Telling Everyone All About It, Again

I like earnings season because of the surprises.  But sometimes, you get to see something over and over again.  In what has become a tough reporting period, CEOs are taking to broadcast outlets explaining, first hand, the shortcomings of the most recently reported results.

Notable so far this season was Sally Smith of Buffalo Wild Wings and Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn both on the tube following earnings reports.  Ms. Smith went right into the crucible, appearing on Mad Money with Jim Cramer explaining among other items, the importance of takeout, while Mr. Weiner appeared on screen to unravel sequentially flat revenues and lumpy EBITDA.

It’s hard to quibble with the success of these entrepreneurs.  They’ve made billions for investors, and that alone may be all the street cred they need.  If they feel broadcast exposure is what the market needs to understand their shares correctly, then their point of view should be taken into consideration.

But one size does not fit all.  There’s many investors for whom Meet The Press-type IR is a turn off.  These investors look for leadership that is in the background solving problems and not in the foreground talking about them.  I don’t sense the investors are being being preachy about this.  It’s just their preference.

Of course you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time and keeping quiet has its detractors too.

However, there’s some evidence to suggest that whatever deficiencies any given quarter may possess, executives have plenty of opportunity to tell their side of the story including:  the earnings release, the filing, the conference call, Q&A, blogs, tweets, posts and podcasts, all accessible to just about anyone on earth interested enough to tune in.

But what, four more minutes on TV — which I might add are the four most uncontrollable minutes in a CEO’s arsenal — is what’s going to put it all into perspective?

To be fair, perhaps some executives can use broadcast appearances to manage investor perceptions the same way Donald Trump has mastered the media in service of politics.  But if it’s not your style, stay in the background, fix problems and increase earnings, the ultimate investor relations program.

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