‘Understanding retail isn’t about shaking up your entire IR playbook,’ says Public.com general manager of IR innovation

Apr 19, 2022
Katie Perry talks Town Hall Q&As, retail education and working with content creators

Retail investment platform Public.com rose to IR fame with the launch of its Town Hall Q&As – a forum for companies to engage with their retail bases. Now, the firm has launched a new initiative – Pulse – with the aim of furthering ties between public companies and retail investors – and the platforms these investors use to access information.

Katie Perry, Public.com
Katie Perry, Public.com

IR Magazine caught up with Katie Perry, general manager of IR innovation at Public.com to talk about the trends the company is seeing and why IR should be thinking about the retail base.

Retail investors have traditionally been on something of the back burner when it comes to IR priorities, given time constraints and budgets – and simply the bigger voice of institutions. Why should IROs be paying more attention to retail investors and how can they do that efficiently?

The increased enthusiasm of retail is creating a new dynamic for public companies as they think about their duty to provide the same access to relevant news and information to all of their investors. What we hear from companies is that they’re closely following retail acceleration, but for many companies, this new audience presents a bit of a black box: How should I think about my retail shareholders, and what is the best way to reach them efficiently given limited time and resources?

The companies we’re working with come from different industries, with different degrees of retail ownership, but they share one thing in common: curiosity. Having a desire to understand the acceleration of retail investing doesn’t require shaking up your entire IR playbook. Adding in simple distribution steps for announcements and earnings calls, and staying close to insights can help companies keep a pulse on retail as the space continues to develop.

Moreover, for consumer brands in particular, there is the added consideration that retail shareholders often double as your customers or potential customers. Engaging and understanding retail audiences can have value beyond the walls of IR when you think of long-term customer loyalty that can support your business into the future.

What has been interesting about the ways in which companies use Town Hall?

I’ve been really impressed at the level of engagement from executives at the companies who participate. They’ve told us they enjoy seeing first hand which topics retail investors care about and often get to dig deeper into topics that are less prioritized by institutions – things like company culture, founding stories, and leadership style. Many of these executives, namely those at consumer-oriented companies, understand that there is a lot of crossover between their customers and their retail investors, so the direct insights they can capture are valuable to IR, communications, and even marketing.

I started my career at an ad agency specializing in social media when social was still an afterthought for many marketers. I see a lot of parallels between that environment and the one we’re in now. Some companies are leaning into retail engagement, while others are interested in monitoring trends but, understandably, are not able to allocate substantial resources. [What] public companies [can do is be] smarter about retail in general to ensure their information is getting to retail audiences efficiently.

How have you seen the priorities of retail investors shift in the past couple of years – and how do you expect these trends to evolve?

One general trend we saw following the rise of GameStop and other meme stocks was diversification. Most people whose first investment was a meme stock went on to diversify their portfolios. We’ve also seen that people learn about core investing topics in the context of real world events, and so timely audio shows breaking down topics like an upcoming stock split or earnings call are consistently some of our most-streamed content.

Pulse works with content creators and also says it helps companies to put their information in the places retail investors are already looking. Where are those places and in what ways should companies engage with social media or other content creators?

The new generation of investors are getting their information from a wider range of sources than prior generations [and] our recent research shows that the number-one place newer investors get their information is right within their investing platform.

Content creators are also a major source of information. We work with many financial creators, and our standards are high for these partnerships. The creators most popular in our app are leading with education. They’re breaking down news in context and providing pathways for people to learn. Some of my personal favorites are Austin Hankwitz, Kevin Matthews II, and Nadia Vanderhall because they lead with education. 

In terms of where companies fit in, one of the interesting things we see is that companies can play a role in supporting education. For example, with Town Halls we see members asking questions about an industry or sector, with executives breaking down bigger trends and even demystifying some of the terminology in earnings reports to make the information more accessible to more people. Creators that participate in our Town Halls can amplify this information to even broader audiences.

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