A problem that has long bugged many companies’ heads and C-level executives is how to make earnings calls – that is, calls discussing a certain company’s financial results and performance during a given period of time such as a quarter or fiscal year – more accessible not only to the investors, businessmen, business journalist, and other such people with more than passing knowledge of the business world and an understanding of the ins and outs of the trade, but also to the general public itself, who frankly couldn’t care less about whether Company A earned so and so this year while Company B lost this amount of money in only a quarter.
There have been many solutions proposed for this problem, and many of these solutions do work, mainly because they were created by people who know what they’re doing.
Here are some of the solutions that industry experts – or rather, people with at least an ounce of common sense – recommend doing so that your earnings calls are more accessible to the public:
Making earnings calls an online session
This item on this list might seem like an unnecessary one; after all, isn’t it the case that every company in the world does earnings calls this way in this day and age with the Internet being as popular as it is – via online sessions and not phone calls?
If you thought yes to the question above, you thought wrong. Sure, companies who use phone calls exclusively for their earnings calls are the exception, not the norm, today. These companies may use phone calls for their earnings calls exclusively for the most mundane and practical reasons (saving cost by not having to invest in the many tools and gadgets needed, not to mention the applications and the subscriptions and the like) to the somewhat unusual ones (the bosses don’t trust the Internet and are afraid that conducting earnings calls via the Internet lets other people unrelated to the company in any way listen to the information they share in these calls).
Some of these reasons may be justified in the case of certain companies, and some may not be. After all, there is indeed a cost related to procuring equipment and the like for Internet-conducted earnings calls, and there is always the risk inherent in using the Internet that your data is sent somewhere you may not want it to be sent to. The point here, though, is that there is no need to stay away completely from conducting earnings calls online, for there are many advantages to having these be conducted online, or at least for having an online option to listen to these earnings calls, foremost among these being the fact that the more ways for people to join earnings calls, and not be limited by the method of doing so, the better. Also, earnings calls conducted via the Internet often have clearer audio as compared to an earnings call conducted via a phone line, although this may vary from place to place.
Making an archive of some sort for earnings calls
Another seemingly basic and cookie-cutter thing that some companies, for no inexplicable reason, fail to do is to make available to the public some sort of archive of all of their past earnings calls, or at least those relevant for a certain period of time. This archive can be a downloadable archive file format such as a .zip or .rar containing all of the earnings calls for a given quarter or year made available on the company website, or a podcast posted on the company website or in podcast-sharing sites with the proper password protections and somesuch in place to limit who has access to the calls, or even something like transcripts that are easily searchable (more on this later). What’s important is that there is some sort of an archive so that people who don’t have the time or the patience to join an earnings call live can refer to that archive so that they can hear all the details mentioned in the call and thus have the relevant information for themselves. An archive would also be useful to those who indeed joined the earnings call because now they can double-check the contents of the earnings call themselves so that they do not get the wrong information.
Having earnings calls transcribed
This item actually falls into the second item on this list, but this is the easiest way – the basics of the basics, if you will – to have your earnings calls be more accessible to the public, and thus it warrants its own entry. Having your earnings calls transcribed – that is, rendering in a written format all that was said in an earnings call – is a surefire way to increase the accessibility of earnings calls.
The first reason why transcripts are important for earnings calls is searchability. Unlike audio, transcripts are easily searchable. One only has to know the right terms to search for, type that term in in the search bar of whatever word processor, and there it will appear. Or if so inclined, one could also do speed reading and simply skim through the whole thing in search of whatever it is that they’re looking for.
Transcripts also show up faster on search engines than audio does. As of right now, there is no extremely reliable way for search engines such as Google or Yahoo! or Bing to look for certain bits of information in an audio file such as an .mp3 that was posted somewhere. These search engines, however, excel in finding bits and odds of text, sometimes even from websites completely unrelated to a given topic.
Transcripts are also easier on a person’s schedule. Anyone who has ever done or has listened to earnings call for at least one time knows that they take long, sometimes inordinately and inexplicably so. It often takes hours just for one earnings call to finish, time that can be better spent elsewhere. Transcripts provide a great way of shortening the time needed to process the information from these earnings calls by leaps and bounds by converting hours-long audio into a document that can be skimmed through in a matter of minutes. Now, instead of having to skip back and forth through the audio hoping to locate that one crucial bit of information, one only has to have a quick look through the document to find that one missing piece.
Following the above list is one step towards making your earnings calls more accessible to the public. Make sure to follow the best practices in conducting earnings call sessions. The next step, of course, would be to make sure that you are doing the above things the right way, which means giving as many options as possible for people to join earnings calls, having the archive be easily accessible, and having a good transcription of earnings calls. After all, what sense does an earnings call transcript make when it isn’t even done properly when the numbers are skewed and the terms all wrong? Consider doing this step in the house, or if not possible, then getting a good transcription company that is able to provide you quality earnings call transcriptions at a reasonable rate.