Keep on Communicating and Listening During the Economic ‘Hurricane’

[Editor's Note: The essay below is centered on the biotech sector. Yet its implication for communicators is wide. The economy's outlook seems grimly uncertain, with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon discussing a coming economic "hurricane" yesterday. As such, some companies likely will retreat quickly, reducing activities, including communication, thought leadership and other forms of outreach.

There's an alternate approach, our writer argues. Continue communicating and listening. Flow content to consumers and other stakeholders. Let them know you're aware of the forecasts. Explain authentically and transparently your approach for navigating what could be choppy waters.]

Challenges ahead

This may be the most challenging biotech market that almost anyone who has followed the space has ever seen.  Torreya Partners says the aggregate enterprise value of the world’s development-stage biotech sector is down 70 percent since the February 2021 peak.

Even worse, investors, one of the main target audiences for biotech industry communication professionals, are having a very challenging time.

As a result of all of this, many companies are shell-shocked and have adopted a bunker mentality. Moreover, they've become less active communicating because of the perception that investors won’t be interested. Unfortunately, the only thing this strategy achieves is a guarantee of failure.

If you don’t engage the community, investors will view your company as dead money.  And the last thing people need in their portfolios right now is more dead money.

Also, because of the constant supply of initial public offerings (IPOs) and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) over the last several years, the number of listed biotechs has ballooned, effectively doubling between 2018 and 2021. That is a lot of companies for people to follow. So, you need that extra effort to remain on people’s radar.

Getting noticed

How do you get noticed? There are a number of methods. One of the more effective ones being key opinion leader (KOL) webinars on a company’s target markets and programs.  These can be very educational and will help expand audiences, attracting those who may not initially be familiar with the company, but know the space as a whole.

Additionally, it is important to remain active on the conference front, whether in-person or virtual, investor or medical/scientific. The mentality needs to be to find excuses to attend conferences, not excuses to not go.

Investor conference participation can be limited by banking relationships but there are a number throughout the year that are not sponsored by the banks that are still well attended.  On the medical/scientific front, it can be challenging if you are in the middle of a multi-year trial, but any presentation of new data is better than no presentation at all.

Keep communicating

Most important, do your quarterly conference call, even if you feel like there is nothing new to say.  Sometimes it is just comforting for investors to know that things are on track compared to a long stretch where they don’t hear directly from the company.

Also, there is no reason why you can’t use newer approaches to the traditional conference call. For its Q1 call, one company held a video conference. The event featured two sellside analysts asking a series of questions. It was quite effective and a better use of time than what we normally see from companies every quarter.

And finally, make sure you listen to investors. Understand what they want. In short, they're looking for proactive companies with a plan to make it through these troubled times. Hoping for a bull market isn’t the strategy they seek.

Maxim Jacobs is SVP, investor relations, Russo Partners LLC. Follow him: @maxjacobscfa

[Editor's Note: The writer’s views do not necessarily reflect those of PRNEWS. We invite opposing essays from readers.]