February 2, 2015
In the past, we have written about thought leadership and best practices related to proxy materials. No doubt much of it is great advice, but many investor relations professionals are crunched for time and resources. Or maybe the proxy is largely handled by a different department in your company (Legal, perhaps).
Whatever the case, an overhaul of your proxy might seem out of reach. But in truth, there are several easy and practical ways to elevate your company’s proxy package, make for easier reading and better inform voters. Here are five of my favorite tips that are based on the current season and what I see as common sense for digesting a proxy:
1) Guide investors to key information
A simple table of contents goes a long way. Point out exactly where in the proxy (we’re talking specific page numbers) investors can find the key information they are looking for. This might be especially important if your company has a large retail investor base, which may not be as familiar with or likely to read your proxy.
2) Create a one-pager of voting instructions
Shareholders may not read every single word in your company’s proxy, so that makes it even more important to highlight how and when you want them to vote. All it takes is a simple one-pager that outlines the various ways to vote (via mail or online, for example), any key deadlines and a few reasons why investors should vote.
3) Personalize it – with a letter from your CEO or Chairman
Whether or not your company mails its annual report with the proxy package, consider taking advantage of the opportunity to communicate directly with investors. The better letters we have seen reinforce strategy, investment highlights and corporate governance activity. Including a letter that remains separate from the proxy and/or annual report will make it even easier for investors to find, most likely increasing its effectiveness.
4) Include a “voting roadmap”
This tool is simply an opportunity to succinctly outline the items shareholders are being asked to vote on – and reinforce the company’s recommended vote for each one. It could be a simple grid, but the quick at-a-glance overview is an easy way to encourage investors to support the company. For example, Gamble’s version is simple, but clear and direct at the same time.
5) Build in brand awareness
If you decide to incorporate any of these materials, make sure to align them with your company’s brand throughout the proxy. Be consistent with other investor communications, too. From your company’s logo and color palette to investor-specific messaging, take full advantage of this direct investor communications opportunity.
Adopting some or all of these tips will make your company’s proxy more manageable, effectively getting information to investors more quickly and easily, and ultimately impacting the voting process for your investors.