Earnings Checklist: Best Practices For Preparing Your Earnings Release
The quarterly earnings release is a high-visibility opportunity to tell your company’s story. As a concrete, numbers-driven summary of the company’s performance, it’s sure to garner attention from investors and media. In turn, that attention affects stock price, often leads to earned media coverage and can affect public perception of your company.
Those high stakes bring high pressure for corporate communications professionals. Even before distribution, there’s a lot to manage. You’ll need to coordinate with stakeholders in both IR and PR to gather information, collaborate on how best to present your news and shape the resulting conversation.
A small mistake, misstatement or missing piece of information can result in negative media attention or, critically, an adverse impact to stock trading. So be sure to confirm with those involved that you have all of the required elements before you hit send.
Preparing Your Earnings Release
While you’re wrangling the data and crafting your message, don’t forget to take a few minutes to check off the necessities. Doing so will ensure you meet disclosure requirements and make your release easy to understand.
Check quarter-to-quarter references. Many companies use a template to build the webcast announcement and earnings release. Make sure you’ve changed all quarter and year references to the current one.
Include stock ticker (EXCHANGE: Symbol), ideally in the first paragraph, for parsing by financial portals.
Highlight the main data points: Net Income, Revenue, Earnings Per Share, etc.
Highlight the most sought-after numbers early on in your headline, subheadline and/or initial paragraphs. Use bullets or bolded headings to organize the data points in eye-catching formats
Present GAAP and non-GAAP equally. The SEC states that GAAP measures must be presented with equal or greater prominence than non-GAAP. They’re two sides of the same coin. Both are valuable in telling your full story.
Gather executive quotes. This is your chance to put color and context around the numbers. Plus, reporters often use direct quotes from the press release in their initial coverage. Place those quotes in an easily accessible location to make their job easier and increase your chances of earning media pick-up from your release.
Include all relevant accounting tables, comparing year-to-year and/or quarter-to-quarter. Your tabular data should be in a consistent order each quarter so readers know where to find the information they need.
Make your readers’ job easy by including all relevant financial data right within your release. Don’t make them go hunting for it by having to click links or download additional files.
Add supplemental data. Additional references like investor presentations and graphics can be included in the full release or linked back to the company website to drive traffic there.
Spell out conference call dial-in information. Ensure readers have the date and time upfront, and know how to join the call where company executives will further break down your quarterly performance.
Include media contact for follow-up questions. Media tend to prefer reaching out by phone rather than email, especially for time-sensitive news like earnings.
Now that your release is ready, it’s time to share it simultaneously with the media, investors and public. The most efficient and effective way to do that is through wire distribution.
Submitting Your Earnings Release over the Wire:
Prepare and send editable files to your wire service. These should be in Word, Excel or HTML file formats. This allows editors to format your content for accurate distribution.
Pick your distribution. Make sure you’re sending to a full “wire” newsline that includes financial journalists as well as online points. Choose a distribution strategy that satisfies your company’s disclosure policy in context to Reg FD.
Give yourself – and your wire service – enough time. Select a distribution time during the upload process, or let editors know when you plan to distribute. And be sure to build in time for your own internal review, too.
Request a proof copy for review. Gather stakeholders to review the earnings proof copy in advance of approval/distribution, as a final confirmation before delivery.
Notify your stock exchange, if necessary. NYSE requires 10 minutes’ advance notice of material news being announced between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET; Nasdaq has the same requirements between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET.
Give your wire provider the go-ahead, with clear timing instructions.
Coordinate your 8-K to be simultaneously filed with the SEC.
By checking off each of these steps in advance of distributing your earnings release, you’ll ensure your audiences are receiving the full story, accurately and on time.