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Archive for April, 2013

Institutional Investors – Dependent on Mobile

The mobile industry is not only exploding – it’s rapidly eclipsing the long-lived monolith that was the desktop computer.  This trend rings true for the investor relations industry too. To gauge IR professionals’ thoughts and tendencies with regards to mobile as an integral part of their work, theIRapp™ conducted a survey of more than 200 institutional investment professionals in the first quarter of this year.

As this infographic shows, investors overwhelmingly rely on their mobile device for their work over their desktop computer. These results show the significance of mobile devices to today’s institutional investment professionals. The numbers also bring the importance of having a mobile IR strategy into the spotlight. Mobile devices – and as an extension, the mobile IR app – are becoming the new investment communication standard.

The survey demonstrated that when it comes to their work, 83% rely on their mobile devices rather than the desktop.  The survey also revealed the following:

  • 47% of investors said that the device type most conducive to obtaining information is an Apple device (iPhone, iPad or iPad Mini)
  • 21% said the Blackberry was sufficient
  •  7% rely on Android devices

With regard to devices provided to investors by their employers, 92% of those surveyed said they were provided with a mobile device by their employer.  Of those:

  • 40% are Blackberry devices
  • 22% are Apple devices (iPhone, iPad or iPad Mini)
  • 2% are Android

Depending on the type of device provided by their employer, 68% also purchased additional devices to leverage the power of iOS and Android devices to do their work.  Of the respondents, 41% carry and use 2 devices (including the one provided by the employer) and 26% carry and use 3 devices (including the one provided by the employer).

 

 

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Is Someone at the SEC Really Listening? – A Significant Clarification on the Use of Social Media and Regulation Fair Disclosure for Public Companies

In January of this year, I wrote a letter to the SEC criticizing their decision to possibly bring a claim against Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) for violation of Regulation Fair Disclosure.  I reminded them that it had been almost 5 years (August 2008 to be precise) since the regulatory body had issued its last bout of guidance.  It was then that the SEC basically condoned the use of corporate websites as an acceptable means to accomplish disclosure of material information.

Well, as we all know, the world has significantly changed since 2008 from a technology perspective – especially with respect to social media and mobile.  Websites back then were the norm – now they are somewhat mundane.  Mobile devices and social media were nowhere close in development and proliferation to what they are today.

In my letter to the SEC, I stated that given what has transpired over the past few years with respect to technology, they needed to update their commentary on Reg FD so that future Netflix situations would not occur. I argued that new guidance was needed to incorporate and allow for the growing importance of social media and mobile technology in public company communications.*

Well, I received a response from the SEC’s Chief Counsel, Thomas Kim, dated February 26 (and surprisingly not a form letter) that said:

“Although the guidance we provided in the 2008 release is principles-based, and therefore applicable to new or different types of social media and mobile technology communications, we appreciate hearing your thoughts on additional guidance that may be helpful in this area.  In the event that we decide to update our guidance, we will consider the information you have provided to us.”

I am not sure what transpired between February 26 and yesterday, but kudos to Mr. Kim and the SEC for really considering the importance of social media to public company communications.  By essentially acquitting Netflix and condoning the use of social media, the SEC is finally working to be ahead of the curve and to strive to prevent the next Internet Bubble from bursting.

The SEC’s statement yesterday said the following:

“The SEC’s report of investigation confirms that Regulation FD applies to social media and other emerging means of communication used by public companies the same way it applies to company websites.”

This is a significant development for public companies and the investor relations industry.  While I don’t want to take credit for this development, I can’t help myself.

What does it mean?  It means that public companies should no longer refrain or be concerned about communicating important information via social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.  It acknowledges that social media is here to stay and that companies should not only acknowledge this but should embrace the importance of this relatively new medium as a way to communicate.  And it confirms that times are a changing and that even bureaucratic organizations like the SEC are willing to listen and can sometimes be provocative and amenable in embracing new ideas.

Notwithstanding this success, additional clarity and guidance is still required. But let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.  As I did in my letter to the SEC earlier this year, I proffer thoughts on best practices on what a public company should do to ensure compliance with Reg FD when using social media:

  • Indicate each of the means by which it intends to communicate in its most recent Form 10-K.
  • For the dissemination of any material piece of information, file a Form 8-K and post material information to the investor section of its corporate website.
  • Be consistent and utilize all of the social media channels so indicated in its Form 10-K.

While not formalized at this time, what’s to think that the above 3 bullet points might not eventually be incorporated into a future SEC statement?  The SEC clearly considered my thinking in their decision to exonerate Netflix.  To the extent public companies should now embrace social media as part of their IR strategies; they should consider the above as a safe haven when doing so.

*For a copy of my letter to the SEC and SEC’s response, please email jcorbin@theirapp.com

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Mobile is Global – A wake up call for the IR industry

As Thomas Friedman said, the world is flat.  And it is getting flatter thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and “apps” as a means to communicate and conduct commerce.  Apple’s App Store and Google Play are available globally and this may explain why each now has close to or more than a million native apps available for download.

Vertically speaking, investor relations, too, is global.  It no longer should be considered regional especially for those companies on shoestring IR budgets.  Because of mobile technology, investors are able to consume information anywhere, at any time and on anything.  Similarly, mobile devices allow companies to connect with investors from parts of the world that they never before would consider connecting with.  Recognizing what is happening in technology and how people are communicating with each other, investor relations professionals should start considering, if they haven’t already, how to factor the platform of the mobile device into their IR plan for the years to come.

As all IR professionals will agree, the goal for public companies is to provide transparent and easy access to critical company and financial information.  This should apply to companies regardless of which global exchange they trade on or what language they speak.  Leveraging cross-cultural communications are companies including PR Newswire and CNW Group, the premier newswire services in the U.S. and Canada.  Both have recently incorporated into their service offerings the investor relations app platform of theIRapp™.   As many Canadians speak French, theIRapp™ and CNW offer companies the ability to have an IR app both in English and in French. Tim Griffin, VP of Product at CNW, said that being able to reach shareholders where and how they want to be reached is a key component of any company’s shareholder communications strategy, and providing shareholders with an app in their native language is the most streamlined, easy-to-launch solution to do just that.  IR apps are also now available in Spanish and Portuguese.  A Hebrew version is soon to be released by theIRapp™ for companies that trade on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange as well as the many issuers that have done primary and dual listings on U.S. exchanges.

To facilitate the transmission of public company information to investors throughout the world, mobile strategies are beginning to replace online/desktop strategies. Developing nations throughout Africa, for example, are leapfrogging the costly infrastructure required of hard wired Internet that powers many desktop computers in developed nations. Rather, they are relying upon mobile to advance their citizens’ ability to conduct commerce and integrate into the 21st Century.  Michael Saylor in his book, The Mobile Wave, suggests that mobile technology is and will continue to allow for individuals and companies who previously were cut off from modern society, to engage and compete.  What an exciting time we are living in.

According to the World Bank, the number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide has grown from fewer than 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion now.  Of these, nearly 5 billion are from developing countries.  According to African Information Solutions (“African Is Cool”), the Zimbabwe and Zambia markets have compelling and interesting reasons to require mobile solutions.  Recently, Africa is Cool partnered with theIRapp™ on a smartphone application that allows African stock exchange traded companies to have their IR content available via mobile. Graham Young of Africa is Cool said that having an IR app enables listed company clients to have a closer relationship with top investors throughout the world who previously wouldn’t even have known these companies in Africa existed.

Apps are an integral part of the information revolution currently underway.  More than 30 billion mobile apps were downloaded in 2011.  It is therefore no wonder that IR professionals are now considering native IR apps as part of their communications strategies.  Companies such as Colgate PalmoliveWalmart , Marathon Oil and Nestlé, to name a few, have IR apps available in the App Store and Google Play.  IR apps are a simple way for investors to engage with critical company and stock information. Apps deliver easy sharing of important qualitative content (e.g. audio conference calls, presentations, videos) that is company generated but up until now could only be accessed by going to a company’s website through desktop computing.

The world is quickly changing.  Opportunities abound.  And, this is in large part due to the advent of new technology, particularly mobile technologies.  Not only is mobile easy and cost effective, it is also fun and engaging.  From one IR professional to another, our industry should quickly get on board and take part in this exciting adventure.

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