As 2020 comes to an end, IR teams are looking to 2021 with the experiences gained from an uncommon and challenging year. Bringing a unique perspective garnered from visibility across thousands of IR programs, the Q4 team hosted a webinar to help guide IROs through the 2021 strategic planning process.
This webinar is designed to help IR teams leverage 2020s most important lessons to build the most effective strategic plan going forward. To get there, panelists explored which initiatives drove the most value in these unique times, effective capital allocation, trends for 2021, and best practices for success in this virtual environment.
Ahead of the webinar, we connected with Q4’s Investor Relations Partners, Matt Tractenberg and John Nunziati, who shared some insights around these important topics and what IROs need to know about getting their message out to the Street in effective and engaging ways while navigating continued uncertainty.
Leveraging the Lessons of 2020
The year we’ve all just weathered brought with it lessons on many fronts. No one could have imagined how 2020 played out, and it’s imperative that we take what it taught us as we work through strategic planning for 2021. The panel of experts touched on several of these important lessons, including:
- Regardless of the shape of the world, engagement is ALWAYS critical. They may have been forced to look for new ways to do it, but IROs needed to engage in 2020. The pivot to virtual may have been uncomfortable, but many embraced it and did what was most prudent by focusing on what they were doing to preserve financial integrity, proactively addressed diversity and inequality, and provided as much information as they could as they made their way through the year. Panelists discussed what worked best and how IROs balanced this communication with the massive uncertainty around their outlook
- Flexibility allowed IROs to adopt innovative methods of engaging, and communicating their message. While KPIs may have remained in spirit, we went about achieving those goals in very different ways. A key lesson was that physical presence is important, but IR as a trade has the luxury of not requiring important conversations happen at any specific location. We’ve seen other industries get decimated this year. The silver lining is that many of the methods we’ve adopted in 2020 because of necessity, will likely remain as a result of the cost savings and efficiency gains.
- Staying focused is key. IR teams have to continue to deliver quarter after quarter. While 2020 may have been a year without comparison, the investment community will compare your performance to prior years, as they would normally. IROs have to work with their management teams to develop and deliver a compelling investment thesis which captures the opportunities they see for their company in the landscape they face.
So many of these important lessons are not new, but rather have only been reinforced during the pandemic, like the need for consistent and transparent communication. That said, we have seen new strategies, methods, and emphasis introduced to meet these needs, including the transition to virtual versions of earnings calls, investor days and NDRs, and a heightened focus on all aspects of ESG. Panelists discussed some of these strategies and how clients are planning to make them permanent fixtures of their IR programs.
Looking Ahead to 2021
In looking ahead to 2021, the webinar touched on how the lack of visibility and sustained uncertainty will impact IR strategic planning and how they’re counseling clients in this environment.
“Given the unusual nature of this year, and the level of uncertainty ahead, the task of planning can be a challenge. However, IR teams definitely need to have a plan,” explained John. “In many ways, the advice IROs give to their management teams is the same counsel they should consider for planning their company response to the current outlook: now is not the time to go silent.”
Matt Tractenberg and the other panelists walked webinar attendees through the planning process, including understanding management expectations, plan development within the uncertainty of the next 12 months, key tactical details, and more. But this year, these standard components of strategic planning will be viewed through the lens of a unique year ahead, including a continued focus on remote work, expectations around a shift in the economic environment as we approach the second half of the year and investor inquiries about a return to normalcy.
The Bigger Lessons?
And while there are certainly many lessons to be learned around strategies and execution, some of the most important go beyond IR strategic planning.
“Many professionals, myself included, were forced to find more balance in their lives during 2020,” says Matt. “That carries over to how we manage our teams, how we schedule work, and how we set expectations with stakeholders. Since March, I think most business leaders have incorporated an explicit goal of maintaining the mental health of their workforce as the lines of work/life have disappeared. I expect companies to continue to build in mechanisms to ensure their teams are taking enough time off and are well-grounded.” To learn more about best practices for 2021 strategic planning, be sure to watch the webinar recording on-demand.