The upcoming August reporting season is set to be like no other.

Given the negative impact of COVID-19 on many companies over the last six months, it may be tempting to withdraw and look inwards, as we tend to do in times of trouble. In fact, it is now more important than ever to engage with investors.

That includes using media to reach your shareholders.

But how should companies be thinking differently about media engagement this reporting season? Here are some considerations from Cannings Strategic Communications:

1) Be clear in your messaging

A company’s financial results documents need to speak to many audiences: institutional investors, retail investors and media, as well as the company’s employees. While each of these audiences may be interested in different aspects of your results, they all have one thing in common: the need for clear information.

This can be achieved through the use of simple language, real examples, or case studies, and clear messaging to start announcements.

Adding a list of highlights in bullet points to the top of ASX statements also helps time-poor journalists, who are covering the results of multiple stories every day.  Having key performance metrics, along with year on year comparisons and associated commentary up front in your material, means media won’t have to spend time combing through dozens of pages to get to the key result numbers.

Consistently reiterating the same highlights across your results material, in videos, on investor calls and in media interviews, goes a long way to achieving consistency of your story.

2) Broaden your media engagement strategy

While COVID-19 has accelerated changes in the media landscape, including the shift to digital content, news gathering has been slowly changing over many years. While mainstream or traditional media outlets may have shrunk, digital coverage continues to expand.

This has created opportunities for listed companies targeting investors. For example,  have you considered broker podcasts, or emerging online business broadcasters? Or retail investor focused newsletters? These are all opportunities to engage with media beyond traditional mastheads so, it may be worth refreshing your media engagement approach ahead of August results.

3) Prepare – before the interview

Finance and executive teams often dedicate weeks preparing half year and full year accounts, with materials scrutinised by dozens of sets of eyes before being released to the market. But how much time is put into preparing for media interviews?

Spending time drafting speaking notes summarising results highlights as well as thinking of potential questions media may ask is a valuable use of time. And given many companies publish the details of analyst calls on the ASX, make sure there is alignment between your answers on investor calls and media interviews. You could also have a quick media refresher session to practice media interviews, particularly as most interviews are currently being conducted online.  Looking for tips? Senior Director at Cannings Luis Garcia offers five simple tips to follow for your next media interview online.

Remember: when  speaking with a journalist, keep your end audience in mind. This may differ from publication to publication, depending on whether you want to speak to retail investors or potential customers. For each interview, consider your objective and the key message you want to communicate.

4) Keep a close eye on media coverage

Closely monitoring media coverage of your competitors will provide insight into potential questions or industry themes. Like investors, journalists will often ask for commentary on a view offered by your competitors so, it’s worth keeping on top of sector news and how the media have covered emerging themes or common experiences of listed companies.  Being clear about your view of the market  will help to prepare for potentially tricky questions.

5) Be proactive

Investors are well aware this reporting season will be different because of the pandemic. However, that is no reason to limit media engagement.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has flagged it will be closely scrutinising how listed companies account for COVID-19 in the upcoming reporting season. The regulator also issued a stark reminder to provide clear and meaningful disclosures, saying, “the quality of financial reports and related disclosures is more important than ever for investors and to maintain confident and informed markets.”

We encourage companies to proactively engage with media, be open, be transparent and answer questions clearly and directly. If a journalist requests an interview, do your best to spare 10 minutes to discuss your results. Or alternatively, let media know in advance when you are holding your investor/analyst briefing, or host a media call for anyone who would like to join. Journalists appreciate it is a busy time for executives but investing time now will pay off in the long run to help establish or maintain relationships with journalists.

About Cannings

Cannings Strategic Communications is Australia’s most experienced corporate and financial communications consultancy. We partner with organisations to develop communications strategies for business-critical matters and long-term success. Our diverse and experienced team is a trusted adviser to small and large ASX listed companies, building enduring value for companies, their shareholders and their stakeholders. To speak with one of our IR consultants, contact us at [email protected]