With all the new opportunities they have to engage investors on various social media platforms (discussed here and here), public companies remain somewhat focused on driving traffic back to their own corporate websites.
Last week, online travel site Expedia (Ticker: EXPE) stepped up its efforts in this area by putting out an earnings release on Yahoo! Finance entitled “Expedia, Inc. Earnings Press Release Available on Company's IR Site”.
On Expedia's subsequent earnings call, SVP of Investor Relations, Stu Hass explained:
“You may also have noticed we have changed the way we are distributing our earnings release. Rather than put the release out over the newswire, we are pointing people to our IR site where they can pull down the PDF version. You should expect us to continue this practice going forward.”
Aside from the use of PDF, this move makes sense, and benefits Expedia in two ways. It brings investors to Expedia’s corporate site where a variety of shareholder resources are easily accessible and also provides the company with an audience it can potentially monetize.
Along with this move by Expedia, I see a number of other opportunities public companies have to drive traffic to their own corporate websites:
Provide your Corporate URL during Earnings Calls
While reading a substantial number of earnings call transcripts this quarter, I was surprised to find that many IROs fail to effectively identify their corporate URLs during their calls. This is somewhat puzzling considering that earnings calls are one of the few opportunities IROs have to publicly engage investors on a wide scale. Earnings calls provide a platform to promote the investor section of your corporate website, investor update email subscriptions, and any other investor related opportunities.
What I did see were many instances where corporate websites were referred to without their URLs being explicitly stated, instead using language such as “our investor relations website”, “our website” etc. In fact, some IROs didn’t even mention the existence of a website at all.
If you want investors to find you, always mention your corporate website URL (preferably a direct link to your investors page) during earnings calls --- even if it’s obvious. --- and, especially, if a transcript is being published on SeekingAlpha.com, the financial blog aggregator. It can only increase the number of visitors to your site.
Create a Dedicated Investor Website URL
While simply mentioning your corporate URL on your earnings calls is a no-brainer, some companies take it a step further. Consider the folks at Hospira (Ticker: HSP). They have a clear investor relations URL that doesn’t require you to click on multiple tabs and/or access multiple pull-down menus on their corporate website in order to find what you’re looking for. Rather than the typical variations i.e. ir.hospira.com, hospira.com/investors, investor.hospira.com etc., it’s simply, HospiraInvestor.com. Easy. And they make a point of consistently mentioning the URL on their quarterly earnings calls. Smart.
Leverage SeekingAlpha.com’s Earnings Call Transcripts
Each quarter, SeekingAlpha publishes thousands of transcripts of public company earnings calls. At times (see above), IROs introduce these calls by providing investors a place to find more extensive earnings related information –- their corporate website. However, rarely are these web addresses hyperlinked in the SeekingAlpha transcripts. This presents opportunity.
Whether or not you wish to have your earnings call transcripts in the public domain, the fact is they’re there and accessible. And, because SeekingAlpha has a substantial readership of both institutional and high net worth retail investors, it would make sense to leverage your transcripts by having them drive traffic back to your corporate site. SeekingAlpha should be able to help by hyperlinking any mention of your corporate website in your earnings call transcripts as they do periodically with other transcripts and thus drive traffic back to your site.
Give Out Your Contact Information
With the rise of social media, consumer expectations have increased dramatically. People expect companies to respond to their needs, and respond quickly. They also expect to interface with real people, not those hiding behind generic email addresses or Twitter accounts.
The same applies for investors. Of the many transcripts I reviewed this quarter, Tier Tech (Ticker: TIER) is the only company that seems to understand these concepts. At the beginning of their most recent call, the Tier Tech CFO said the following:
“We invite shareholders and analysts who wish to speak to management about the company and its performance to schedule a meeting by contacting our CFO, Ron Johnston, at 571-382-1333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Maybe this CFO is incredibly forthcoming because he represents a small-cap public company challenged by the lack of investor interest. Or, maybe he really understands the current environment where accessibility and transparency are key. He might also recognize that both institutional and high-net worth retail investors are increasingly reading financial blogs to research stocks on sites like SeekingAlpha and just might call him because they read his transcript, had some questions, and found him approachable because he made his contact info available. Not a likely scenario if he’d simply offered a generic email address like IR@tier.com!
Virtual Investor Relations Programs
Finally, I came across this seemingly novel IR program mentioned by CFO Mike Burns of Volterra Semiconductor's (Ticker: VLTR) during his company’s Q4 2009 earnings call:
"In addition to be the evidence we’ll continue our bimonthly virtual visit programs. We hold virtual visit 101 session investors who are either new to Volterra or who have not had contact with us in the past 12 to 18 months and we hold a virtual visit 201 sessions for investors that are more familiar with Volterra, but want to get caught up on more current topics and industry issues. Please contact Heidi Flannery, Investor Relations, at 510-743-1718, if you would like to participate in any of these events."
Thanks to SeekingAlpha's transcript service, Volterra was able to promote this online investor opportunity free of charge on a site frequented by substantial numbers of institutional and high net worth retail investors. Not bad!