IBM’s investor relations team is proving the adage that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
For a large company — market cap $140 billion, employees 350,000 — IBM is remarkably agile and responsive. IBM’s IR department also knows how to use the Web as a proactive communication channel with its investors.
A large proportion of IBM’s shareholder base is made up of retail investors, many of whom are likely feeling some uneasiness about the U.S. economy and a bear market’s impact on their portfolios.
This is also the time of the year when many retail investors will be reevaluating their stock holdings. And amid recession concerns, many investors could be thinking of selling stocks they lack confidence in.
IBM, however, seems to have seen this train coming months ago. During a review of their website back in November, we noticed an interesting feature in the site’s innovative IR Viewpoint section.
Headlined IBM Business Model – Annuity Content Provides Solid Base of Business its central message is that IBM’s business model “has more stability than most other technology companies.” In other words, in a downturn IBM is likely to hold up better.
Then last week during another visit, I noticed a similar article highlighted on IBM’s IR homepage. This one, from January 17, is headlined The IBM Difference and lists four factors that distinguish IBM from its competitors in an “uncertain economic environment.”
There are at least a couple of things that are noteworthy here. First, IBM demonstrates what it means to be proactive in investor relations. It is addressing a topic that is likely at the top of many investors’ minds, particularly retail investors. It did so early and is following up at a time when shareholders are scrutinizing their holdings more closely.
IBM also demonstrates how to use the Web pro-actively for investor relations. The IR Viewpoint section in which the two pieces are located is atypical of what you will find on most IR sites. This section includes voluntary non-material communications that are valuable to shareholders, but which don’t merit a news release and which mostly do not warrant a filing with regulators.
The IR Viewpoint section includes print and multimedia content in the form of podcasts. Users can subscribe to receive some of the content via RSS feeds. While I think the section could be better, it’s nonetheless much more than most other companies are doing. More importantly, it’s putting relevant information in the hands of investors at little or no cost.
There is no reason why every other IR department can’t do similar things on their sites. While it helps to have a flexible IR website platform that lets you easily add new sections and content yourself whenever you want, it also requires a corporate capacity for listening to and anticipating questions from their stakeholders.
How about you? Do you have the flexibility to add an IR viewpoint section like IBM’s to your IR website by the end of business today? And do you know what questions are on your shareholders’ minds right now?