May 22, 2013

The Answer

If you won the lottery, what would you do?

What about the IR lottery? If you could have anything you wanted, know any detail, command any price, possess every tool, what would you most wish for in the IR chair?

It’s a darned good corporate gig, as corporate gigs go. You could say, “I’d like to be CEO.” That’s a fine aspiration and I hope we see more folks move from the IR chair to the head of the boardroom table. About the only thing the IR department wants for – given how strapped it generally is for staff – is time managing people. But it covers every other thing, from operations, to strategy, to financial performance.

Would it be better targeting tools? I’m long removed from the grunt work of building the shareholder base, but I’ve done it. Story and audience – investment thesis and shareholder profile – never go out of style. If you could have the best targeting list, so good the Justice Department would subpoena it if you were a news reporter…well, that would be nice.

How about the skills for writing the perfect earnings release? Say you could hire some great writers. Merge the alkaline prose of Cormac McCarthy with the verve and sass of Jim Harrison and the poignant pacing of Alice Sebold. Your press release would be the talk of Wall Street. No Country for Old Men, The Great Leader, and Lucky, rolled up with financial statements and a GAAP reconciliation. Analysts would hang on your every perfectly turned phrase.Maybe what you dream about is the ultimate website. Imagine a destination more intuitive than an iPhone, more informative than a National Geographic Special, so artfully compelling that your account rep at the ad agency would shake her head in amazement and yet so compliant that your General Counsel would nod approvingly in agreement.

None of those? Maybe it’s…The Answer. You’re in the hallway and your stock is up 2.5% on the day while the peer group is down and the S&P 500 is sideways. Here comes the CEO, she flashes a smile, says, “Good day for us. What do you think drove it?”

Oh, for the perfect answer. “More buyers than sellers!” No. That’s not good enough.

“The acumen in the IR chair you could recognize better at bonus time!” Tempting.

You can work your IR fingers to the bone, do everything right, and you’re still not guaranteed the result you want. And it all can ring hollow without The Answer.

What if you said: “I’ll tell you tomorrow exactly what behavior was behind it.”

What’s that worth?

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