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The 2024 State of the Media Report

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Investor Relations Leadership in the Age of Disruption

Staring Down Disruption: Bold IR Leadership Drives Results Amidst Chaos


It goes without saying the challenges we faced this year turned business as usual on its head, and every single industry has had to adapt to move forward despite major uncertainty.  The theme of the National Investor Relations Institute’s (NIRI) Annual Conference, The Age of Disruption, touched on these exactstruggles the industry is facing. Over the course of the three-day conference there were an abundantnumber of takeaways from investor relations professionals operating in this new normal. In this post, we explore key learnings from the iconic auto manufacturer Ford.


With Disruption Comes Opportunity


Ford’s Chief Financial Officer, John Lawler and Executive Director of Investor Relations, Lynn Tyson, kicked off the conference speaking to the current state of economic uncertainty and the short-term and long-term effects of the pandemic on global financial markets. 


Despite the uncertainty, Ford is not letting the pandemic slow them down, in fact; it has accelerated a transformation both internally and externally. John stated, “We are disrupting ourselves in order to create better value for all stakeholders.”  


He shared the word “crisis” written in Chinese is 2 symbols – one for danger and the other for opportunity. Yes, inflicting disruption causes pain, but the test is how we respond and the potential for growth in the future.


Lead with Purpose 


Purpose was another key theme throughout the session. Brands are being called on by constituents and stakeholders to do more and take stands on issues like never before. Purpose is bigger than marketing, product or services – a brand’s purpose should be well defined and lay a path to higher and greater financial success. Purpose should deepen customer, employee and stakeholder trust and amplify shareholder confidence.


Customer Engagement & Digital Storytelling


The pandemic changed the way most brands engage with their customers, forcing quick pivots and digital transformation. Ford shared they are looking at different avenues to reach customers by ramping up social media and online presence; and being deliberate and prescriptive with how they are communicating with all audiences.


Like many companies, they have found that virtual events can be quite productive and reach a much broader population in a more convenient manner. For Ford, the Auto Shows are where a lot of business took place – car and product reveals, media days, etc. – and as companies start to evaluate the ROI of in-person, live and hybrid events, it will be interesting to see how this evolves over the course of the next few years.  Though the importance of face-to face interactions and reading the room can never truly be replaced.   


Rock Solid Investor Relations Team


Working together in lockstep, John and Lynn, creating an Investor Relations team who isn't afraid to try new strategies and consider new approaches to driving results in this virtual world. 


In Closing 


While the global pandemic continues to challenge economic, political, and cultural fabric of our collective society, it’s clear that through willingness to experiment with new approaches, flexibility in tactical execution, and decisive action in the midst of constant change IR professionals can not only survive, but thrive in the Age of Disruption.