Imagine my delight when I opened up a box of Cheerios and found a surprise inside: a snap-together plastic sports car. Cool! … Yes, I know. They say men are just 8-year-old boys in grown-up bodies, and this explains my glee upon running across a cheap little toy.
Call it quirky, but the surprise in the cereal box made me think of investors and their reactions to a pleasant surprise. We’ve all seen the pop in a company’s stock price when it beats earnings estimates.
But there are other surprises a company can give its shareholders.
Investor presentations offer an opportunity. How about surprising an audience with a speech offering deep insights into your industry and markets, rather than the usual data-dump-in-a-Powerpoint-file? How about announcing a news item at a meeting, approximately simultaneous with a broad release? Or brightening up an analyst day with a bit of entertainment? In a small way, just running on time is a nice surprise (beating a 10- or 20-minute limit demands two disciplines: saying only what matters, and practicing to nail the time).
A little psychology on the substantive side also can help relationships. Sure, there aren’t many positive surprises – earnings or otherwise – in today’s brutal economy. And you can’t hold back material information.
But IROs can help management look for opportunities to highlight an unexpected benefit or unpromised outcome. An acquiring company can deliver synergies faster than projected. A new CEO can implement changes he hasn’t been ballyhooing publicly. A cost-cutting program can exceed its targets. In each case, management can influence both what it promises up-front and how well the company executes. Never over-promising should be a core principle of IR.
For investors, a surprise is like finding a toy in the cereal box. Cool!
(I’m going to go play with my car now.)
© Copyright 2009 Johnson Strategic Communications Inc.