SEVERAL months ago, Microvision (NASDAQ:MVIS) IR specialist Tiffany Bradford set out to research how small-cap companies were using blogs for investor relations.
She was referred to me by Shel Holtz, ABC, one of the leading advisors on the use of technology in public relations and corporate communications. I didn’t have a lot of concrete examples to share with her because few small-cap companies are using blogs in an investor relations environment that are worth mentioning.
But we talked informally and a few ideas sprang from the conversation. The first was that Microvision, a small technology company developing mini-projector and display technologies, should probably launch a multi-author corporate blog rather than standalone blogs for investor relations and marketing.
Doing this would make it easier to keep the blog fresh with new content, and it makes sense for small-caps to do this because almost everything they do is relevant to investors. I gave her the example of Premiere Global Services, Inc. (NYSE: PGI), which has a category for investor relations on its corporate blog.
We also talked about how Microvision could use a blog for IR. This was more a brainstorming of ideas because there really is no model for how to use blogs for IR. The fact is, most IR content on blogs is a boring regurgitation of information that is already available on the IR website in releases, reports, presentations and filings.
My main advice was that Microvision should focus on using its blog for engaging the company’s investors, soliciting feedback and taking them behind-the-scenes of her role at the company. Bradford took whatever she got out of our conversation and others and got down to work. The last I heard from her was when she emailed to tell me the company’s corporate blog – Displayground – had officially launched on December 31.
However, last week I thought I should visit the blog to see how she was getting on. I was pleasantly surprised to see that she had just done something that has never been done before on a corporate or investor relations blog.
She called for investors to submit questions on the blog so that she could address them on the company’s upcoming earnings conference call. (I’m publishing this after the call to avoid influencing it in any way.)
|Microvision IR specialist Tiffany Bradford invited blog reader to post questions to be addressed on the company’s earnings call.|
Even I was surprised by the response from investors. They loved it, and have submitted a total of seventeen comments as I write this, the most comments of any post on the company’s blog to date.
One commenter in particular, Ananat Goel, a semi-retired businessman and investor who writes a blog called Heath & Wealth, was particularly enthusiastic, correctly noting:
I don’t think you realize it, but Microvision is making history, as a public company, on more than two fronts in its effort to embrace the “Real Time Communications” with its customers and Investors.
First, it was the real time “Microvision Blog” launched in September of 2008. And now it is the invitation to post our questions before the quarterly earnings CC on March 5… in an effort to broaden the scope and depth of Q&A session. This post from Ms. Tiffany Bradford of Microvision IR department says it all…
He went on:
Two years ago I came to Microvision message board at YAHOO looking for investor/user feedback to Microvision technology, products and services. What I noticed was a total lack of factual information and lots of BS posted by unscrupulous characters. Some of us took the risk and devoted our time to research, review, and write the facts about Microvision and articulated the investment opportunities offered by MVIS stock. It took lot of time and energy to do that. And lately it really got harder and harder to gather useful information, because Microvision was firing on many different fronts and that information would easily get mixed-up to make any sense.
Microvision has made lots of progress over the last two years. But Microvision is not fully appreciated, or recognized, by the investment community. May be that was because of the antiquated dark-age communications media that the management [of the past] chose to get the message out. However, that is changing and may be now the minority investors, for example, can realize the true value of their undervalued asset in MVIS stock. Microvision management took a giant step when they held the first web cast [investor conference call] over two years ago and recently started to open-up and communicate with the investors, employees, customers and vendors in real time. And we “hope” that is the beginning of openness and sharing of the truth with integrity and trust. Openness and sharing truth with integrity are important to investors, both large and small.
Did I mention that investors love being asked for input? The other comments ask for more information about the company’s future plans and progress. They’re on point and relevant.
The call happened at 4:30pm today. It ran as normal, with the usual group of analysts and some individual investors asking the questions. All of the questions posted on the blog were addressed by others on the call. If they had not been asked and answered, I would have expected Bradford to ask them.
When I suggested recently that companies open up their earnings calls to bloggers there were grumblings from the old school IR pros about it not being their jobs to talk to “the masses” and that it would lead to a degradation of the discourse on the calls.
Microvision shows that there are ways to be more open and inclusive in IR and that it doesn’t have to be a free-for-all. Tiffany Bradford isn’t one to seek the limelight, but she deserves a lot of credit for taking the lead in the IR profession to use a blog to open up the lines of communication between management and retail investors.
The company’s other bloggers deserve credit, too, especially Ben Averch, Microvision’s Global Product Manager, Wearable Displays, who actually started an independent blog about the company back in 2004.
Microvision made history today, but in a few years we’ll all look back and wonder what the fuss was about.
Update: Tiffany Bradford from Microvision tells me that in addition to the 17 comments on the blog post, she also received 14 emails from investors. A total of 31 replies is a big response. She says she plans to provide answers to any questions that were not addressed in a future blog post and with the authors directly.