IR websites come up short

Sep 26, 2013
<p>ICR surveys nearly all the websites of companies in the Russell 3000</p>

What could you improve about your IR website? Are you getting the basics right? And how could you soup it up?

Those are questions tackled by a new survey from ICR, the US-based financial communications firm, which reviews the IR sites of an impressive 2,894 companies in the Russell 3000 index. It was a big project, involving the work of six independent consultants. ‘It took some time,’ Don Duffy, ICR’s president, says wryly.

Website reviewOne of the key areas companies could improve on, according to the results, is responsiveness, specifically by email. In a classic reaction-time test, ICR sent a question to the contact email address on each IR site, asking about the fully diluted share count for that day, and then measured how long it took to respond.

The results are not that encouraging: a third of companies took longer than two days to respond, while slightly more than a third (35 percent) never got back at all, despite ICR waiting patiently for two weeks.

Duffy’s firm handles outsourced IR for some clients and gets to see the kind of emails that come in via the website. He says IR teams should be paying more attention, as the majority of emails that come through are from institutional investors.

‘For the clients where we handle it, we’re amazed by the size of institutions that will email first,’ he says, noting they are often asking to clarify information or requesting a call.

The survey also reveals a dearth of video on IR sites. The issue with video, of course, is different from that of how quickly you respond to emails; the former is more of a luxury item.

Still, video is a useful way to tell your story to investors and analysts who can’t visit your firm in person, so it’s surprising that 96 percent of surveyed companies don’t include any moving pictures on their IR site.

Duffy thinks IR teams could make better use of video, but stresses that he’s not talking about the earnings webcasts put on by the likes of Yahoo! earlier this year. ‘I don’t think CEOs and CFOs make very good TV personalities,’ he states.

Instead, he advocates using video to take investors beyond your filings to help them better understand the business. ‘It might be showing your products or services, it might be to showcase your physical assets,’ he suggests.

Despite these could-do-better points, ICR’s study finds that most companies are getting the basics right. Almost all of the 2,894 include a comprehensive press release and filing archive – the most popular items on IR websites – while 97 percent allow access from the corporate site with a single click, an area Duffy says has improved over the years.

‘We think the website providers are arguing for that,’ he says. ‘Initially, when a lot of folks launched these sites, they weren’t as accessible.’

Duffy also notes that, despite the email test getting a mixed response, companies are better responders than they used to be. ‘We were amazed by the number of companies that responded very quickly – and when I say quickly, I mean within the hour,’ he says. ‘There are a lot of companies, including very large firms, that provided answers including offers to get on the phone.’

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