PR meets investor relations

David Doze is vice-president of Toronto-based Goodman Communications. It used to be pretty simple to draw a line between the roles of public relations and investor relations professionals. At one time, companies maintained separate PR and IR strategies and departments,...

David Doze is vice-president of Toronto-based Goodman Communications.

It used to be pretty simple to draw a line between the roles of public relations and investor relations professionals. At one time, companies maintained separate PR and IR strategies and departments, each operating with its own set of resources. Relationships with outside agencies were generally kept separate as well.

It made sense. While one group focused its attention on customers (both existing and potential), as well as the general public and the internal audience, the other focused on shareholders. And for some companies, this configuration still works. But for others – especially start-up firms in the technology sector – the world has changed radically.

With the growth of public markets, and a heightened expectation of access to company information (via media such as the Internet), the traditional view of what constitutes the customer and shareholder audiences has changed. Today, the customers and employees of many companies are also prospective shareholders. And, as such, they represent a critically important audience. After all, who understands better the value of a product or service than those who have direct knowledge of and involvement with that commodity?

Recently, The Globe and Mail ran a photograph that showed a group of employees seated in the cafeteria of an insurance company. Above them was an electronic message board posting the firm’s current stock price. When asked why the board had been installed, a spokesman said it was important for employees to understand the relationship between the work they do each day and the success of the company. His point: None of us is immune from such considerations.

Today, financial announcements and advisories are followed in the public arena to a degree never before seen. Recently, for example, our agency staged a Q3 conference call for client SureFire Commerce, a Montreal-based e-commerce solutions company. The call, organized primarily for analysts across North America, attracted significant participation. And nearly 40% of those who took part were individual shareholders (or potential shareholders) – what we would have once termed the ‘general public.’

This audience now follows the wire services and online financial sites very closely indeed. And they expect to have equal access to detailed investor information. Indeed, we may soon see legislation in the U.S. enforcing increased public access to such information.

Public companies no longer have any choice but to provide access to investor information on an equal basis. If you benefit from cash-rich public markets, then you also have to ensure that your PR/IR agency is ready to meet the challenge of wide public disclosure.

So what does this mean for public relations agencies today? Well, for a start, it means building a shared understanding between those who work in the PR and IR departments. And, in the long-term, it means tearing down the firewall between these practice areas. No longer can the two disciplines work in isolation. Instead, experience, expertise and resources must be shared internally to ensure that the client’s needs receive consideration from the broadest possible range of angles.

Consider how Goodman handles GT Group Telecom, a client in our technology and telecommunications practice, which is headed by my colleague Carolyn Luke.

We helped launch Group Telecom in October. Today, a little more than five months later, the company is listed on both the TSE and NASDAQ. And in that time, their PR and IR needs have grown tremendously. To meet those needs, and ensure that we can seamlessly deliver a consistent and effective strategy, Goodman has had to draw upon expertise across the agency. The end result of all this has been a fundamental change in the way we design and deploy account teams, and conduct our work internally.

Working for emerging technology clients such as SureFire Commerce and Group Telecom has also had an effect on our recruitment and hiring practices. Priority is given not only to those with superior communications skills and media experience, but to those who can read a balance sheet. And if they can read a balance sheet, we look to see if they also have the ability to step back and assess the bigger picture.

Obviously, PR and IR still have many separate and distinct functions. But the ability to blend these practices has become ever more essential to success in a world where your customer may also be your shareholder.

Also in this report:

* Dot-coms put best face forward: PR playing a larger role in communication strategies of online enterprises p.B2

* Branding dot-coms with PR poses challenges: Companies must resist impulse to move too quickly, or to shift positioning constantly p.B4

* High-tech PR expertise in short supply p.B6

* PR firms must show creativity in hiring p.B7

* Web impacting corporate reputation: Companies want to know what’s being said about them online – and by whom p.B8

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.