#CIRI2013 Rise to the Challenge: A Higher Standard of IR

What do you have scheduled for June 2-4th 2013? We have plans to attend the Canadian Investor Relations Institute (CIRI) Annual Conference! This year’s conference will be held at beautiful British Columbia – will we see you up at Whistler, BC?

The Annual Conference program has been released and it looks like it has a great blend of IR and fun. It kicks start with a golf tournament – most likely because golf and investing share so many similarities. For instance, there are no second shots or do-overs in both golf games and world of finance, and you can’t determine your future success with just one game. It’ll be an interesting game of golf while we practice and exchange investing tips, no?

In between sessions and investor success stories from influential speakers, the conference will also cover topics such as crisis communications, new regulatory changes, international marketing, and what’s next in the global economy. In today’s market, your company needs every competitive advantage and insightful discussion to help you exceed challenges.

“Knowing what’s going on in the markets and where they’re headed is half the battle” already, why miss the conference? Here, have a read through the conference program and start planning your time in Whister, BC! Which session, workshop, panel discussion or presentation interests you most? Let us know @BlenderMedia and we’ll see you there #CIRI2013!

How to use LinkedIn Apps for Power Networking

LinkedIn’s New Mobile App

As you may already know, LinkedIn recently updated their mobile app, and the complete makeover focuses more heavily on stories and the updates. With a more visually engaging update stream and navigation options that users can personalize themselves, LinkedIn is definitely pushing for more mobile user engagement. Update your version of LinkedIn if you haven’t already!

LinkedIn’s Contacts > Address Book

Basically, the LinkedIn Contacts app aims to replace your address book on your iPhone. It’ll be the one place to go for all your professional contacts. It goes through your address books, emails and calendars to auto update everything for you. Click on a contact, you’d be able to see the last email you sent out to this contact via Gmail, the connection’s recent LinkedIn activity and details of the last meeting you had with them – all on one status stream. Job changes, birthdays, meetings etc., all for you to swipe through with ease too!

Cardmunch it and LinkedIn right away

Think about all the times you attend conferences and meetings, where you meet plenty of new connections and end up with a stack of name cards…which you tend to misplace here and there. Well, Cardmunch is going to help you prevent that. Snap photos of your name cards and you’ll always have them on your phone. What’s even better is that, it’ll process the information for you! Yes, it’ll give you the option to add the contact to your iPhone address book and add them on LinkedIn as connections right away.

Increase Productivity with Social Media Tools

It is a common misconception that when social media walks into your life, your productivity flies out of window. The “Big Data” firm Evolv and Warwick Business School have shown that social media is good (in moderation). Employees who are social butterflies on one to four social networking websites on a weekly basis are actually more productive than those who don’t use social media at all!

Well, the keyword is [in moderation].

We all have moments where we just need a #socialmedia time-out because there is work to be done. Do you always find yourself thinking, if only I could just stop myself from checking <insert social media site> for an hour, I’d have this written and done by now.

No worries, your solution is here.

There are now apps you can download on your computer and/or laptop, where you can block a list of sites for a specific duration – all so you can tune into work and meet deadlines (…and check your klout score leisurely later). Say, for example, you can just set it up so that you can’t access Facebook and YouTube for an hour so you can get a proposal written and polished. Though I must warn you, it survives reboots and uninstalls too… Tough luck if you change your mind!

If you’re ready to give up social media – just temporarily – give these apps a try!

SelfControl – for mac users
Cold Turkey – for Windows

Let me know how it goes @BlenderMedia, would love to hear any interesting stories you might have during that hour of “social media self-control”!

How to Upgrade your Online Style: Tools for IR Success

Without me saying, you’ve probably noticed that every hot web company is either getting a style makeover or expanding their wardrobe of add-ons or platforms. Well, spring is about getting a fresh new look after all, no? Besides having to get used to another new Facebook, we can also choose to pick up a few web design #trends and wear it ourselves to open new doors to investors. So, what can we learn from these social media stylists and boost investor relations? And, how can you adopt these redesigns to your websites and dress for success? Read on…

Get a New Facebook

Facebook is creating a new newsfeed to make itself the front-runner for being the “best personalized newspaper” online (vs. Twitter). Pinterest is already in the streets with its new redesign. And y’know what, both style makeovers share many similarities, and convenient enough, your website can also wear these redesigns:

1) A cleaner & smoother interface: on your website can create less clutter and more space for valuable IR content.

2) Bigger pictures (or pins): 2013 is all about the moving visuals and videos, that’s why both media platforms are doing bigger visual updates. If you have investor videos (you should get ‘em), you’d want that to be loud and clear too, wouldn’t you?

3) New navigational capabilities: And of course, why have your investors in risk of being lost in navigation and miss your IR content?

You’ll be surprised… a few tweaks in your website design can make a big impact on your investor relations. I mean, why else would Facebook and Pinterest invest in these design makeovers?

4) Have Investors Check-in @YourCorporateBlog

Twitter adds Vine (videos) and music to their wardrobe, and Facebook acquires Storylane. It’ll be Facebook’s new blogging platform – designed for users to share more meaningful and elaborative content.

How does this apply to your IR communications strategy? Answer: a corporate blog.

Investor communications are best delivered in writing, aka blogging in today’s language. A corporate blog allows you to communicate detailed IR content to your investors, and respond to industry news & stakeholders. Corporate blogs are under-used at the moment because it takes commitment, but consistent and honest writing is what’ll trigger investor feedback.

5) Start Measuring your Success

Pinterest and Klout have just launched web analytics that allow users to measure influence and track footprints. Similarly, your website is not complete without analytics. Think of social media measurement tools, like Google Analytics, as those basic statement pieces in your closet that’ll never go out of trend. Analytics help you identify where your social traffic comes from, what works and what doesn’t, and how you can double the clicks and feedback.

Well, this is just a quick summary of recent social media & web design trends. Think I missed an obvious trend? Or you want to know more about how Blender can get you the new look? Give me a shout @BlenderMedia and you’ll get all the >#blenderSUPPORT!

How Apps Have Transformed Our Lives

701 apps launched every day last year and who knows about this year! Take a minute to think about how many apps you click into and swipe though in a day, probably countless? Face it, apps have changed our lives… and it’s going to change the way we do business and investor relations even more drastically than ever. What you might not have expected is that, apps are also doing #SocialGood. Read about the app case studies I have for you to find out how apps transform the many actions we do:

Square Wallet

Girl Scouts are already using Square wallet app as an easy way to accept credit cards to sell cookies. And I thought we were tech-savvy. Square’s bigger vision is to use people’s cell phones as “fingerprints”. What does that mean? So in time (near future maybe?), when you walk into a store, your phone will automatically announce your presence for you. And that’s not it… the cash register will already know your name, face, plus preferred payment method. When you do go ahead and buy something, they’ll just check your name and face, then charge it on your credit card! Easier than buying your cup of Starbucks via the barcode app, don’t you think?

IR: Yep there’s an App for that

The key to investor relations has always been consistent and honest communication, and nowadays, digital communications dominate the rest. To do continuous investor outreach, you might want to take advantage of the social media explosion and consider the IR app. The app allows investors to navigate through an information flow – corporate docs, presentations, SEC filings, investor videos and company news etc. – with just a touch on their phones. Considering a recent survey shows that 88% IROs believe that public companies need to develop a mobile IR strategy, IR mobile-friendly websites are definitely a must, and the IR app is probably your next step in staying current.

Swipe & slice with Touch Surgery

Ever dreamt of being a surgeon? (Yea, and then the internet happened) Or are you working towards being one? Well, get “hands on” experience with Touch Surgery, the iPad app, that teaches surgeons how to operate. Literally, “swipe and slice”, you learn by doing, without the blood of course. So, with just a swipe of the finger, you slice open the patient’s skin. A few more swipes, pinches and taps – operation complete – you’ve just removed the gallbladder. Through the app, patients can also get accessible learning, and understand the procedure they’re going to undertake. Now isn’t that an innovative app that does good for both surgical trainees and patients?

Japan’s app-driven lives

In Japan, a country with a tech-savvy reputation, cherry blossoms are blooming but applications are too. The thing is, they have their own domestic apps that we should probably tune into too. Apparently, Japanese fishermen in Hokkaido are using an app to record and keep track where they have fished, to avoid over-fishing from happening. (Why aren’t we doing that for sustainable fishing?) You can also hire an app to be your wedding planner to figure out your long list of ‘to-do’s. Without fear of theft in Japan, iPhone & iPads are used as a menu and ordering device, directly used by customers. There is also an app that’ll create stats on your facial dimensions, and tell you what fashion best suits you. Talk about an app-driven life!

Blackmail yourself for efficiency

News says that there’s an ultimate productivity app, ahem, Blackmailr. An app that’ll take aesthetically unpleasing photos of you automatically via your laptop, transform itself into an ‘to-do list’ app, monitor your work progress, and then, threaten to leak this gallery of ugly photos on twitter. All to ensure you make it to your DEADline. As thoughtful as it all sounds… Happy April Fools’, I’m just joking! (Sorry if I got your hopes up!) This is just an idea a tech writer @guardian has developed. If you’re programmer, know that he’s looking for you to make Blackmailr a reality!

Apps are really the heart and soul of our phones. And it’s because of the apps, we rely on our cells so heavily and make mobile our new technology evolution. The future is most likely in mobile and other multi-screens, so mobile-friendly websites are a must. Some brands have also started creating their own apps for social engagement, to follow or not to follow? What do you think? Let me know your thoughts @BlenderMedia!

4 Ways to Secure your Digital Brand

Imagine an intruder tearing down the building blocks of your website, and slamming doors at your potential investors. Think about a rival breaking into your Linkedin account and downloading your 500+ connections. Or just recall the recent HMV Twitter Meltdown or the incident where Burger King’s account was hacked by an anonymous McDonald’s fan (did you see that coming??).

None of that has to happen to you. If only you put a security lock on your digital brand. That doesn’t mean you have to leave the center of the social pulse though! Here are some tips on how you can have both:

  1. Monitor & organize to deal with any problems ASAP

    To closely monitor what’s happening at all times, you can to secure your social media accounts with a centralized control system (@hoot it!). By organizing all the platforms together, you’ll then be able to easily spot a potential disaster and put a stop to it immediately.

  2. Selective privacy preferences + limited permissions

    You can control your employees’ access of your website and media platforms with limited permissions. Say for instance, you’ll get to approve the tweets and blog posts before they get published. Stay alert, and you can weed out what is harmful, plus grow security too.

  3. Have a support team & backup, backup, backup

    It could be natural disaster (remember Sandy?), deliberate actions, or human error. With a support team that can attend to you 24/7, if anything comes up, you’ll have a team of professionals helping you right away. What’s more important is to have backups of your website updated regularly. This will make sure your corporate image is always up with NO down-times.

  4. Create a disaster recovery plan

    No one is perfect and robots make mistakes too, Sandy never warned NYC, so it’s best to come up with a plan beforehand. Here are three major components that you should include:
    1) assess the company’s critical needs
    2) list priorities for recovery
    3) establish recovery procedures
    The better you plan, the better the first aid will be for your immediate wound.

Digital branding has become essential to corporations in investor communications. There is just no room for disasters and mistakes in securing your corporate presence online. Let’s keep a watchful eye on our digital footprints, plan ahead, and continue walk through this digital landscape with security and confidence. Or what’s even better, we can do it for you. Contact us @BlenderMedia for more info!

How Games are Serious Plays: Level up in IR & Business

A recent tech-savvy trend in social media slash business realm – dynamic companies are calling for addict gamers. To do what? To play their game, of course! They are using the principles of gaming to improve business performance. And how do they do that? #Gamification. By letting individuals play games, they’re getting the disengaged ones to invest actively participate by using fun and social competitions. Can this impact the IR community? Yes. Still unconvinced? Here are some examples of how games are serious plays in offices:

Spot the bugs & errors

When Microsoft was working towards releasing Windows 7 across the global, they needed to make sure all the dialogue boxes work in every language. (Yawn) it’s a boring and repetitive task alright? They then saw the potential of “gamifying” it, and changed the quality-assurance into a competition for employees in geographic teams. Who spots the most errors then becomes the “good corporate citizen” on the leaderboard. In the end, the employees transformed themselves into Mario Brothers almost, checked 500,000 dialogue boxes and smashed hundreds of bugs.

Play green, prize: sustainability

Companies are pressing the green button to add value to their investors’ shares and sustainability becomes a core strategy for companies. This is part of the reason why employees are starting #GreenGaming. Apps like Leafully and Opower are spinning a green web to inspire corporate alliances to become sustainability enthusiast. Kind of like Nike+ Fuelband, your everyday routines get leveled up to rewarding conquest. With a competitive edge (which all gamers have), driven by earning status and showing off your gold stars trees & leafully points, we’ll all be powerful motivators for green achievements.

Be a “citizen scientist” & beat cancer

Facebook, Amazon and Google are uniting to turn raw genetic data into a game app for “citizen scientists” (yep, that’s you and me) to find a cure to cancer. That’s right. You didn’t read wrong. As you play, you’ll be analyzing data (in a fun way or without you knowing anyway) that’ll accelerate the progress in understanding the genetics reasons cancer develops. With the collective power of gamers, data process will take place faster, and faster we can knock out cancer with our cell phones.

Reveal yourself to the recruiters

Want to be spotted by the L’Oreal recruiters, or just win a trip to Paris? L’Oreal says, “Reveal” (the name of the game) yourself by playing their online game. The company has turned the recruitment process into, a game that puts you into the backstage of a product launch at L’Oreal. The game then evaluates your success in this virtual “business world”, and figures out whether you’re a match for them.

Game playing is definitely changing the nature of work engagement and the digital landscapes for businesses. It’ll be exciting to see how this trend further develops, and how companies work this competitive spirit into their corporate strategy for IR. Who knows, other than web solutions, soon we might all be programming IRgames? @Gamers, do be sure to play ‘em.

Reputation Capital

I’ve got a question for you? When you find something great (or horrible) throughout your day, how long does it take you to spread the word? I don’t know about you, but it takes me approximately 2 seconds to take out my phone / sit down at my computer, and another 3 seconds to type it out. With email, instant messaging, facebook, twitter, and text messaging, the rate at which information is spread these days is astronomical.

With the majority of our conversations being online, do the old-fashion business tactics still stand a chance in this technological hey day? Rachel Botsman, author of “What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption Is Changing The Way We Live” (Which TIME Magazine called one of the “10 Ideas That Will Change The World”) doesn’t think so.

The things that make a business (services, products, etc) are still important, but there’s something else being thrown into the mix. Something she calls “Reputation Capital”. It’s no secret that trust and efficiency are the key ingredients in making a strong public company. But conveying that trust and efficiency can be a challenge on our technological age.

It sounds a bit odd, but people tend to treat companies like people. They are personally insulted when Telus puts them on hold, or Quiznos gets their order wrong. They expect excellent customer service, they expect quick responses, they expect apologies when things go wrong, and they expect a company to be an active person in their lives.

Think about it, would you rather lend your car to a random guy on the street or your friend John? John. Even if he’s an idiot. It’s the same reason why knowing the boss personally, gets you in a way better position to get the new job. Even if the other guy is way more experienced. Personal connections are crucial.

So how can companies…well…be people? By being available. Most public companies get this, it’s why they have IR teams. But what about the investors that don’t pick up the phone? It’s about bringing the conversation into their offices and homes. As Rachel Botsman puts it, “it’s about “using the power of technology to build trust between strangers”. And how do we do this ladies and gentlemen? Drum roll please….

An online presence.

One that engages the user the same way a conversation would. One that, through use of design and imagery, creates an initial sense of trust before the viewer even gets into the content. Using technology to build trust! “Virtual trust will transform the way we trust face to face”.

Now, it’s obviously possible to have an online presence that doesn’t build trust through imagery/design elements, but you might be thinking “Pfft how much trust can images and colours really inspire?”

Case and Point:
Wholesale Seafood Distributor #1: https://www.richardsbrothersseafoods.com.au/
Wholesale Seafood Distributor #2: https://www.7seas.ca/
I’m not saying either one is the worst example nor the best example of design, but between the two there is a huge gap, and honestly for me, I’d pick the 2nd example right off the bat (without reading a lick of content).

Check out Rachel Botsman’s TED Talks “The Currency Of The New Economy Is Trust” here

 

Creating a brand with a conscience: the Save on Meats Meal Token Program

 

I don’t know about you, but after I have had an amazing food experience, before I have even wiped the grease of my fingers, I get this uncontrollable urge to post a picture of it on my Facebook wall, tweet it, call my mom… you know what I’m talking about. Well, Save on Meats has now added to the ways you can share their food experiences with their meal token program. You can purchase a cute branded token, about the size of a toonie and give to one of the increasing number of panhandlers living in the Dowtown Eastside. It’s a genius idea really… for $2.25 it gives a delicious warm meal to someone in need that they can redeem at their convenience. It allows for the tangible human interaction of giving in a way that also mitigates the hesitancy some people have about giving money to people living in a neighborhood that is pretty much synonymous with drugs and addiction in the Vancouver dialect.

What this program boils down to for Save on Meats is the creation of a sustainable year round program that benefits the community, a healthy buzz around town that has landed them in The Province, on Global TV, and ultimately, more sales. They are even setting up a website where the tokens can be ordered online (Hello stocking stuffers!). This isn’t the first time the enterprise has gotten attention for their socially responsible business model. Save on Meats got Vancouver food groupies talking this summer when Mark Brand (of Boneta, Sea Monstr Sushi, and The Diamond) resurrected the once destitute space on the Downtown Eastside into a successful butchery selling ethical meats on the cheap. What had previously been an ironic landmark of the Downtown Eastside featuring a neon pink sign of their trademark jovial pig (under which there were usually a few homeless people sleeping and a boarded up space) was turned into a busy shop, diner, and sandwich counter. Since they reopened, they have been providing 450 meals daily to low income single occupancy residents in the area, creating partnerships with local organizations and hiring barrier employees from the community. Oh – and don’t worry, the pig stayed, it just looks like they gave him a bath.

“This token program has been a long time coming. It isn’t just about being able to provide someone with a nourishing meal, but also the engagement into your community and the power of real human interaction,” says Mark Brand, owner of Save on Meats. “This is our city and we want to make it better every day with unconventional solutions.”

This is an example of a company that goes beyond just business operations as usual; it is part of their mandate to actively become part of the community where they operate in a way that makes it better and their brand has become known and respected for it. Just goes to show how thinking outside the (lunch)box to create a business model that serves the needs of the community can also serve your bottom line.

4 ways to connect with your shareholders in a web-centric world

Over the last few years increasing amount of content, opinions and industry “experts” are popping up all over the web. Now your decision makers are actively engaged in looking for answers and opinions. Everything is just a click away.

Your prospective shareholder is moving from site to site, and source to source being exposed to a number of different companies offering them the solution or answer to their issue. These sources are influencing their decisions, more than just what you’ve published on your site.

So how are you gaining your influence back? It’s not just as simple as posting up a quick website and letting it run. You’ve got to create a presence on the web outside of your own site. You need to be the trusted advisor that keeps showing up everywhere they go. Whether it’s a link, an article, a syndicated white paper, or blog post, the trick is to get in front of the shareholder in an authentic, natural way when they’re searching for the information.

Think like your shareholders. How would you want to be approached? What would work if you were to walk in their shoes?

Here’s a few simple tips to get you on the way to getting in their head and in front of them on the web.

1. Crawl through the web like them

Not talking about how they find you, but how they find the information they’re looking for on a regular basis.

Figure out how you, as a shareholder would Google the information? What sorts of phrases would you input? Are you looking for information? What kind of information? Then see what comes up – what sort of blogs, online publications, and organizations?

What did you find?

Now, check your own site statistics and see what keywords (other than the obvious – your company name) your prospects use to find you. Google those words and see what shows up. Check out both the paid listings and the natural ones.

2. Ask them where they hang out

Best way to find out what they’re thinking, ask them. Send out a survey to your shareholders and your prospective ones asking where they go for information. What are their favorite blogs, online publications, organizations and associations?

Pick the top online publication and start writing for it. If you can’t write for it, advertise on it. If they have a resource center, share your content. Show them that you’re the expert, in a non-intrusive way.

Pick the top blog and start participating. Get the technical experts in your company to chime in too.

Sponsor an eNewsletter for a leading association or organization.

And ask your staff. Ask your experts how they stay informed. What sites they visit to keep up-to-date on the latest in the industry.

3. Ask people you respect where they go.

Word of mouth still plays a valuable role in generating awareness, so ask the industry analysts and leading speakers where they go for information. What sites they write for, provide information to, or blog on?

Spend a couple days reading these. Get a feel for the number and quality of new posts. Are they talking about things relevant to what you do? If so, join in the conversation.

4. Recreate their path through the web.

Use analytics to show you who’s linking to and from the sites you identify. This can be a helpful way of following your prospect’s path around the web.

Identify sites that link to your competitors. Are they influential? Then create a presence on those sites too.

Find out who’s linking to notable experts, industry publications, and organizations. Join in the conversation, share your content and expertise, offer valuable content and offers to the readership. Build a trusted relationship between you and your shareholder.

Go where they go – see what they see.

Push out your content, publish articles, JOIN in the conversation. The more you get out, the more opportunity your prospects will have to find you and the more likely you’ll be able to influence their buying decisions.