MARKETING AND SALES STRATEGIES

Corporate Investor Relations Web sites – the last holdouts of controlled information

UPDATE

Shortly after I posted this, I had a conversation with a well-known Investor Relations industry professional who provided some clarifications. He told me that when the first IR sites were created, there was great concern about making certain that material information related to a company was disseminated according to securities industry regulations. That concern, which still exists, means that IR professionals who control the content are very careful about what is posted and how. In many cases, the corporate IR person's hands are tied by regulations and senior management concerns and therefore they do not integrate content like other departments. Clearly corporate IR sites work for the intended audience.

I’ve decided to tone down some of my initial comments (edited below) based on my conversation with this individual. Thanks for clarifying.

But I still feel that all content on corporate sites, including the IR pages, should be integrated to create a seamless whole and I hope that companies will begin to do this.

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Nearly all public companies have an Investor Relations section on their site. Unfortunately, most (but certainly not all) of these IR sites are lame. The problem is IR content that has been hijacked by IR people who only see one narrow audience (Wall Street analysts and institutional investors) and build walls around their IR sites with no links in or out from other pages.

What companies need to recognize is that there is no longer a sharp distinction between audiences on corporate Web sites.

Assuming people don't want to go from one part of a site to another is like publishing one chapter of a book at a time with no easy way to flip back and forth to other chapters.

IR pages are read by many people, not just Wall Street types. The same is true of the Online Media Room, the partner pages, information for buyers and customers. When I am researching a company I might write about for a magazine article or book I’m writing, I go to the Online Media Room first. But then I check out the rest of the site. While many Online Media Rooms are beginning to be opened up, the IR site is one of the last holdouts.

Another problem is that certain IR Website consultants perpetuate the myth of the IR site as a stand-alone set of pages rather than part of an entire corporate online publishing effort.

I like when companies have seamless links from the media room to the IR site and also to other content (such as product pages), but very few do that. Most box the various parts of the corporate site in the naive thinking that people only go to one part of the corporate site. The truth is, people go to many aspects of a company site. Potential investors check out the media page, they look at the company's products and so on. Why not make it easy to find this other information?

For example, IBM's IR Viewpoint is good. There are some podcasts and other multimedia content there. But the IBM IR site doesn't seamlessly link to other pages on the IBM site (such as the media page or the IBM employee blogger page).

Do you work in PR or marketing for a public company or an agency that serves public companies? If so, take a look at the IR content on your site (or your clients’). How does it look? How would you feel if a potential customer or a journalist landed on these pages first? Would they be able to seamlessly link to other content?

David Meerman Scott

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