While we were developing a website for a mining company, the client challenged us: 'Tell me how this website design compares to our peers and competitors.' He asked us whether our concept of best practices for publicly held companies was carried out in the industry at large.
Thus began a journey through 25 mining company websites, reviewing and analyzing exploration companies with market caps from $85 million to $2.2 billion. As there were no criteria or official standards for investor relations websites, we developed our own.
The fundamental standard with which we began stemmed from transparency and full disclosure.
Websites, of course, represent a transformational technology in shareholder communications. Issuers can now provide abundant information, without regard to the space and time limitations of conventional media. Illustrations, photos and maps, especially valuable for mining companies and their investors, are available at the click of the mouse. A company can tell its story better than ever before, with up-to-the-minute information.
Why then do so many mining companies conceal their best assets?
To create standards for objectively rating mining websites, we constructed 11 criteria, based on the sections in mining company websites that are most often used. Beyond the home page, these include: corporate information, stock and dividend information, reports and filings, governance and shareholder resources, among others. We then further subdivided, such as these under CORPORATE INFORMATION:
- Corporate profile
- Business strategy
- Industry overview
- Executive management
- Upcoming events
- Unique features (such as excellent navigation)
Navigation was also an issue; some sites were simply difficult to negotiate. Sites with excellent navigation were scored as having 'unique features.'
Lower-scoring websites had many features in common: limited corporate information, almost never reviewing the whole industry and excluding commodity and share prices. They also lack adequate background about management and board members. This is what most distinguishes poor mining websites. Fully 40% of the mining websites we surveyed left out biographies and photos of management and board members.
Because these the senior executives will be implementing corporate strategy, obtaining a sense of management's personality and background is as important as understanding the company's financials and business model. Not coincidentally, that's why analysts and institutional investors want to meet management face-to-face.
What this basic review of a single category reveals is like the description of good real estate: 'location, location, location!' Extended to websites, it reads 'disclosure, disclosure, disclosure.' Of all the places companies look to trim communication spending, the website is one area where significant care must be taken to aim for the upper level of best practices.
In addition to full bios and photos of management and directors, our survey revealed that WEBSITES DEMONSTRATING BEST PRACTICES ALSO FEATURE:
- Mission statements and corporate strategy carefully explained and illustrated
- Online, real time, share/unit and commodity prices
- Up-to-date news releases (and not links to news services), accompanied by archives of releases
- Events and presentations easily accessible and downloadable (and up-to-date)
- Full explanation of governance, including policies and board-level committees and their members
- Contact information that is responsive and available, either by e-mail or telephone
The best websites also EMPLOY THE LATEST NAVIGATION TECHNOLOGY, which delivers a more positive web experience for the user. If a mining company sets out to make its website an investor relations website first and foremost, with shareholder communications playing a primary role, many of these best practices can be easily incorporated. When it comes to public companies, more information is better, not less, for an end result of stable and long-term investor interest.
Richard Rotman is VP of investor relations at the Bryan Mills Group. Contact him at [email protected]