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Will Mobile Apps Change the Investor Relations Game?

Investor relations doesn’t get quite as much media attention as some of the more colorful aspects of the PR industry, but IROs (investor relations officers) are extremely important to most firms.

In many places, IR still runs on traditional paper documents–but quite a few organizations have begun using mobile technology to further empower both IROs and invest0rs.

We recently had a chance to speak to Jeff Corbin–an author and PR veteran with 15 years of IR experience whose team created theIRapp to help facilitate IR’s move into the 21st century–about what this development means for the future of the practice.

Why did you feel the need to create this app at this point in time? 

Over the past 15 years I’ve seen how tech has evolved (or not evolved), and the same players have offered the same services for many, many years. All of a sudden there’s something new: mobile as a communications platform didn’t exist the same way six or seven years ago.

Right now all companies need IR sections on their websites, but my professional view is that every company will soon be expected to have an IR app. It’s a whole new platform, not just an extension of the corporate website.

Do you think investors are ready to move toward mobile or are you anticipating a change to come?

If you go to an investor conference, everyone has a mobile device. The tech is already here, and they’re looking for instant gratification. The question: How are they using info from these devices to inform their investment decisions, and how can it be made simpler?

So we looked at how we help our companies get their message out to investors and the way investors are consuming information–then we created a plug and play solution so the IR officer can use the mobile platform for dissemination of data and content. (Clients who’ve realized the importance of mobile include Colgate, Sysco, Campbell’s Soup and more.) We started working on it two years ago and launched it in June at an IR conference.

What does theIRapp do, exactly?

It optimizes the sort of content that a company hosts on the IR section of its website. Right now there’s lots of IR info online but its so small and inconvenient that you can’t find it. TheIRapp also includes push notifications so that IROs can send relevant information like new press releases, SEC filings, videos, presentations, etc. to the investors in a more user-friendly way. This is new content, not basic statistics.

The goal is to make the data legible and to encourage investors to engage directly with the companies. If investors download the app, that means they are actively engaged with the company itself.

How does it differ from previous tech tools?

Some companies say “I already have an investor database.” But there’s something different about waking up in the morning and seeing relevant alerts (not standard generic emails) about the company you invest in. If investors opt-in then they can review info at their convenience.

Also: This is public content, so others can download the app and check out the company’s data–investors around the world now have the same access to the same information.

How does theIRapp empower the IRO?

The concept of IR apps is new, so companies and IROs have to ask themselves: do they want to be leaders or followers? Where are they in regard to apps?

As an IRO you need to be more transparent, and there’s no better way to be transparent than to forward information like this. It’s a great way to demonstrate your dedication to your investors.

Do you have any coming developments?

Yes! We’re in the process of rolling out version 4.0, which should go live in the next two weeks. With the newer version, you can download content offline. We’re also planning version 5.0 and a “master app” that will aggregate all the content in a single place. (The independence of each company’s individual app will not change.)

We also have a partnership with PR Newswire, which is selling our app as their own. We’re about to announce similar partnership with Canada Newswire that will distribute content In French.

How is this mobile IR development relevant to young people just entering the industry?

It might reinforce the fact that there’s a whole business by which companies communicate with investors.

Right now we’re not just thinking about the 50-year-old investor. We’re thinking about the 20 or 30-year-old who will become that investor.

What do we think, PR pros? What sort of tech tools do your firm’s IR operations use?

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