As the quarterly earnings season approaches, public relations teams will become busy drafting press releases, preparing executives for interviews and contacting reporters. Winning media mentions from earnings releases has become more challenging than ever. Media coverage of earnings releases has decreased substantially due to news room cutbacks. More outlets automate all or some of their earnings coverage through artificial intelligence. Others only cover earnings announcements that involve large companies, huge stock price swings or a well-known charismatic CEO.
Yet hard-working PR professionals on the top of their game can still win positive media coverage. Following these steps will encourage media outlets and other financial commentators to favorably mention your company.
Work with investor relations. Investor relations and public relations teams often fail to communicate sufficiently. In a silo corporate structure, PR often reports to the chief marketing officer; investor relations answers to the chief financial officer. PR can improve communications with their investor relations colleagues by informing them about media coverage throughout the year, providing information about industry trends and timelines of upcoming activities such as trade shows and presentations at both in-person and online events.
Investor relations will likely benefit from information from PR. “If the PR team advised the investor relations staff of the trends and sent factoids and quotes from team experts ahead of time, the latter staff could respond confidently to shareholder calls following an industry event,” explains Nadel Phelan, CEO and founder of Nadel Phelan Inc. in Entrepreneur.
Include financial tables. Financial tables are the most important part of the release for most audiences. Journalists at financial media often configure their searches to search for specific line items, traders use them to create alerts, and analysts like to see information in cash flow statements and other tables, writes Matt Van Tassel, supervisor of global disclosure services for Business Wire, in the white paper Best Practices for Enhancing Earnings Releases.
Include bullet points. Bullet points, in addition to other techniques for readers who skim, help readers quickly spot the main news elements. Tassel recommends:
- use three to six bullet points,
- provide clear and concise sentences, and
- list bullets according to importance with emphasis on events that drove the numbers.
Find a unique hook. A glowing earnings report alone probably won’t win media mentions. Media success calls for a unique hook. “That could be bringing in a new executive with a great pedigree, positioning your company as trending in a way that opposes the rest of the industry, or pivoting after a challenging recent past,” says Sarah Babbitt, account director at Shift Communications.
Build relationships. Mutually helpful relationships with reporters generally tend to encourage more coverage, regardless of the topic or outlet. Reach out to journalists early and give them ample time — and reason — to slot your earnings report into their busy agenda, Babbitt says. Journalists are more likely to cover the earnings release if they are already aware of the company and its strategy.
Include an executive quote. Executive quotes and quotes from subject-matter experts can add vitality to a story. They can provoke emotion, create images and provide anecdotes or unique perspectives. Almost half of earnings stories include an executive quotation from the earning press release, illustrating the importance of spending sufficient time to craft the best possible quote for the release, write Lisa McGann, senior account supervisor, and Sarah Braunstein, account executive at Edelman, for IR Magazine. Quotes offer the best technique to add flair to news releases and other PR content, but most executive quotes are verbose, unhelpful and downright boring. Seek quotes with an authentic voice or opinion, special insight or shock value.
Consider an executive interview. Giving reporters access to executives increases the probability of coverage because interviews generate unique content, say McGann and Braunstein. An exclusive CEO interview will draw the greatest amount of interest. An interview with a divisional executive can also draw interest, especially if that particular division is less exposed in the media and drives the company’s valuation or expected future growth. Just be sure to prepare executives for live or recorded media interviews. Since many media interviews are now done online, it’s also critical to how to avoid common pitfalls of remote media interviews.
Set expectations. Most top executives have high expectations for media coverage of their earnings announcements. PR teams should set clear expectations about media coverage and explain what’s required to win coverage. Also set expectations about what media coverage of earnings calls typically entails, Braunstein advises. Those items include: a comparison with last year’s earnings of the same period, reference to consensus, and if the company beat estimates.
Think digital. The reduced number of pages in print editions of newspapers constrains the amount of earnings coverage, but many publications still include earnings reports in their online versions. Many online-only financial publications and blogs – many with large followings and a high level of trust among investors — also offer in-depth coverage of earnings reports
Monitor media coverage. Continuously monitoring the media provides several benefits. Time-starved reporters write stories quickly, which may lead to mistakes and unintended inaccuracies. Software-written articles can also contain errors. Ongoing media monitoring can spot mistakes and near real-time alerts allow PR teams to quickly request media outlets to correct errors. Be sure to monitor for abbreviations, nicknames and common misspellings of your organization.
Media measurement will gauge the overall success of PR and investor relations teams during earnings season. Share of voice can gauge how well media coverage fares compares to competitors, and sentiment analysis can reveal the positive/negative scores of the earned media placements. Social media monitoring can provide insight into investor reactions to the earnings announcement and the earnings call with analysts. PR teams can improve their strategy by learning what leads to positive and negative reactions.
Bottom Line: The quarterly earnings seasons offers publically traded companies PR opportunities. Achieving favorable media mentions can be challenging, but proper PR practices greatly improve the odds.
This article was first published on Oct. 3, 2018, and updated on Dec. 21, 2020.
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William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.