality.
  • Advertising value equivalents (AVEs) are not the value of public relations.
  • Social media can, and should be measured.
  • Transparency and ability to duplicate results are paramount to sound measurement.

When it comes to measurement, IR and PR teams approach it differently.  While both use qualitative and quantitative methods of measurement, investor relations communicators tend to see more value in qualitative metrics. Moving towards a measurement process that combines qualitative and subjective metrics can be a challenge.  While there may be some overlap, Investor relations teams monitor different terms and audiences, all which produce different outcomes. The role of investor relations today includes complying with SEC regulations as well as engaging with and listening to vast array of audiences such as regulators, analysts, investors and media.

Investor relations departments have traditionally measured progress based on either outputs or outcomes.

Output measures items such as number of analysts covering the company, quality of analyst coverage, and media coverage – traditional, online and social, all which can directly influence stock price.

Outcomes are what IR professionals tend to be measured upon – achieving a fair market value for the stock. Measuring outcomes by program does not allow for proper attribution of the external impact from industry activity, roadshows or previous campaigns or news. However, in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, share price is not necessarily the best metric for evaluating an IRO’s success.

In 2014, conversation analysis is a standard part of any communication program.  While some IROs are catching up, other investor relations teams are allocating larger portions of their budgets to measurement and evaluation. According to a survey conducted by NIRI in 2011 on “How IR Programs Measure Up”, IROs had only allocated 1 to 5 percent of their total operating budgets to this area. Public relation departments, on the other hand, reported an increase from 4 to 9 percent in total amount of budget that corporations were allocating to the measurement of PR and communication programs.

To establish a successful investor relations monitoring program, IROs must first come up with guidelines for conducting and measuring an IR campaign including:

  • Defining the target audience – investors, analysts, shareholders, activists, reporters and more
  • Creating key messaging for these audiences that feature positive company information most likely to impact audience perception;
  • Determining social and traditional communication channels such as press releases, online newsrooms, IR sites, blogs, email, text messaging, social channels and more;
  • Taking a new look at IR communication programs to ensure ideal impact upon the reader.  These can include quarterly and annual reports, conference calls, road show presentations, press releases, and most recently social media;
  • And finally actively conducting perception studies by engaging directly with investors and analysts about the effectiveness of a company’s investor communications, the responsiveness of the IR team and the quality of disclosure.

Social media has not played as prominent a role in the realm of IR targeting/monitoring but this is changing quickly.  IROs should be putting emphasis on tracking the temperature of their company via social media channels.

The right approach to measuring the impact of an investor relations program is to focus on your objectives and to measure the results that affect your objectives.

Think about what you’re trying to achieve in your communication campaign, i.e. identifying conversations about your key terms, the audiences you want to engage with and the results you want to achieve.  Goals can include identifying all conversation types, increasing positive discussions of your company within core audiences, decreasing hype or message misalignments.

Once you know your audience, consider what kind of conversation and materials you want to share with them.  This will vary by platform.  For example:

  • If you find discussions are on Twitter, add images to your Tweets to receive higher shares and engagement. Don’t forget to monitor your cashtag ($ sign + ticker) to capture direct discussions about your stock
  • LinkedIn discussions are generally textual, but images receive much larger space on the page, so upload an image with your update and link to increase impact
  • Facebook varies its content by the user’s preference, so use a mix of video, images and text and track the results to determine impact
  • YouTube is the world’s largest video library. With billions of videos watched daily, it is not surprising that more than 30% of all searches are related to news

Monitoring must also include identifying important trends in consumer opinion and top influencers, activist activity and then tracking changes over time.

NUVI bubble stream

The NUVI Bubble Stream

At the 2014 NIRI National Conference, we had the opportunity to see the impact of traditional and social communications on company reputation and stock price via the NUVI’s social media monitoring platform.  In one easy step, by simply typing in the company name and cashtag (a dollar sign + ticker symbol), one could instantly  identify conversations, discussion trends, influencers,  message adoption and geo-resonance, all data used to create a better, stronger IR communication program.

The principles of measurement, albeit designed for PR professionals, are just as applicable to IROs.  Although differences do exist between the roles of public relations and investor relations, i.e. different stakeholders, there is still a great deal of overlap.  IROs will benefit by developing a standard of measurement using the methods that PR professionals have implemented as a guideline and making them more relevant to the financial health and reputation of the organization.

Have questions on how to create an IR program that embraces these principles?  Let us know! We work with thousands of public companies around the globe, ensuring we stay on the forefront of investor relations best practices.

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