Meet the Players




Meet the AIM Players...

Financial PR (part II)

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This is the second ‘Meet the Players’ article written by our guest PR Account Executive.

This AIM specialist with a top City PR Company tells us today about some radical changes brought about by the recession. Investors will find some very interesting insights in this article.


Life in Financial PR through the recession

Some fascinating insights into the workings of AIM advisors.

I’m sat, half asleep at my desk, its 6:35am and I’m anxiously making changes to a document against the clock. I received a critical email in the early hours of this morning detailing last minute material changes to a joint venture announcement; due for release to the market at 7am – in 25 minutes’ time!

Hassled with panic, I quickly delete last night’s submission, make the necessary changes, double check them, triple check them, then nervously press the submit button to the LSE’s Regulatory News Service (RNS); a minute later and it would have been game over. But I’ve done it. I take a moment, exhale, and get on with the rest of my day…  

That was this morning.  

I am still sat at my desk 14 hours later, its 8:16pm. I’m waiting on a client; staring out of my window trying to remember the last time I made it home in time to watch trash TV, cook a square meal and put my feet up. I’m waiting on a trading update to be finalised and signed off by my client, the Board and its NOMAD before I can submit it to RNS for release at 7am tomorrow morning. It’s a profit warning and so tomorrow will be a big day. I’ll be at my desk for 6:30am, trying to minimise the negative impact of the news and communicate the company’s key strengths and messages while my phone rings off the hook with angry shareholders and impatient press wanting to know the reasons behind its plummeting share price. Let’s hope I can then go home at a reasonable hour… 


...trying to minimise the

negative impact of the news


Twenty four seven

So I guess that’s a 24 hour snap shot of a day in the life of an executive in a Financial PR firm – and that’s not even touching upon the fact that we’re in the middle of a results season!


It is a 24 hour job. There’s no real end to each day thanks to our Canadian friends at RIM (inventors of the BlackBerry). When I started the job as a junior assistant, I wasn’t given a BlackBerry; I had to wait for over six months until the agency thought I needed one. I remember looking forward to the day when I got my own. I saw my colleagues with them and I wanted to feel just as important.


Four years on, it’s just a pain in the …. !


We’re expected to be contactable 24 hours a day (especially when working with companies overseas who don’t quite understand the time difference). I take the rap for checking it all the time (even on holiday with my boyfriend!), but if I miss an important email – it could be anything from urgent last minute market announcements to dealing with damning press speculation – I’d have some serious questions to answer if I wasn’t ready to react with the appropriate response; because after all, I’m an advisor; my clients pay me to advise, whatever the time, day or night.



My clients pay me to

advise, whatever the time

of day or night


It’s not just PR….It’s Financial PR 

I personally work on 11 accounts; 11 companies listed on AIM who have employed my team and I to advise them on their market communications, corporate profile and public relations.


For those of you who are unfamiliar with Financial PR, we are responsible for communicating a company’s corporate messages to key financial audiences. It is different to consumer and trade PR; we purely concentrate on a company’s financial activities. Our job is to make sure all spoken and written communications project the right messages and are flawlessly in keeping with the company’s corporate profile, brand, and business strategy. Through speaking with City journalists, research analysts, and investors, we then promote the company’s corporate story, key strengths, and growth potential to build a strong profile and positive perception among influential financial audiences. As a result, we secure positive press coverage, BUY tips and recommendations, and by doing so, encourage investors like you to pick up that company’s stock. 


As well as talking to the press on a regular basis about publically available information, it is the nature of our job to also be ‘taken inside’ and work with extremely confidential and price sensitive company information. As I mentioned above, we write company announcements for RNS; it is our job to gather all relevant information, draft the announcement and circulate each draft to the company and all key advisors. The financial PR agency usually holds the pen on all documentation, editing it in response to AIM advice received from the NOMAD and making sure the tone and messaging is in line with that of the company in question throughout the drafting process for RNS.


I am heavily involved in drafting, editing, submitting, distributing and communicating all of my clients’ RNS announcements. Financial PR is key to the success of a listed company and how it is perceived by the financial community. As a complete insider, I am obviously forbidden to invest in any of my clients’ shares and am sworn to secrecy on all progressive events before they are released in the public domain.   


In a stable economy, I would be working through this process on a daily basis, always with my head in a press release, submitting announcements to RNS, on conference calls gathering information on pending transactions, and on the phone selling company news to the press but as you can imagine, this process hasn’t been easy recently. With today’s strained economy, the role of financial PR has been forced to evolve.     







Financial PR is key to the success of a listed company






The Crunch Effect

I have worked in Financial PR for just over three years and I’m definitely not old enough to have experienced the last recession, so for me, advising companies through the current economic climate has been a difficult and steep learning curve. Looking at my current role, I hardly recognise the job I knew two years ago.


I remember a time when I sat down with my clients on a monthly basis to discuss all upcoming events, acquisitions in the pipeline, imminent contract wins, hitting key business milestones, corporate entertainment, media interviews etc. The list would be endless and make for a busy month ahead. All newsworthy events would be used to maintain a regular and consistent flow of press coverage and contribute to building profile in the City and raising share price.  


Since the economy has taken a dive, positive company news has, in the most part, disappeared faster than a banker’s overdraft. I can honestly say that I went through a period of about 10 months where I didn’t work on a single acquisition. At the beginning, when things were starting to change, I remember waiting for a number of my clients’ acquisitions to materialise, some were small bolt-ons others were transformational deals with exciting potential, but after an endless wait, one by one, due to lack of funding, low shareholder support, or debt fears, they started to implode. It was as if someone had hit slow motion on the remote. Positive news flow came to a crashing halt.


From my perspective, everything came in waves. It started with the cost cutting epidemic and then the flourish of redundancies that swept the City, profit warnings began to surface in certain sectors and then communication channels started to dwindle. It was at that point that meetings with clients became irregular; six months passed between updates – despite my efforts – and I started to feel out of touch.


It has been a frustrating time for financial PR – as I’m sure it has been for investors too. Over the last year, I have witnessed a number of companies ‘go quiet’ on me; disappear off the radar, refuse to return my calls or reply to emails, and withhold even positive news for fear that they will highlight themselves unnecessarily to paranoid stockholders and cause a mass sell fest, pushing the share price down.





positive company news

has... disappeared faster

than a banker's overdraft

Companies Going Quiet

It has often been the case that a company’s silence has derived from a renewed focus on their business, cutting the fat, driving efficiency, and regaining control – I like to call it the blinkered effect – where a management team concentrates on the business, with their head down, weathering the storm and unfortunately alienating key audiences – like me.


What these businesses don’t realise is that ‘going quiet’ has a negative impact on the public’s perception of a company. By reducing communication, a company is failing to keep its advisors and the market informed of progress. Even if progress is slow, it is still progress and companies should not be scared to communicate it. I’m sure radio silence only unnerves investors; your confidence levels drop and you sell out. Oops! what happened to that share price?




Going quiet has a negative impact


The Changing Role of Financial PR

Well as you can imagine, our day to day went from buy and build strategies, booming profits and successful growth stories, to crisis management, back to back profit warnings, site closures and redundancies.


The majority of our time recently has been spent reducing damage rather than projecting success. This has meant that we have had to be prepared for every circumstance. We, like many in Financial PR, are now drafting extensive Q&A documents for all announcements, and present the company with key messages, projections and plans of action to be used in response to any press enquiry. With these in place, the company and our team are working from the same page, the messages being projected are confident and consistent, and we are able to tackle the most aggressive of City journalists. It is more important than ever to use Financial PR agencies correctly so that communications are constant and market perception is managed successfully. Without a game plan, I really would be feeding my client to the lions! 


From one angle, in terms of company announcements, my role has been stripped back to the bare minimum. Most of my clients are limited to the basic financial calendar; excluding growth activities like mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and contract wins and just keeping to the regulatory requirements of reporting results and holding AGMs. But, to be honest, we’re working as hard as ever to keep our clients’ communications afloat. It’s times like these when companies really need to rely on Financial PR. And at times like these, agencies are under pressure to perform well.   


Share Price Focus

The economy has obviously given the old share price a good battering and left most struggling to represent the true value of their company. As I’m sure you are aware, there are plenty of companies out there which are hugely undervalued; whether it is due to specific sector involvement, foreign exchange rates, or debt, companies have been severely punished for it.


Looking back a year or so, I can remember a time when the performance of a share price was somewhat of an obsession for some egotistical CEOs. Ambitious targets were being set and firm questions were asked of us when they were nowhere near being hit – I can recall one CEO demanding his share price to be over £4 by January 2009, at the time it was at a modest £1.80 with only six months to go; it barely budged – that was a tough time for me and my team as we had the finger pointed at us a number of times for not doing our jobs properly. But it soon became clear that we were heading into a recession and bullish investments were becoming few and far between.


Over recent months I have noticed that a number of CEOs have opted to overlook their falling share prices, viewing it of higher importance to concentrate on the running of their business for the foreseeable future. As everyone agrees, the recession will clear and things will get easier, but until then we are a far cry from having any control over the direction of our client’s share prices – in some cases, no matter what we do, it still heads south!


Looking up

Things are looking up though. I’m working on an acquisition at the moment, one of my luckier clients’ share prices is gradually climbing, we’ve won two new clients this month, and another one of my clients is confident that it will break even for the first time at the beginning of next year. It’s not all doom and gloom.


As for investors, I’m sure there are numerous bargains out there which at the right time will make a fair bob or two. I’ll leave that one up to you though as I’ve got to get some shut eye – just received a client email – I’m up at 5am!


















In some cases, no matter

what we do, it still

heads south!


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Meet the Players Archive  
September 2008 Financial Public Relations
October 2008 Nomads
November 2008 The London Stock Exchange
December 2008 Commissioned Research Providers
January 2009 The Quoted Companies Alliance
February 2009 Private Investor - Buckinghamshire Bill
March 2009 Financial News Website - Investegate
April 2009 Financial PR - Communicating in the Downturn
May 2009 Law Firm - Halliwells
June 2009 Fund Manager - Chelverton Asset Management
July 2009 Marcus Stuttard - Head of AIM
August 2009 AIM Advisors


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