As investor relations professionals, we need an audience-centered approach to communicating with investors. And the audience, more than ever, is online. So we need to think strategically about our company websites and their IR sections.
Do they deliver what investors need and want? Do they accomplish what we want?
Think of a corporate website as a place that people experience. When an investor comes to your home page, it’s like a prospect stepping onto the front porch of a house you’re trying to sell. The investor looks in the front door, takes it all in, and prepares to go in and walk around. Other sections of the site are the rooms.
An investor has three kinds of experiences when he or she visits your website:
- Finds information – which, of course, is why he’s there.
- Forms impressions – your company brand comes across in many ways.
- Interacts in some way – which may be your one chance to engage.
We should evaluate our websites in terms of these experiences for our audience – what they’re looking for and what drives value in their minds.
Over the years, I’ve worked on corporate websites to benchmark best practices for what IR content should be there, and I’ve done a good deal of writing for the web.
The strategic IR focus for a website looks at whether we are delivering the right information for investors in easy-to-find, usable forms, creating the right impressions of a company committed to creating value for shareholders; and inviting investors to interact with the company in convenient and helpful ways.
The IR purposes of the website must integrate with other goals – marketing, recruiting and retention, public affairs – because all of these audiences overlap. A corporate website must integrate with offline sources of information – the print reports, SEC filings, product promotion, media releases and so on that all of these audiences also see.
Tactically, we can do a great deal to maximize the value of our websites to investors. My own “audit” checklist for IR websites has about 40 potential features or content items.
But checking off information items isn’t the main point. The experience of the investor when he or she comes to this place – your front door – is the main point.
Some resources to guide IR people in maximizing our websites:
- IR Website Checklist – a starting point on what should be there
- NIRI’s Executive Alert on websites Sept. 4, 2008
- SEC regulatory guidance on websites Aug. 7, 2008
- A web usability guru on IR websites – highlights of 2009 e-book for sale