Over the past 2 months, organizations have been dispersed, forced to keep business moving efficiently across geographies and time zones, while dealing with the impacts of a global pandemic that has spared no industry. Running investor relations remotely certainly brings its challenges, but given it may be unavoidable for the foreseeable future, IROs are looking to make the best of this difficult situation.
1. Stay connected with your team
Perhaps the most important bit of advice from Karen and Matt is to stay in close contact with your teams, both the investor relations and communications team as well as management. This ongoing exchange is critical to ensuring that IR stays abreast of changes within the business and how updates and challenges are communicated – both internally and externally.
With so many touch points (c-suite, PR, employee communications, analyst relations, finance, accounting, treasury) within the organization, it’s incredibly important for an IRO to prioritize regular connections while working remotely. This contact should be formalized with short, recurring calls scheduled weekly or monthly, and organized by team, functional area or subject matter. This structure and discipline helps ensure that everyone is at the same point in projects and enables timely information transfer.
Matt recommends using video as a way to encourage team engagement when you can’t be in the same room. “People are a lot less likely to zone out or multitask when they’re in full view of the team.”
2. Keep focus
Unfortunately, the new work from home imperative can make for a less productive work environment. As we all work to navigate the added distractions of this new setting, an IRO has to be as responsive to analysts and investors as ever – maybe even more so, with stakeholders so hungry for direction and meaningful company updates.
“We’re all dealing with these distractions – home schooling, tech glitches, suboptimal work space – but it’s incumbent on each of us to settle into this and understand that staying visible and connected is critical to the success of the business,” says Karen. “It may not be easy, but it’s imperative to continue to respond to and conduct investor calls in a timely manner, as if we were at the office.”
That said, Karen and Matt remind IROs that they’re all in the same boat right now and should cut each other a bit of slack. Expect the occasional barking dog and a myriad other distractions during these calls, and don’t wait for a moment without distractions, as it may never come.
3. Clarify priorities
In this new context, it’s incredibly important to stay focused and prioritized. With so many pieces moving at the same time, it’s easy to try to do too many things at once.
“Don’t try and boil the ocean,” Matt advises. “Rather, focus down on a manageable number of projects, knocking out priorities then coming back to the next set.”
If leading a team, the IRO should provide structure to ensure consistent refocusing of priorities and a narrow focus on the organization’s key objectives. If, as is often the case, the IRO is a one-human-show, the task at hand becomes asking leadership for clarity around top priorities and staying within that scope.
Karen also suggests adding one specific tactic to address any gaps in focus or clarity during this time, “It’s a good idea to insist on a tighter sign-off process around anything that will be distributed externally. It’s too easy for things to slip through the cracks now, so don’t assume that because you’ve sent something out, it’s been reviewed and approved. Request approval in the affirmative to ensure agreement on both content and tone before anything hits the wires. When it’s out, it’s out.”
4. Leverage available tech
“Tools and technology can be very helpful in managing investor relations remotely,” explains Matt. “Where they can, IROs should incorporate or introduce new tools that increase organization and efficiency.”
Matt and Karen suggest that technology that can track projects, assign delivery dates, identify milestones and enable collaboration is a good place to start. Google’s suite of web-based office tools like Docs and Sheets can enable collaboration and mitigate version control concerns for dispersed teams. Another work management offering is Smartsheet, which can be used to assign tasks, track project progress, manage calendars, and share documents with a tabular user interface.
Finally, IROs managing things from home should review information security policies and protocols to ensure the integrity of any sensitive information being transferred over home networks.
5. Encourage work/life balance
This one seems intuitive, but takes a bit of attention. IROs should encourage teams and colleagues (and yourself!) to find the line where work ends and personal life begins. Creating a schedule and then blocking off time for calls, specific projects and, yes, yourself, can be a way to ensure this delineation.
“Being stuck in the house provides a constant opportunity to return to ‘the office,’ so we all need to be mindful of the distinction between work and life,” cautions Matt. “When we can, we should all put our pencils down at 5 p.m., which can mean deciding not to respond to an email or pick up that project until tomorrow.”
6. Tap your network
Maintaining balance often includes staying connected to your IR peers and network. Not only can connection during this time of separation be therapeutic and provide an opportunity for venting, but it can help provide some much needed context.
Karen and Matt recommend talking to IROs who have lived through other crises. While this pandemic is different from 9/11, the housing crisis and others, those who survived those challenges can remind us all that we’ll get through this as we did those.
In addition to your own professional network, look to connect with industry groups, such as NIRI, which offers a host of resources, including daily webinars and office hours. We’re literally all finding our way through this unsettling situation, so take advantage of connecting with, and learning from your, peers.
Have more questions about how to navigate today’s market? Matt Tractenberg shares his advice to the most frequently asked questions he’s receiving from clients in our post, Investor Relations During COVID-19: Most Frequently Asked Questions.