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As a first-time CFO, you have undoubtedly taken on new and broader responsibilities, not only inside your organization but as the primary point of contact for the capital markets. Depending on your background, the investor relations learning curve can feel daunting: building and maintaining relationships with the sell-side, ensuring timely disclosure of material information, and understanding the shifts in your investor base are all among the new items on your daily task list.

With the focus on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) reporting, new SEC rules to enhance MD&A reporting, and the expected surge in shareholder activism in 2021, investor relations has never been more of a strategic imperative. This means you have an opportunity to influence and enhance your company’s investor relations program in unique and innovative ways. Here are five ideas to help drive improved valuation and earn the confidence of investors, the board and your CEO.

Refresh the Investment Thesis

The investment thesis is the cornerstone of your company’s reason for being. It is a concise statement that explains the problem you solve, the unique value of that solution, your competitive advantage, how you generate cash and the market opportunity for your products or services. In short, it answers an investor’s first question: “Why should I buy your stock.” In refreshing the investment thesis, be sure to include not only the qualitative measures that support your argument but also such intangibles as management pedigree and the company’s mission, vision and values.

Articulate an Achievable Growth Strategy

Having a clear, consistent and measurable growth strategy gives investors confidence in your company’s long-term prospects – and their ability to profit from your performance. We typically recommend that clients prove out their strategy through short- and long-term milestones, both financial and operational. Update investors on these milestones regularly. Taking this kind of “report card” approach reinforces the company’s credibility and creates a simple yet comprehensive structure that is applicable across all of your communications.

Build ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Into the Narrative

Embedding sound environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices into your operations is no longer optional. Indeed, ESG often is a primary screen that companies must pass before even being considered for investment. If your company does not have an ESG framework, we recommend that you begin the journey with these steps: conduct a “materiality assessment” to understand the ESG areas of greatest importance to your stakeholders in evaluating your company, develop measurable goals to address those areas, and then communicate your focus areas and progress against those goals across your investor communications on an ongoing basis.

Feed Investors’ Growing Demand for Digital Communications

COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of video conferencing platforms and left an indelible lesson about the investment community’s appetite for communications: there is no such thing as too much. Regardless of when the world returns to normal, Zoom and other online tools are here to stay; use them to your advantage. Use virtual non-deal roadshows and Virtual Investor Days to showcase the depth of your management team, including key executives from marketing, R&D and other functional areas. Conduct virtual tours to give investors a behind-the-scenes look at the company. Upload an investor presentation narrated by the CEO. Create videos that highlight key themes that enhance your competitiveness.

Unlock the Power of Storytelling

Presented with two investment ideas, an investor will inevitably select the one that is communicated more effectively. And the secret to an effective idea is a good story. While putting the numbers in context and quantifying the outlook are indispensable skills for the CFO, you will come across with infinitely more credibility by incorporating effective storytelling into your delivery. Presentation coaching can help you build confidence by internalizing key messages and employing pace, story structure and content. Body language and vocal control are essential elements of a powerful presentation, so be sure to work with someone experienced in virtual delivery coaching.

Contact us to discuss how we can help you drive value through strategic Investor Relations!

With an international reputation as a preeminent strategic IR advisory firm, Sharon Merrill partners with IROs and the C-Suite to drive value for both external and internal stakeholders. For more than 35 years, clients have relied on our senior-level counsel and communications expertise to guide them through every challenge – and meet every opportunity. Whether you need to improve your IR program, manage a crisis, develop an ESG program or simply crystallize your story, we deliver measurable results through crisp messaging, effective executive presentation development and training, and high investor engagement.  We take a strategic approach to every situation as we leverage sophisticated stakeholder engagement and innovative digital media, social media and branding strategies to help you build enduring and value-creating relationships with the right audiences. Let’s get to work!

David Calusdian

David is an accomplished communicator with more than 30 years of experience in advising and coaching CEOs, CFOs, IROs, and boards of directors through a range of critical communications events, including IPOs, quarterly earnings results, executive transitions, and M&A. David is an acknowledged authority on executive presentation coaching, investor relations strategy, investor day execution, and strategic messaging.