Who’s Got the Power?

The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.  The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.
                                                            – Steve Jobs

Are you a storyteller?  Can you create a compelling narrative about your company, its strategies and results?  If you’re in investor relations (IR), do you think it even matters?

I know some will say NO – investors are rationale beings and only (expected) results matter.  Others will point to the rise of passive and quant investing strategies or increasing use of big data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to guide investment decisions as evidence a company’s story doesn’t matter.

But, the idea of being data-driven cuts both ways as investors don’t just look at financial results.  For example, some are using nascent AI applications to mine linguistics and behavioral analytics to explain, describe and potentially predict future outcomes or evaluate a speaker’s level of cognitive dissonance or truthfulness.

Then there’s the increased investor scrutiny of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.  In my view, this ESG focus is really about investors wanting to know the “how” of a company:  How does the company manage risk (environmental, social or other) … how does the company source/produce/operate and the impacts thereof … how does the company interact with key stakeholders (employees, customers, communities, etc.)?  In short, how does the company conduct itself?

It’s in answering the how that a company’s story is told. When it comes to financial performance, the story puts context around how results are achieved:  Was it great strategy … fabulous marketing or customer relationships … disciplined execution or operating efficiency?

So, in every earnings release and call, investor presentation or roadshow meeting, a story is being told.  With that in mind, here’s some tips:

  • Be clear and concise: Establish context and convey results via effective headlines with supporting bullet points – this is something IR practitioners are well-versed in doing.
  • Master the narrative structure: Most stories have a story arc consisting of a main character who faces a journey or challenge which leads to an outcome. In business, the story arc goes something like a company with a business opportunity/problem executing strategies to address that opportunity/problem which creates operating and financial results.
  • Engage the eyes: A picture is worth a thousand words, or rather graphs, charts and infographics can get your point across with few words.
  • Make connections: Use examples to make your business narrative resonate. Highlight customer benefits of your products, innovations that create new market opportunities or employee initiatives that enhance productivity and efficiency.
  • Build on outcomes: Offer some direction on how the company expects to build on, extend or sustain performance long term in a given environment.

A memorable and credible business story can build confidence in a company, its management and strategies, thereby breaking through the clutter, attracting investor interest and potentially enhancing valuation.  Indeed, storytellers have the power.

Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe.
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.
                                                         – Native American Proverb


Lisa Ciota
Lead-IR Advisors, Inc.

More than a Story

Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.
                                                                                  –Joseph Campbell

Between meetings and mad dashes to the store to make sure my fridge is fully stocked for Thanksgiving, I was scanning news headlines when a New York Times article by David Brooks caught my eye.  The article about fighting the spiritual void struck a chord on many levels.  But, it was the Joseph Campbell quote that caused me to pause.  Myths inspire and instruct.  They can serve as a compass and create context for the human experience.

I’ve seen the power of such as a volunteer for the Chicago Architecture Center’s educational programs.  Our flagship program is a 90-minute journey covering Chicago’s history and architectural heritage.  On this tour, we step inside the restored entry of the London House hotel (formerly the London Guarantee Building) where we recite a variation of the ancient Athenian Oath inscribed above the doorway.

IMG_1100London House Rotunda, 85 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601

As we talk about the oath, students gain a sense of connection to a democracy thousands of years ago and what it means to be a citizen.  We build on this inspiration with a visit to Heald Square for a stellar view of iconic Chicago skyscrapers and to reflect upon the quote below the statue of George Washington, Robert Morris and Haym Solomon and the ideals of America.

By the end of the tour students are most impressed with how the buildings and places visited have a story to tell and there’s meaning behind them.  They may not realize it, but they are experiencing how stories and myths can connect us to our history and each other, and can serve to inspire, instruct and guide us.

As you sit down for Thanksgiving with family and friends, take some time to discuss and reflect upon the stories and myths that have shaped and informed your lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lisa Ciota
Lead-IR Advisors, Inc.