THERE'S MORE TO BEING PUBLIC THAN BEING LISTED
Management of today's publicly held organizations is aware of the
responsibilities and opportunities in providing information to
various segments of the financial community. However, Securities
Exchange Commission (SEC) suits, such as the Texas Gulf Sulphur
case, have emphasized the importance of seeking professional
guidance before public relations programs are implemented.
Good, properly executed financial PR programs can assist
management in building confidence and prestige for the company
with a number of groups. These groups include: present
shareholders; the investing public at large; members of the
financial community (including bankers, security analysts,
investment advisors an others who influence opinions) and the
general business-oriented public.
The breadth and depth of your financial PR program can
vary. However, here are some basic rules to keep in mind when
you begin developing the program that is best suited to your firm
and its needs.
1. "Timely disclosure" is an obligation. The whole idea is
wrapped up in this statement from the company manual of the
New York Stock Exchange ... "Important developments which
might affect security values or influence investment
decisions should be promptly disclosed.
The manual also says that news requiring immediate
publicity must be released by the fastest available means.
This usually means a release to the public press by
telephone, telegraph, hand delivery or some combination
thereof. Or better yet, use a wire service, such as Business
Wire, that is tailored to business news.
You may not be listed on the Big Board, but its rules
are good ones to follow. Adhering to them prevents you from
getting in a position where you can be accused of letting
insiders take advantage of the situation.
2. Accept the idea that it's your responsibility to develop
interest in the financial community for your securities.
There's nothing undignified or unethical in getting analysts,
brokers and others to know your company. In order to arrive
at a fair market price for securities, complete information,
properly interpreted and evaluated, is necessary. Often, a
special effort has to be extended by the new company to be
sure that there is an audience for the full information.
3. Be candid and tell your story completely (and interestingly).
Occasionally, there's a temptation to tell only the good and
to sweep the bad under the rug ... or at least camouflage it.
Don't do it. You'll be better off in the long run.
4. Capitalize on your publicity opportunities as a publicly held
company. You're now in a position to tell more than you were
when privately held, and there are more and better chances to
publicize your company, your products and services.
Financial PR Checklist
So much for generalized thinking about financial public
relations. Following is a checklist of specifics. It doesn't
cover everything, but it will get you started:
1. Welcome -- A brief communication--possibly a letter, possibly
a printed piece--to you new shareholders is a good idea.
Nothing fancy or formal is needed. Just let the investors
know that you're glad to have them aboard.
2. Financial Service Reports -- Make arrangements for Standard &
Poor's, Moody's and other financial service reports to be
issued on your company. If you let things ride, eventually
they'll get around to you, but it's entirely in line for you
to contact them first.
3. Daily Quotations -- As a company that's just gone public,
your shares, of course, are traded over the counter. You,
your shareholders and the investment professionals will
welcome daily publication of your stock prices in, at least,
the local newspapers and preferably in the Wall Street
Journal. The National Association of Securities Dealers
(NASD) determines, on the basis of number of shareholders,
the amount of stock they own and their geographical
distribution, what kind of listing companies are qualified
for--local, regional or national, daily or weekly.
4. Sales and Earnings Results -- Plan to keep shareholders and
the financial community regularly informed about your
company. This means:
* At the end of each quarter and at the end of the year, a
news release announcing your sales and earnings should be
released to the press and financial reporting services as
soon as possible after the figures are known. The release
should give the data on sales, earnings and earnings per
share, compared with the results of the corresponding
period a year earlier. It should also include pertinent
comments from the president and/or chairman.
* You should prepare not only annual but also quarterly
reports to send to shareholders. The reports serve to
keep them informed of corporate progress, and they provide
current information to the financial professional. Create
an attractive format--not shoddy, but not too expensive
looking--and include a message from the chief executive
officer, along with a brief income statement with
comparative figures. Recognize that the mechanics of
something, even as simple as an interim report, can get
fairly complicated, so start to work well in advance.
* Your annual report is the most important compilation of
information on your company that will be issued in any
given year. It deserves a major effort so that words and
graphics will satisfactorily and accurately represent your
firm to the public. The job involves setting deadlines,
writing copy, working with auditors, design, printing,
photography and an almost endless set of details.
5. Prompt Disclosure -- As indicated earlier, you should
immediately publicize major corporate developments such as
acquisitions, research breakthroughs, major new products or
services, discoveries, etc. In an acquisition, that means
publicizing the event no later than immediately after signing
the agreement in principle, and sometimes it might be
necessary even earlier than that because news of negotiations
tend to get around and result in rumors. Besides immediate
issuance of the news release, consider a special
communication to shareholders.
6. Dividends -- Announce dividend actions--regular, special or
failure to act--to the press immediately after the board of
directors votes. It's also a good idea when mailing your
dividends, to include a stuffer that gives your shareholders
more information about their company.
7. Fact File -- A good communications tool is a "fact file,"
which gives information about operations, management,
financial history, capitalization, markets and marketing,
etc. Such a document is useful in developing publicity, in
informing shareholders, in your liaison program with the
financial community, in the development of a new interest,
and with some modifications, it can be used in your marketing
and employee relations activities.
8. Annual Meeting -- There's no way a newly public company can
predict how many people will attend the annual meeting and
what their interests will be. In any event, be prepared to
be cordial, informative hosts.
* The chief executive officer's presentation should be
* Consider displays highlighting company products, services,
financial results and so on.
* Invite representatives of the press and interested
members of the financial community.
* For press distribution immediately after the meeting,
prepare a news release in advance, covering highlights of
the chief executive's presentation.
* Have information handouts ready, including annual reports,
product literature, fact files and so on.
* Consider the amenities. This includes: setting up a
comfortable meeting room well in advance; issuing special
invitations in addition to the formal proxy statement to
shareholders; possibly offering refreshments; offering a
plant tour; providing name badges for the officers and
directors, and introducing them during the meeting.
* If your annual meeting goes beyond the routine, consider
reprinting the full proceedings, or at least a digest, for
distribution to shareholders and the financial community
who were not present.
9. Publicity -- Develop a financial publicity program, directing
your attention toward such media as Barron's, The Wall Street
Journal, business pages of your daily newspapers, various
financial magazines and major trade publications. Develop
publicity on what's different about your company, the
progress it has made, the outlook for your products and
services, your research program and/or major new products.
10. Mailing -- Keep the financial community informed about your
progress by sending them copies of such materials as interim
reports, annual reports, fact files, reprints of major
publicity items, news of acquisitions, research breakthroughs
and copies of special shareholder communications.
11. Mailing Lists -- Obviously, having good mailing lists will
make life easier when you have a report or news release to
issue. You'll want separate lists of financial media, daily
newspapers, analysts and brokers who show an interest in your
12. Financial Community Liaison -- It's possible that you'll be
swamped with attention from financial analysts and other
influentials in the financial community from the moment you
go public. But, that would be the exception rather than the
rule. To attain the interest your company deserves, the
chances are you'll have to take steps to seek it out. There
are various ways to stimulate interest:
* Set up a personal contact program aimed at brokerages,
funds, etc., which might or should be interested in your
company. The person to contact might be an analyst, a
partner, or a sales manager or broker. This is not a job
for the chairman or president, although there are circum-
stances in which the top man's direct participation is
called for. It's a role that can be filled best by a
competent financial public relations firm. Your repre-
sentative making these calls should be well informed about
your company and industry and have suitable printed
material to leave behind.
* Under the proper circumstances, top management also should
be exposed to the financial community. Considerations
- Select and make arrangements with the appropriate
audience. Possibilities include analyst societies;
specialized analyst groups such as those interested in
science and technology, service industries, transpor-
tation, etc.; top-level brokerage representatives, who
could be invited to an informal luncheon; key investment
salesmen; investment brokerage sales staffs after the
market closes; and analysts and brokers as guests at
privately sponsored meetings.
- Select the geographical locations. Depending on various
circumstances, you might wish to arrange for exposure in
the primary markets--New York, Chicago and Los Angeles--
or secondary financial markets.
- Prepare the presentation. This includes the speech,
charts, slides, product displays, information kits, etc.
- Consider reprinting and distributing the presentation.
13. Pulse Taking -- Periodically evaluate the amount of trading
in your stock, the role played by firms making a market in
your shares, the geographical distribution of shareholders,
possibilities of listing on an exchange, future needs,
analyst attitudes toward your company and so on. Based on
your findings, take remedial action.
14. Responsibility -- Implicit throughout the financial public
relations activities outlined above is the appointment of a
high-level, informed company officer to be responsible for
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