Earnings Releases; Thinking Beyond the Quarter
Publishing quarterly results may be a question of compliance for listed companies; a routine procedure in good times, a question of ‘crisis management’ when times are not so good. But the earnings release can be about more than numbers. In reality, 12 weeks is a pretty short period in which to assess a business; particularly in the face of other competitive, seasonal and trend considerations.
Beyond the numbers, results time is still an opportunity to tell a story; put the data into perspective, cite third party evidence and other proof points to support the same. Journalists here often refer to it as ‘coulour’, they too are charged with telling a story and the more colour the firm itself can provide, the more chance there is of influencing the outcome.
The natural instinct is to ‘stick to the numbers’, but the limited exposure journalists (and analysts) have to the board can provide a valuable insight to all parties. Do they share the same vision? Are they able to execute? Do they have the same priorities? Do they understand and communicate the wider role their company plays in society; what gap it fills, what service it fulfils?
Quarterly results represent an opportunity to engage with media beyond the industry trackers and analysts. In pure content terms, the news value of most earnings reports is pretty finite – how did the company perform with respect to expectations – smart news outlets (and PR agencies) can also treat them as a way to provide a broader perspective on the company. And there are as many ways of doing that as there are reporters.
They could provide an occasion to update an alternative journalist on back office operations; key hires, infrastructure developments or other internal milestones. It may be timely to present the firm’s partner strategy (resellers, agent network etc) and approach to deriving value from the same; or an overview of the firm’s R&D strategy and vision for product development over the next five years. Legitimate as these stories are, they may not be substantial enough to generate coverage if pitched alone. The occasion of quarterly filings, however (non-disclosure conditions notwithstanding), may provide the necessary hook to secure interest. This approach is particularly effective when used selectively; either to provide additional context to a beat reporter or to engage a generalist/non-specialist journalist and providing the necessary trigger for him/her to publish.
Quarterly filings can be about more than numbers; they can be an opportunity to convey complementary messages, engage a different set of influencers, to mitigate dependency on a few beat reporters and extend your dialogue. Such ‘beyond the numbers’ activities can help to solidify, not merely the company’s reputation, but its stock price in the face of fluctuations precipitated by the numbers.
If the quarterlies represent a ‘news hook’ around which select and specific messaging can be concept and additional influencers be engaged, then the company (and the PR agency) will really be making full use of the same.