Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tell Me a Story

I wrote in October about the importance of using a variety of delivery methods in order to help your audience learn from and retain what you are saying. Because this is a blog about investor relations (mostly, although I confess to straying from the topic from time to time), today I want to expand upon this idea in one way that can help companies better get their message to Wall Street. In short, stop thinking of investor relations as simply a conduit of information and start thinking of it as a way to also tell a story about your company.

The meat and potatoes of any investor relations program is the ability to convey to investors basic financial information that relates to the company. There is no getting around this - it forms the core of all subsequent discussions. Yet this information often falls into the boring, but important category. Additionally, there are at least two problems with this data. First, unless you are among the lucky few companies that are showing outstanding growth and financial performance, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. As they say in the entertainment business, there’s no hook. Secondly, information about past performance does not always give investors a good idea of where the company is going in the future, nor does it give a sense of the way the company operates. This is where making it memorable by telling your story becomes important.

Building upon basic financial information is a critical factor in helping a company stand out from the crowd. When you combine this with the fact that most people learn and retain information better when they get it from a variety of sources, you can begin to appreciate why investor relations should be more than drafting the next press release. Being able to place your company into context in terms of your industry by telling the story of your company is an example. People remember stories. If your company relies on product development, being able to tell the story of how a product was developed can bring context to the bare fact of how much you spent on research and development. This concept can be transferred to almost any industry, be it oil and gas development, retail or consumer goods, to name a few. 

After all, companies are a collection of people, and where you have people you have stories to tell about how those people create unique approaches to the way they do business. How those people set your company apart from other operators and cause it to be unique are integral parts of the story that mere financial numbers can’t tell. It is in providing this context in a memorable fashion that investor relations can add value.