Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Financial Communications: Not Everything's a Show

As the first quarter draws to a close, I'm reflecting on how best to communicate Verizon's earnings results in the simplest, most direct way. The format for our 1Q disclosure becomes the de-facto template for the year and, these days, one year is a very long time -- considering the sea change in the way companies now report results.

It began inauspiciously as a live mic caught CEO Marissa Mayer calling the on-hold music for Yahoo's 4Q 2012 earnings conference call "garbage." Two quarters later, Yahoo's earnings call became a video production, and Netflix followed suit with its own video featuring questions from a CNBC journalist.

Since then, seemingly anything goes. And it begs the question: do investors, analysts and financial media really need to be engaged... or simply informed?

There are billions of dollars at stake when companies disclose financials. It impacts investments that support pension plans, college savings, the ability to buy a home or the ability to provide care for an aging parent.

This is real life. Not everything's a show.

And yet... not everything should be a boring news release either. Just two months after watching Yahoo and Netflix executives discuss financials on YouTube, I found myself sitting in an auditorium of Verizon employees in Basking Ridge, NJ. We were waiting for CEO Lowell McAdam to appear on stage to talk about Verizon's then-just-announced plan to purchase Vodafone's stake in Verizon Wireless -- for $130 billion.

The room was full of electricity. Blaring from the professional sound system was Jack White's awesome cover of Little Willie John's "I'm Shakin."

The person sitting next to me leaned over and asked, in all earnestness, "What time does the show start?"
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