First of all Happy New Year to all.
With a potential recession looming, climbing inflation, high interest rates, ongoing Ukraine war, and persistent supply chain issues, IR teams need to strategically address investor concerns in 2023 with a well-rehearsed, cohesive, and transparent narrative. In this post, we will share advice on positive storytelling to use in preparation of quarterly reporting this year.
We recommend watching a recent NIRI webinar, “Mastering Positive Storytelling in an Unsure Environment”, with insights from IR VPs Michael Micciche from Progress and JC Weigelt from Polaris, from which much of this is drawn. .
Empathize With Your Audience
Begin by identifying the specific concerns that investors/analysts have about your industry and your company. Great ways to get this information are to conduct an anonymized perception study of investors/analysts (Miranda IR can do this for you), review last quarter’s Q&A transcript, and make sure to listen to your peers’ calls for the current quarter. Put yourself in the shoes of your investors and ask, what concerns me? What would help reassure those concerns?
Build a Transparent and Honest Narrative
The narrative for a quarter in a downturn usually won’t just be a walk though of results, as it would be in a quarter with positive earnings. Instead, it will focus on any positive takeaways from the quarter, the concrete plan going forward to deal with the negatives, and examples of historic performance in past downturns. This all needs to be presented in a transparent and honest way, without sugarcoating reality.
Leverage internal contacts to get a deep understanding of what you’re doing well already and what the plan is to address the problems going forward. For the quarter’s results, go into detail with your colleagues on sales, margins, inventory, EPS growth, debt, and cap allocation strategy to look for positive storylines.
In terms of history and the strategy going forward, your company has been through Covid already, and potentially the 2008 crisis, and should have success stories and contingency plans that can be resurfaced. Be as specific as possible with plans going forward, you might need to consult with your legal team more for this quarter as to what can be said.
It can also be helpful to provide your view of industry specific concerns (not macro) especially issues related to Mexico. However, this context needs to be the backdrop for how your company is in a unique position compared to the competition.
This narrative will be expressed in multiple forms, including the press release, CEO quote, call script, and Q&A. It’s essential that this communication is all consistent. Every word could be thoroughly analyzed and interpreted, so pay close attention to detail.
Thorough Q&A Prep
The consistent narrative from top management will be tested during the Q&A portion of the earnings call. Prepared remarks are important, but the improvisational nature of the Q&A is where attitude, and even intonation, provide clues to potential cracks in your strategy.
Executives can be hesitant to do Q&A prep or may even want to push it until the last minute. IR teams can also be intimidated to ask the tough questions of senior management and may be unwilling to be as pushy to their bosses as some analysts can be on a call.
Both sides need to step out of their comfort zones and prepare early, often, and realistically for the Q&A. Ask your CEO and CFO multi-part hard-hitting questions that get to the meat of the most sensitive topics. If you are a top executive, encourage your IR team to bring the heat in Q&A prep and not to back down if your answers are not satisfactory.
Uncertainty tests the relationships IR has built and is an opportunity to strengthen them. Being available and sincere will give them the certainty that in future down times they can count on your transparency. They will remember if you were there in tough times. Ask them what you can do to help you feel comfortable and offer, where appropriate, more access to speak directly with the CFO to address concerns.
During difficult times, it can be tempting to withdraw and even be defensive with investor/analyst critiques. However, more frequent updates between earnings calls, and personalized outreach to important investors will help relay the message that you’re doing the best to control what you can. In these interactions focus on the things you can what sets you apart, and don’t sugarcoat the current external situation.
If you need to lower guidance, consider lowering it at once instead of gradually, and give detailed rationale on why that decision was made and what the plan is going forward. A downturn can give some leniency for additional risk and a broader range; however, each case is highly unique.
Miranda IR is available to help will all your IR needs including storytelling strategy, script drafting, CEO quote, Q&A prep, call hosting, perception studies, and peer transcripts.
Contacts at Miranda Partners