IN TODAY’S technology-driven disclosure world, every IR department needs a reliable and highly informed web communications partner to help them navigate through the many new and exciting ways that they can connect online with their investors.
This was made clear yesterday at the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) annual conference in San Diego when John White, director of the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s Department of Corporation Finance, spent a portion of his speech telling attendees that corporate websites — and even blogs — are vital parts of the disclosure matrix. In the same speech, he also spoke about e-proxy and the looming XBRL mandate.
The fact is, we have moved solidly into a new era of intense focus on investor relations websites by regulators and investors. At the same time, a virtual revolution has occurred in how people use the web to come together. It is a “people web” not an e-commerce or push-and-control one. It is decentralized, fluid and fast moving.
A new generation of analysts, journalists, experts, and regular main street investors is coming to the fore and they are entirely at home on the web. Their sources of information are many and varied. A friend on Facebook, a blogger they read every day, someone they follow on Twitter or FriendFeed, any one of them has just as much opportunity to influence their opinion as your company’s expensive, carefully crafted press releases.
Nothing new from the big vendors
In such an unpredictable environment, smart IROs will realize that their current technology service providers are too big, too slow and much too inflexible to meet their increasingly complex web communication requirements.
It is noteworthy that neither Thomson Reuters nor Shareholder.com had anything new to announce at this year’s NIRI conference. Given the rapid advances we have witnessed on IR websites worldwide, having nothing new to say is an indication of just how irrelevant these firms have become.
If you’re looking for the firms that have anything of value to offer, you’ll need to look off the beaten track, away from the main entrances to the hall. This is because NIRI gives first dibs on the best booth positions to the big vendors who spend the most money sponsoring its events and advertising in its publications throughout the year.
Yet it is the smaller, more agile firms that have the most to offer investor relations departments in this new era of web communication. I have created a map of the exhibit hall showing their locations (see above), so if you’re at the conference be sure to pay them a visit. As always, we don’t have any material business relationships with the firms highlighted.
Who you should visit
My first port of call would be zu.com, a firm we’ve featured on this site before and which is responsible for some great IR website work for mega-cap to small-cap companies. What I think is most interesting about zu.com is that they walk the talk about new media. Check out the NIRI08 FriendFeed room for links to their blog posts, Flickr photo sets and YouTube videos from the NIRI conference.
It’s vital if you’re going to use new social media technologies that you get help from people who actually use and understand the tools. And this applies not only to companies that haven’t yet started to use social media, but also those that already are, including the two IROs who will be on a panel this morning on the topic of blogs for IR.
Then there is a group of companies that I know of from their past work. SNL Financial is a smaller hosted IR website solution provider that has chosen to specialize in providing IR websites in particular industry niches, such as banks and real estate companies (tough markets right now). Yesterday, they announced a marketing alliance with Ipreo, owners of the Big Dough targeting database. This gives both firms the capabilities of their bigger rivals. A firm to watch.
Others I would touch base with are Eisenman Associates, Baker Brand, Weymouth Design and Savage Design. They are smaller web design and development firms whose work we are familiar with and think is better than most.
The dinosaur vendors might like to talk about how tech savvy they are, and how their “video annual reports,” “website intelligence” and “social media news releases” are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but what they’re selling isn’t worth buying.
Of course, the big vendors do throw some great parties and they will ply you with all manner of schwag, which you should take with full gusto because who knows how long they’ll be able to afford them?