Blender Client Spotlight: an interview with NOVAGOLD
Our favourite part about what we do is the awesome client relationships we develop and the great people we get to work with each day. Full of insight, good stories, and interesting tidbits about the investor relations world and beyond, our clients are always a great source of learning for us.
Mélanie Hennessey, the VP of Corporate Communications for NOVAGOLD and Erin O’Toole, NOVAGOLD’s investor relations analyst, are no exception. NOVAGOLD’s new website launched this September and has brought much success, including winning the CSSDesign Special Kudos Award. Fresh off the heels of their new website, we sat down with Mélanie and Erin to ask them more about their roles in investor relations, the changing IR world, and the influence of elements such as social media and the push for more CSR initiatives. We hope you enjoy the read!
1. Tell us about NOVAGOLD’s investor relations team. What does an average day in the NOVAGOLD IR world look like?
The one thing we can count on is that an average day does not exist in our world. Our days often require multitasking and a lot of prioritizing as we wear many hats. Being resourceful, flexible and adaptable to various situations is key to getting the job done effectively.
2. NOVAGOLD’s newly redesigned website places emphasis on the ‘We Care’ section and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Why is it important to emphasize CSR when it comes to investor relations?
Being a good neighbor has been ingrained in NOVAGOLD’s corporate culture from the beginning. We called the section “We Care” because we see CSR as so much more than just obtaining a social license to operate. For us, it’s about making lasting connections and building collaborative relationships with our partners, investors, community residents, First Nation and Native Corporations, Board of Directors and other stakeholders.
Our projects are located in remote areas inhabited by communities largely dependent on subsistence living and traditional ways-of-life. It is our job to continuously enhance our knowledge of and ties to the people of the region and various stakeholders. This is what led to the production of our four-part Alaska Video Series.
3. NOVAGOLD is very active on Twitter and regularly tweets out news releases and conference call reminders. How has incorporating social media into your IR strategy helped your company?
Social media has been a daily part of NOVAGOLD’s communication strategy since 2010. By being an active participant in these outlets, our audience knows that the Company welcomes an open discussion. The key to keeping audiences engaged is being consistent, reliable and personal. Social media brings in a human element to a company’s brand which is far different than a prescriptive approach where a disclosure is meticulously vetted.
It is important to remember that whether or not a company is active in social media, all companies receive mentions and discussions between users that are posted for mass consumption. By closely monitoring these discussions, we can track the sentiment surrounding the stock, as well as address any rumors or misperceptions.
4. What advice would you give other public companies who are looking to add digital elements such as live-tweeting and webcasts to their future investor relations initiatives?
Start small and don’t bite off more than you can chew. If your company has never used social media or any other digital elements, start with just one or two initiatives such as a Twitter account and a quarterly webcast.
Consistency also is key. Whether you plan to post once a day or three times a week, make sure you stick with it. Nothing looks worse than an abandoned profile. It is also important to set realistic goals and have a plan on how you will be monitoring your efforts. Through a bit of trial and error, you will be able to identify what works best for you and your company. what works for you.
And, don’t forget to have fun with it!
5. What are some key challenges you see investor relations teams facing in the next few years?
A main challenge for an IR professional is always knowing the audience and staying one step ahead in an environment where a company’s stakeholders can change rapidly when compared to market trends 5 years ago. Having a thorough understanding of your stakeholder base, both who they are and their needs, is crucial in developing an effective communications strategy.
Communication is a two-way street and we utilize many different channels to stay in touch with different stakeholders. The goal is to keep our brand fresh but consistent. Finding the right balance and flow of communication takes time but definitely pays off.
6. What excites you about where the investor relations profession is headed?
It is exciting that smart companies are recognizing the tremendous value-add of having a communications and IR strategy. Contrary to popular belief, marketing and communication efforts are measurable, and the outcomes are extremely beneficial to the overall performance of the company.
Attracting new investors while maintaining our current shareholder base, building collaborative relationships with local stakeholders who understand our vision and objectives, and consistently delivering on our business plan are examples of positive indicators that efforts are paying off and our strategy is successful.
7. Is there a specific website you visit or IR tool you use that is crucial for IR success?
Our group relies on a number of platforms and tools that help us stay on track and accomplish our objectives. On a daily basis, we use research databases, market surveillance platforms, content management systems, social media, and our own network to name a few. We consider our network a central tool that includes our Board, subsidiaries, analyst, fund managers, government officials, other IROS, and local stakeholders. It is important for us to regularly seek input, enhancing our knowledge base and continuously improving the work we do.
8. What’s one element about your job that would surprise people?
To effectively do our job we have to be chameleons meaning that we need to be generalists in our knowledge of the company, assets and industry, while being able to quickly adapt our approach to the audience at hand. From the bush of rural Southwest Alaska to the Board room, we need to successfully deliver our message and tell our story. Being attune to our environment, reading people’s body language as well as their reception to information are skills that we rely on daily. Again, it is all about building and maintaining connections.
It’s a dynamic, fast-paced role. We never have a dull moment… and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks for your wonderful insight Mélanie and Erin, and we’re so happy to work with you and the rest of the NOVAGOLD team. And don’t forget to check out NOVAGOLD’s new, award-winning website!