Companies have reputations to maintain, and IR professionals try to help
them do it. They are image builders. If a company has a tarnished reputation,
the IR specialist hopes to make it better.
The IR specialist is hired by companies to pass along information about
the company to the investors and to the media, keeping them abreast of good
and bad news. They do this by creating annual reports, writing press releases,
and communicating news about the company's profits.
In a way, IR specialists are the bridge in and the bridge out of a company.
The company gatekeeper is the IR specialist.
According to the National Investor Relations Institute, investor relations
was born as a way to communicate with investors, with the Wall Street firms
who served them and with the financial press. IR specialists also need to
convey back to management the interests and concerns of the people who buy
Building and maintaining positive relationships is very important to the
success of a company, says Jay Gould. He is the director of IR at a financial
services company in Chicago. Through these relationships, company management
is made aware of what investors expect of them and also what their competition
Alex Singal is an IR director in Nashville. She says those interested in
the field should be articulate. You need to retell the company story over
and over, she says. You need to sell the company to people thinking of investing
Math skills are also valuable, says Mary Blair, a member of an investor
relations institute. But it doesn't always help just to be good in math and
communications, although it would give you a head start. You must also become
familiar with the buzzwords of the industry you are working in. For example,
Gould knows "bank talk."
Gould says the Internet has provided many shortcuts to daily research that
are essential to being an IR professional. For example, it's easier to search
online publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, for your company's name.
The Internet edition is also published the night before the print edition.
This gives Gould a head start if he sees his company mentioned anywhere.
Speaking of the Internet, more companies are going public -- that is, issuing
stock the public can buy. This event is called an initial public offering,
or IPO. Once a company completes an IPO, it has a much greater need to communicate
with the outside world. And IR specialists are the people to do that.
Most IR specialists work in a small department within a corporation. The
corporation can be a bank, a restaurant or a technology company, for example.
As director of his department, Gould manages three IR specialists and one
administrative assistant. However, he says, his is a large corporation. Usually,
you will find just one person working in an IR department.
IR specialists spend time with management in meetings and also travel extensively.
Gould and Singal spend about 25 to 30 percent of their time traveling. Each
of them admits to long hours, but they're paid well, too. The day normally
starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m.
Not only are they compensated with salary, but also with stock and bonuses,
which can be half of their compensation, says Gould. The reason for giving
out stock is that the company wants you to think like a shareholder, he says.
Besides this, an IR person must have thick skin and energy, says Gould.
That's because you are dealing with an industry made of powerful people with
big egos and with an industry that doesn't say good night.
Although much of what an IR professional does is considered public relations,
IR specialists loathe this term, says Gould. The job of IR is more than just
image building. It is closely related to investments and the economy.
However, since the profession just began to come into its own about 20
years ago, IR specialists are still lumped with public relations professionals.