What’s your favourite time of year? At Cision, ours happens each and every quarter when public companies issue their earnings release, a data-driven summary of their performance. That’s when we get to do what we do best: help our customers tell their best story. But sometimes a lack of careful planning can turn that story into one with an unhappy ending. Issues of poor time management or unclear messaging can reverberate through media and investor audiences, causing significant negative consequences. Mistakes happen, and when they do there’s always a lesson to be learned. Corporate communications professionals can learn from past pitfalls we’ve seen companies fall into, and help ensure a smooth earnings day next quarter.
Consider this a list of not to-do’s for earnings time.
Don’t send in the “final” document before it’s really final.
Scenario: The corporate communications team thinks the release is final and submits it to their wire service, but the accounting or executive teams are still adjusting the message.
Fallout: Multiple rounds of last-minute changes take time, potentially delaying wire delivery. Extensive changes can cause miscommunication or errors if they’re not communicated clearly.
Solution: Make sure you have a plan in place to get everyone’s final sign-off well in advance. Otherwise, you could run into the next problem.
Don’t submit the release at the last possible minute.
Scenario: It’s 4:00 p.m., and you’ve just submitted your earnings release to schedule… for 4:15 p.m.
Fallout: Editors need time to proof and format the release for accurate delivery to hundreds of media points and investor portals. The amount of time needed will depend on the length and complexity of the release. Avoid the embarrassment of a spelling mistake or unreadable table by providing ample set-up time.
Solution: Talk to editors at your distribution service so you know when they need your release by to make your requested distribution time.
Don’t bury the lowlights (or even the highlights).
Scenario: It was a challenging quarter for your company and there’s some not-so-great news to deliver.
Fallout: Media and investors read hundreds of these releases a quarter. You’ll only frustrate or confuse those readers by trying to hide news, either through vague wording or by leading them on a scavenger hunt through links and web pages.
Solution: Keep your release easy-to-read with bullets and section headings that guide your readers to the information they need. Include data within the press release so readers don’t have to go hunting for it.
Don’t create a lackluster release.
Scenario: The format and layout of the earnings release hasn’t changed since before the rise of the Internet: it’s just blocks of text and a boilerplate.
Fallout: You’ll continue to attract your already-existing audiences: loyal followers and current investors. But you may miss out on gaining new audiences, who are more likely to be attracted to an easy-to-read layout, eye-catching images and search or social optimization.
Solution: Earnings releases can be optimized for instant reporting by the media and easy reading for an online audience, just like with other types of content. That includes incorporating multimedia, making use of lists, bullets, section headers and adding colorful context via quotes and stories.
Achieve a winning earnings strategy every quarter by viewing the full checklist here.
About Jennifer Tolhurst
Jennifer Tolhurst is a manager of Customer Content Services at PR Newswire, where she leads a team of editors to prepare clients’ news for distribution to optimal audiences. She regularly advises organizations on how best to craft their content for SEO, earned media pick-up, and investor consumption. Follow her at @prnearnings for financial news and industry trends, or connect with her on LinkedIn.