Want respect? Get strategic!

To gain a seat at the table with senior management, investor relations people must talk their way into helping their companies formulate strategy, George Barrett, chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health, told several hundred IROs today in a keynote address at the 2011 NIRI Annual Conference in Orlando.

“I really do feel that you’ve got to be a part of the strategy process. It’s very difficult for you to just be a voice for it. You need to feel it in your bones,” Barrett said. He urged IROs to “assert yourself,” perhaps by suggesting to the CEO that you can better communicate strategy if you sit in on the team formulating it.

“I view IR as an extension of my ears and my eyes, and this requires strategic fluency,” said Barrett, who joined Cardinal in 2008. “Investor relations must serve as a strategic partner, not just a voice to the Street.”

Barrett said he looks to Cardinal IRO and Senior VP Sally Curley to frame the context for company strategy, convey investors’ perspectives internally to management, and help separate the noise in the market from what’s important to the company.

One question some investors love to ask is “What keeps you up at night?” As CEO of a multifaceted $99 billion healthcare company that distributes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and other products, Barrett tells it straight …

Here’s the real answer: pretty much everything.

And that’s true of a good IRO, as well.

© 2011 Johnson Strategic Communications Inc.

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