Blogs: a neglected channel
| 21 May 2012
Blogging is a great way for IROs
to engage with investors and analysts online, but few companies have taken
The best IR programs have always taken the discussion with investors
beyond mere required disclosure, adding color and context to the numbers –
and blogging is arguably the ideal online channel for that purpose.
But blogs have failed to find a place in most IROs’ toolkits to the extent
that the 140-character tweet has, according to Toronto-based IR consultant
Q4 Web Systems, which has surveyed social media use by IROs since 2009.
‘Blogs may represent too much of a sustained effort or be viewed as
high-risk in terms of disclosure,’ observes Sheryl Joyce, director of
marketing and communications at Q4.
Of those companies that do blog, technology firms are the most active,
followed by those in the services industry, she reports. Small-cap companies
are the most prolific IR-specific bloggers, followed by large-cap and then
One company that’s keen to promote IR blogging is Dell, which has been a
pioneer in exploring social media for its IR program. The tech firm’s IR
blog site, DellShares, is a content-rich, investor-centric platform for
news, interviews, links and updates that aims to keep the company top of
mind with tech investors. DellShares is one of many Dell blog sites, each
targeted at specific audiences.
Mehok, the Dell IR team member responsible for DellShares, reports that in a
2010 survey of the blog’s audience, Dell found that both the buy side and
sell side prefer ‘timely, relatively short blogs’ that are ‘easy to digest’
and that add incremental information and insight beyond the company press
Investors also want to see and hear management outside of scripted calls,
which Dell provides through numerous video blog (vlog) interviews posted on
‘We are definitely not standing still,’ Mehok says. ‘We’re always looking
for ways to improve and further our reach.’ The company recently added an IR
website link to its ticker page on Yahoo! Finance.
‘The bottom line is that people will be talking about your company in social
media whether you want them to or not,’ Mehok adds. ‘IROs should take a
proactive approach – they need to be a part of, and help form, the
On the network
Writing on your own blog is only one option, however: companies can also
post on blogging networks to get their message out there. For example,
Seeking Alpha, the financial blogging site, has attracted articles from
companies like Walmart and Netflix.
Marbach, who launched the China Stock Blog (now part of the Seeking Alpha
network) in 2004, argues that social media channels can be invaluable,
particularly for small-cap companies trying to stand out from the clutter of
online financial information.
He points out, however, that there is a scarcity of investor-oriented
platforms that are easy to integrate into an IR website, with the possible
exceptions of Seeking Alpha and StockTwits, the ticker-specific Twitter
stream. That gap is the main reason most IROs have not fully embraced
blogging, he says.
Marbach still sees great promise for small-cap companies that creatively use
multiple blog sites. He encourages IROs not just to take their stories to
sites such as Seeking Alpha but also to actively seek out financial bloggers
who might write about their firm, the same way they’d seek out new sell-side
Words of warning
Attorney Tom McCoy, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers and former general
counsel at Advanced Micro Devices, approaches the question of
investor-focused blogs with all the caution and skepticism you’d expect from
a former general counsel and litigation attorney.
McCoy is not enamored of IR-specific blogs and is even more skeptical of CEO
blogs. There ‘has to be a compelling purpose’ beyond ego gratification to
justify the CEO or CFO blogging in his or her own name, he argues, warning
that general counsel and boards of directors will ask ‘plenty of hard
advises any CEO who blogs to focus his or her communication ‘on what is
really important to the business’, which he regards as employees, customers
and business partners.
Sell-side and buy-side analysts are more interested in what a company says
to those audiences and are smart enough to find the relevant information
they need outside of a corporate blog specifically crafted for them, he
Marty Dunn, also an O’Melveny partner and a former SEC deputy director, adds
that the risks inherent in CEO blogging need to be weighed against the
While acknowledging that a CEO blog can help humanize a company’s senior
leadership, Dunn warns that informal and unscripted communication can veer
close to the line on selective disclosure and will be scrutinized by the
plaintiff’s bar and the SEC if things go wrong.
Both McCoy and Dunn advise that executive blogs in particular should be
treated like any IR-generated communication, adhering to a rigorous process
of drafting and legal review.
Despite reservations, however, McCoy acknowledges that companies need to be
in the flow. ‘We’re past the day when an organization can scratch its head
and puzzle over social media,’ he concludes.
Tips to help you start blogging
Must-dos and nice-to-dos from some of the experienced professionals
who contributed to this article.
-Figure out your objectives and audiences. Will your
blog content be IR-specific, or will you leverage content from across
the company – including R&D, manufacturing, marketing, PR and
international operations, for instance?
-Establish a rigorous process and policies for
content development, authorship and legal review.
-Think through the role your blog will play in your
crisis management plan: will blog posts stay in the archive forever?
-Don’t just regurgitate existing company press
releases – provide original insight, context and industry news and
-Send out a brief email directly and a tweet with a
link notifying key audiences when a new blog is posted.
-Use your blog to solicit questions from shareholders
in advance of a quarterly earnings call or AGM.
-Post video interviews with your CEO or CFO around
key events such as quarterly earnings calls or analyst meetings. Add a
transcript for all video blogs, as some users’ firewalls will block
-Post your company’s discussion policy and a link to
its safe harbor disclaimer.
-Give your blog a proper personality – post
appropriate contact info, bios and pictures or avatars of the main
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