Many well run African banks are profitable and enjoy a very strong investment story given their critical role in their respective economies. Banks are a favourite amongst investors of all types: they are easy to understand (theoretically) brand awareness is high and they are profitable. They are also highly regulated which adds confidence to the general investing populous.

Conversely commercial banks are in a particularly strong position to benefit from an online investor and stakeholder relations function for a number of reasons:-

  • Brand outreach is key because of the competitive nature of the banking industry
  • Customer / stakeholder communities are large and widely spread around the World
  • Communications corporate governance and reporting complements prudential governance compliance
  • Market confidence is critical – a good website adds to corporate reputation. For banks “Online Corporate Reputation” or OCR is a growth area enabling differentiation from peers
  • The diverse nature of banking operations provides opportunity to cross sell products and services

A bank is a provider of diverse set of products and services to many, many thousands of customers and stakeholders. How can a website landing page or indeed a website in its entirety capture everything that a bank can do?

The fact is it can’t.

So management of African banks have to prioritise.

The most obvious place for them to start is the 5 year strategic plan presented to the Board. The look to the financial statements: where are the majority of revenues generated? Which aspect of the business has the most potential and which deserves to be given the most exposure or the highest quality of exposure? It is this process of prioritisation and familiarisation that takes time. It’s worth it because the creation at the end of the day that crystallises this, is a website that is going to work for the bank’s brand for 5 years or more. Return on investment will be high. Peer competitive rankings will be high. Customer ratings will be high.

Take time to view a few African bank websites and the majority of them do not know about the advice I have above. The evidence: the poor quality of their websites. This is lost opportunity.

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African listed company executives generally want nothing to do with smaller shareholders. Dealing with smaller shareholders who are ignorant and poor is costly and a “waste of time”. There’s another slant however. An innovative view that should be considered by any listed company given the way the Internet is changing this world. Please see the interesting article below on how to engage your shareholder base in a respectful manner.

These shareholders that are “irrelevant” and a “waste of time”  are human. They have feelings, emotions and can communicate with other humans about the way companies and brands treat them. This communication is enhanced by the new technological era to the extent that this communication can go global in seconds. In short companies cannot categorise shareholders as shareholders, they are people with many interests in the listed company in which they are a shareholder. Call them “stakeholders” people that are:-

  • Interested that the company is acting responsibly in the community – this is more important in Africa where the degree of difference in wealth is very high
  • Interested in the services and products offered by the company – Africa’s markets are competitive
  • Interested in their dividend – African retail shareholders are almost singly focused on their dividends
  • Interested in companies paying taxes and employing people – this is related to the first point above

The article below, on how listed companies in the USA use a free Google open forum to solicit questions from shareholders at the AGM is an innovative tool that could be used by listed companies in Africa to communicate with shareholders (stakeholders) responsibly. But there are some key questions on how to structure this interaction effectively. There are three key issues that a listed company executive needs to consider when structuring an initiative like this:-

  • Is the forum public or private?
  • Are forum participants identified or anonymous?
  • Is the forum limited to shareholders or anyone?

Here are the answers to how to structure your online shareholder forum (a summary of what Dominic Jones says below):-

  • The forum should be public
  • The forum participants should be identified
  • The forum should be open to anyone – shareholders are not identified as such, they are identified has humans interested in your company. Unclassified or tainted by perception.

Here are extracts of insight from Dominic Jones, world leader in online IR from the article below:-

“Small shareholders have no incentive to participate in the forum because they will perceive that anything they say will not be taken seriously. This is because everyone is classified by the size of their shareholding. They’re not people, they’re just a holding size. …………. it reflects their worldview where everyone is just an account. Social media, of which shareholder forums are one form, is about people interacting with people.”

How about anonymity?

“ anonymity is not conducive to serious discussion on forums. Usually, people who are anonymous have something to hide and are less accountable for what they say. It would have been much better not to show holding ranges and instead allow users to create a profile and identify themselves, if that is what they wanted. Anyone who chose to be anonymous would not be taken seriously by other participants

Check out Google moderator here. This is an excellent tool for African listed companies to combat the apathy in dealing with their shareholders. Think out the box, do something different and innovative that will double up as some seriously good PR.

But why should a listed company executive bother with an initiative of this nature?

  • Humans are human. They will hold the listed company in high regard – their corporate reputation improves, shareholders products and spread the word.
  • Foreign investors will appreciate this – they get to be heard – and get an excellent feel for what’s being said about the company. It is more than likely that they as foreigners have not had interaction with management and this may be a welcome channel to communicate
  • Its good corporate governance and will result in some good PR
  • The feedback that you receive might actually help corporate strategy

If you are in anyway skeptical about the foundation upon which this article is written then ask yourself why listed companies and corporates worldwide are engaging stakeholders directly with Facebook and Twitter etc.

Here is Dominic’s article below:-

Attributed to Dominic JonesIR Web Report‘s founder and an online investor relations consultant.

A GROWING number of companies are using the web to give their shareholders opportunities to pose questions to directors and executives at their annual meetings.

Since many shareholders are unable to attend meetings in person, the move by companies to use the web could help to reengage apathetic retail stockholders in the annual meeting process. At many U.S. company meetings last yearless than 5% of retail shareholder accounts participated.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) recently opened a forum for stockholders to submit questions and vote for other shareholders’ submissions. The most popular questions will be put to the board and management at the company’s annual meeting on May 7.

To filter the questions, the Internet giant is using Google Moderator, a free application that it has long used for internal meetings. The White House used the same application for a Town Hall with President Obama last month.

Google's shareholder meeting question forum uses Google Moderator
Anyone with a Google account is able to submit and vote on questions for the company’s annual meeting.

One of the least tech savvy companies, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BKR.A, BKR.B), broke with tradition this year to include an Internet component for its May 2 annual meeting. The company asked shareholders to email questions to leading journalists, who will choose which questions to ask at the meeting. A draw will also be held for shareholders in attendance who want to ask questions.

In the UK, Barclays plc (NYSE: BCS) included a form in its online annual report for investors to submit questions to the company. They are alsoinvited to email questions to be asked at the meeting. Similarly, UK-based insurer Aviva plc (LON:AV) provides an online form for shareholders to submit questions for its upcoming meeting.

For several years, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has invited shareholders to submit annual meeting questions online and thenpublished answers after the meeting. It is doing the same thing for its 2009 meeting on April 28Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) has followed a similar process for the past two years, but does not post answers to questions online.

Barclays plc has integrated shareholder feedback into its annual report
`”Your View” is a main section in Barclays’ online annual report.

As we were first to report, this year Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) will become the first company to permit live voting at its annual meeting via the web. Shareholders will also be able to ask questions online during the meeting.

Last week, Intel launched a closed shareholder forum, which is built on the Investor Network platform of Broadridge Financial Solutions (NYSE: BR). I suspect Intel’s forum will be a flop because it is not public, because it demeans retail shareholders, and because it’s not clear what investors are signing up for.

Of all the approaches companies are taking, I like Google’s the most. It’s open, transparent and relies on the crowd to determine which are the most important questions. Best of all, any company can use the same approach for free.

Finally, let me just place on record that inviting questions from shareholders who are unable to attend the annual meeting is not new. Australian companies such as BHP Billiton and Commonwealth Bank have long included a printed question card with their meeting materials for shareholders to mail back to the company.

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In many strange ways our managed corporate website and investor relations services, already is consistent with leading online IR practices of the First World. See below. Our stock exchanges in Africa are inefficient in distributing information online for free and widely. Our listed companies do not use newswire services and our brokers (too many of them) are starved of market liquidity (to generate commissions) and under-resourced.

So really its corporate Africa that’s driving its own future (or should be). This is good news and an opportunity for listed companies to build direct influence and grow brand directly – and not rely on others.

The article below, by Dominic Jones, shows how corporate websites in the First World are becoming more and more effective relative to traditional newswire and regulatory news services. African websites (that we manage) are already at that stage (relatively) because of the stage of the development of our markets (undeveloped) and because we have leap-frogged technology to use the best and most efficient tools DIRECTLY for the benefit of our clients. The only significant challenge in Africa is the absence of awareness of the grey haired CEOs that are in control of the decisions. This will change over time.

Herewith Dominic’s article which makes interesting reading. If you are interested in leading-edge online thinking then I do recommend that you sign up to his website email alerts. Dominic’s approach taking on the established monoliths in the media world is very refreshing.

Attributed to Dominic JonesIR Web Report‘s founder and an online investor relations consultant.

STATISTICS from trackable links in company press releases suggest that even small companies’ websites are the most heavily used sources for financial disclosure information and that dissemination via PR wire services is mostly ignored by investors.

The public statistics bust the widely held misconception among investor relations professionals and securities lawyers that PR wire services are the most effective way for companies to achieve broad disclosure. They show that while PR wires distribute company releases to hundreds of different intermediaries such as a financial portals, there is little or no evidence that investors use PR wire releases.


The statistics also explode the myth that only large, widely followed companies’ websites can be used for disclosure under the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) 2008 Regulation FD guidance, which states that postings on company websites can meet fair disclosure requirements if they meet certain standards, including that investors actually use the sites. The statistics indicate that even at small-cap companies, websites, email lists and social media accounts are the primary channels through which investors now receive investor relations information.

Disclosure dissemination practices fall behind

In the three years since the SEC issued its guidance on the use of company websites and blogs for disclosure, only a handful of companies have changed their disclosure practices to use their websites and SEC filings rather than PR wire services as the primary channel for their disclosures to investors. Those that have made changes include Google Inc., which no longer uses PR wires for its earnings releases, and small-cap BGC Partners, which uses an advisory release method to alert investors to full-text disclosures on its website.

The lack of progress towards so-called web disclosure is likely due to several contributing factors. US Stock exchanges still favor PR wire services in their rules and discourage companies from pursuing web disclosure, even though their rules do not expressly prohibit it. Nasdaq OMX owns PR wire service GlobeNewswire while NYSE Euronext offers subsidized press release services to its listed companies.

Another limiting factor is a general lack of awareness of new real-time web technologies among companies, their advisers and some web service providers. PR wire services have exploited this lack of awareness as they seek to preserve their lucrative disclosure dissemination franchises by sowing misinformation and creating doubt among cautious companies.

However, the biggest barrier to the adoption of web and social media channels for disclosure has been the widespread misconception in the industry that PR wire services are both the most effective means of disseminating disclosure information and that they meet companies’ disclosure obligations under Reg FD. Consequently, companies continue to collectively spend many millions annually on PR wire services even though SEC filings provide more certainty of compliance and many companies are in a position to replace PR wire distribution with website postings under the SEC’s 2008 guidance.

Click stats show where investors interact with company news

Now, publicly available information about investors’ use of links in news releases calls into question the effectiveness of PR wire service distribution and suggests that investors mostly access disclosure information directly from company websites, email alerts, RSS feeds and real-time messages on social media platforms.

The statistics are provided publicly by URL shortening services such as Bit.ly and Goo.gl. They enable anyone to view where investors are when they access and click on shortened links in press releases. The statistics these services provide are more reliable than the statistics that PR wire services offer to their clients because they are not affected by investors’ browser settings, non-human activity such as search bots, or by the format choices of the PR wires’ distribution sites.

Some companies use services like Bit.ly to shorten long links to webcasts and other information in their press releases so that the links don’t break when the releases are distributed in emails or posted on some websites. When investors click on these links the short link is decoded into the original long URL and a click is recorded by the shortening service. Anyone can access the click statistics for these shortened links by appending a + sign to the end of the URL.

Information recorded by the link shortening services includes referrer information, which is the location where investors viewed the release and clicked on the links. When the links are clicked on a public website such as Yahoo! Finance, the shortening service can easily track and record this information. However, if the link is clicked via a user’s email program, in one of a number of social media clients such as Tweet Deck, or if a user pastes or types the link directly into their browser, the referrer cannot be tracked and the click is recorded as a “direct” click.

For more than a year, we have been monitoring PR wire services for public company releases that contain links that have been shorted using the Bit.ly service. Unfortunately, very few companies shorten the URLs in disclosure releases using Bit.ly so examples are few and far between. However, in every case that we have looked at, few if any of the clicks can be tracked back to PR wire service distribution points, while company websites and direct access clicks from emails and the like are typically the most common referrers.

The finding that company controlled channels account for more click activity than PR wire service distribution holds true regardless of company size. This is an important point because it suggests that many more companies could be using web disclosure than was previously thought.

Below we provide information from three public company releases that included trackable Bit.ly links. Two are from small, lesser known companies and one involves Dow Jones Industrials constituent The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA)

Example 1:  State Auto Financial Corp

On April 28, 2011, State Auto Financial Corp (NASDAQ: STFC) issued a news released via Business Wire announcing a webcast of its upcoming annual meeting. The second paragraph of the release included a link to the webcast registration page that was shortened using Bit.ly.

According to a Google search, Business Wire distributed the release to scores of websites including the most visited finance portals such as Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, MarketWatch, Barron’s, Reuters, Bloomberg and Morningstar.

State Auto Financial release April 28, 2011

According to Bit.ly, of the 116 clicks on the short link in STFC’s release only 3 clicks can be attributed to Business Wire distribution points, namely Yahoo! Finance (1 click), StreetInsider (1 click) and SNL.com (1 click).

STFC’s own investor relations website, which is hosted by IR website provider InvestQuest.com, generated 10 times as many clicks (34 clicks), while clicks from direct sources such as email, Twitter clients and manual browser entries generated 75 clicks, or 65% of the total. STFC provides an email alert utility on its IR website for news releases and SEC filings.

These figures appear to show that distribution of STFC’s release via Business Wire was largely a waste of time and effort and that up to 94% of the audience reacted to information received from the company’s own website or email alerts.

This suggests that STFC, which has a market-cap of $650m, is well placed to use its website and SEC filings to comply with Reg FD and to communicate its essential information to investors.

Bit.ly referrer stats for STFC
Bit.ly’s referrer statistics for STFC’s April 28 news release

Example 2: Sonus Networks, Inc.

On June 1, 2011, Sonus Networks (NASDAQ: SONS) issued a news release via PR Newswire announcing the date for its upcoming investor day in New York City. The release advised investors that they need to pre-register to attend the event and provided a Bit.ly link to a page on the company’s website where they can do that.

According to Google, PR Newswire distributed the release to about 144 finance and news websites, including Yahoo! Finance, Reuters, Business Insider, Barron’s and dozens of smaller news outlets.

Sonus uses a website from Shareholder.com that offers an email alert utility that distributes the full-text of releases to subscribers. The company also issued a message containing the bit.ly link on Twitter, where it currently has 487 followers.



According to Bit.ly’s click stats, the short link to the investo day registration page was clicked a total of 21 times, of which only 2 clicks can be attributed to PR Newswire partner Yahoo! Finance. More than 90% of the clicks appear to be from the company’s own web channels, including 15 clicks from email alerts and Twitter messages viewed in client software, 3 clicks from the company’s IR website and 1 click from the Twitter website.

Here again, there is negligible evidence that PR wire distribution is effective, with only one of PR Newswire’s distribution points registering clicks. The company’s own web channels appear to the primary way that investors get information from Sonus.

Bit.ly’s referrer stats for Sonus’ June 1 news release

Example 3: The Boeing Company

On December 20, 2010, The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) announced that it was increasing production of its 777 aircraft. The release, which was distributed via PR Newswire, included a Bit.ly shortened link to a video about the 777 program. As the only link in the widely distributed release, it was very prominent.

Boeing posted the release on its website and also distributed the full-text to its email list subscribers.


According to Bit.ly, the release generated a lot of interest with a total of 1,757 clicks. Boeing’s own websites generated by far the most clicks, with a combined 917 clicks across three sites, or 52% of the total. Email and the like generated a total of 610 clicks or 35%.

PR Newswire’s own website accounted for 32 clicks or 2% while Yahoo! Finance accounted for 15 clicks or less than 1%. The bulk of the remaining clicks were made up of traffic from industry publications.

Overall, the click statistics suggest that up to 87% of people who are interested in Boeing receive their information directly from the company rather than from PR wire distribution sources.

Bit.ly referrer stats for Sonus
Bit.ly’s referrer stats for Boeing’s news release

Summary and limitations

These click statistics and others that we have reviewed provide strong evidence that PR wire distribution is not as effective or as well used as companies’ own website channels.

This has potentially important compliance implications for how companies and their legal counsel approach their disclosure dissemination practices. Reg FD places the onus on companies to ensure that any alternative channels to SEC filings they choose to use are in fact reasonably designed to result in broad, non-exclusionary distribution.

Of course, there are limitations to using click statistics. By definition they track only those instances where people actually click on a link. They cannot tell us how many times releases are read but people don’t click on the links. Nonetheless, on a relative basis it is clear that company channels are likely being read much more often than releases distributed by PR wires.

Another limitation is that it is impossible to know the source of the emails and other direct sources of clicks. In addition to company email alert utilities, PR wire services also may have subscribers who received these releases via email. However, the relatively poor showing of the PR wires’ own websites in the click statistic suggests that their own channels are not widely used for company disclosure information.

Finally, while they are consistent with a number of other companies we have reviewed, these results are for a limited number of companies and may not hold true in all cases.

Next steps for companies

To comply with their regulatory obligations and best serve the information needs of their investors, companies should seek to understand what channels their investors are using.

Shortening URLs in releases using Bit.ly is the best way to do this because Bit.ly has invested heavily in systems and technologies to provide accurate statistics. PR wires’ own statistics are not reliable and are unable to track all clicks. Additionally, PR wires may be overstating traffic because they are less effective at stripping out non-human web activity, such as search bots.

Once companies have better insights into how and where investors are using their information, they can make informed judgments about moving to a web and social media disclosure dissemination system coupled with SEC filings.

This may include adopting new procedures such as relying on SEC filings for compliance, and using company owned web channels and new real-time technologies to effectively communicate information to investors in the formats they prefer and through the channels they actually use.

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You have signed up to Linkedin.com and it BUGS you that you don’t know what to do next. LinkedIn.com is a powerful executive networking tool that is free (well almost). I recommend it strongly to those executives that seek to extend their company’s influence online (and indeed their own). I have posted a few tips on how to use Linkedin.com below. These are my tips and not necessarily those of Linkedin.com – although they probably overlap.

Here goes:-

  • Use it actively and regularly – don’t forget – it takes a long time to build your profile online so start early and do it often.
  • Complete your profile 100% on Linkedin
  • Put a decent photo of you online. If you are ugly, where a suit and a tie it softens the blow for the reader.
  • Import all of your email contacts into Linkedin – see who is also on Linkedin.com too (there’s a little flag) and invite them to join. Do this once every three months – the additional contacts you have met will be added to your Linkedin account
  • Go through each contact you have imported and invite each one individually OR send them all an invite at once : not recommended as you will annoy people that you have not spoken to for some time
  • Put your Linkedin personal icon image on your website, blog etc and invite people to get in touch
  • See what Linkedin.com groups are profiled to your business e.g. African hospitality or hotels or accommodation. Go to the group profile and see the number of members – if there’s 30 members probably not worthwhile joining (unless its specific to you ie that group may be influential in what it does), if there’s 4,000 members its a good source of coverage.
  • For every material release of information from your company website, link that, and publish it into the groups you have joined, with your commentary thereon. In Africa many executives join the same groups and this is why its important to join a few big groups and not lots of them.
  • Use wording above that is direct and gives the reader a reason why he should read your post – saying “Press release No 43″ is not good. Saying that 40,0oo carats of diamonds are for sale at firesale prices will attract attention…… from the cops.  So make it appropriate to your business and what you do. Keep it short. Use things like “Top 10 tips for hoteliers” or “Give us your favourite hotelier quote” or whatever. Linkedin can be a bit like Facebook, in that every now and then there’s interesting discussions online, tick the box to follow them, actively participate in them and contribute meaningfully – dont waste time.
  • Think about whether you want visitors to your Linkedin.com to see all of your contacts and link to them. If your relationships are proprietary then set the setting not to show your contacts to anyone
  • Think about whether you could set up your own group online to discuss things relevant to your business and sphere of influence
  • Link your website disclosures automatically to appear in your Linkedin.com account and your Twitter and Facebook
  • Put your corporate online presentation online under your profile
  • Put what books you are reading online. If its the Khama Sutra then thats probably inappropriate (but may attract lots of readers). Put intellectual books online, like War and Peace, Wuthering Heights, The Ascent of Man, Romeo and Juliet. This accentuates your intellectualism. No don’t. Just put online what you are reading.
  • Link your blog post to automatically appear in your Linkedin account.
  • Regularly update your status – what are you doing on a strategic level.
  • Ensure that every press release that is released by your company is published on your profile.
  • Do not accept all LinkedIn.com requests – read the profile of the person that you might link with, are they likely to find what you have to say every now and then interesting. And vice versa. Do you really want to like with the person on the other side? For people looking for work bombard them with due diligence info and get them to courier their FULL details to you before you consider them. If they do that they are serious.
  • Put your company profile on Linkedin too
  • Be aware that having all of your staff online is effectively a HR shopping menu for your competitors – and vice versa.
  • Put your Linkedin.com address on your business card

One last thing to bear in mind is to keep your contacts updated with what you are doing – you can only send messages to 50 contacts at a time so its a hassle and it takes time.


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We have categorised all of the website feedback of our clients’ websites from the commencement of our business. The results are interesting. Our exercise excludes the feedback of the two online investor relations IPOs we have done. The results appear in the pie chart below:-

What are the key take aways from the results of our clients’ website feedback?:-

  1. 22%. “Are share registrars inefficient” or is an interactive website a good complementary tool to channel shareholder communications? Probably a bit of both. The fact is that the majority of feedback relates to shareholder administrative issues.
  2. 15%. “Who are the potential investors?” Largely retail shareholders who have visited the website, digested its content and now want to know how to invest.
  3. 12%. “Analyst feedback” submitted through the website is an easier way for analysts to access management on an ongoing basis. Executives are busy and may be difficult to contact by phone. Our undertaking to monitor our clients website feedback response times ensures that queries from analysts are accelerated to the CEO or FD as soon as possible.
  4. 11%. “Operational issues” relate primarily to queries relating to enquiries about our clients’ products and or services – how do I buy this? – where can I find that etc?. For clients in the retail sectors this feedback is a solid source of business leads.
  5. 9%. “Business development”. For some clients, particularly ones operating in more than one geographic location, this category of feedback is by far the most valuable as it relates to approaches to form business partnerships, investments or strategic alliances.
  6. 6%. Human resources. This traffic relates to people wanting to work for our clients companies and here, there are two approaches our clients take. Ignore all of it, or engage every applicant as if they might be a potential employee. In the latter case using the website users interest in the company to extract a full set of information (resume etc.) for your records is an excellent way of accumulating a database of potential employees.
  7. 6%. Procurement. This relates to people wishing to sell their products and or services to our client companies. Similarly, there are two approaches: engage or ignore. The former will entail the solicitation of all the information needed to determine whether our clients should do business with the person submitting the query. Submission of accounts, references, marketing material etc. is a good practice due diligence process.
  8. 4%,3% and 1%. “Compliments”, “Media” and “Complaints”. Website users like a good online experience and they say so through our client websites. This is unsolicited feedback so it means a lot. All of our clients have direct communications channels with the main media houses ThompsonReuters etc. and the website provides an easy assured way for them to communicate with our clients’ management. Lastly, we are not all perfect and there are always complaints – senior management should always respond to these immediately because its critical to business and reputation.

All in all about 50% of our feedback relates to investors and investor related issues and and the remainder to commercial and administrative issues. The former satisfies corporate governance obligations, whilst the latter more than pays for the cost of adopting a progressive online corporate communications function, especially when “OCR” or “online corporate reputation”, an intangible asset, is being grown.

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Do you monitor your website traffic? If not you should. It’s a valuable indicator of your possible return on investment. I saw a listed company recently in the mining sector. Over US$50m market capitalisation and over 5,000 shareholders. Their monthly website traffic was a massive 71 hits. Given that head of IT checked it daily you have to deduct 22 working days from that, making traffic 49 hits a month or just over 1 a day.

In online investor relations the number of hits is not important. It’s who is hitting your website that is important. If you have comprehensive information online and you get your information out first then you can be sure that your traffic includes the world largest emerging market fund managers and others. One hit can therefore make a difference.

I thought I would summarise our website traffic and provide some basic guidelines for you to compare yours to. Obviously if you are in a different sector, country etc. then the stats that I show may not be relevant to you. Internet penetration in your country may be lower or higher than the countries in which our clients reside. But the stats I show below may be relevant or at least provide some sort of benchmark. We start off firstly with overall country statistics. We have clients in 4 countries and remarkably the average statistics for each are very similar:-

Now we move onto the same statistics but for the number of visitors per month. Here there is greater differentiation:-

Looking at traffic (no. of visits) by sector the statistics are again variable with the telecoms, hospitality, schools and agro-sectors showing the highest traffic. Our clients mostly have pan-African operations or dominant in the industries in which they operate and some of them have large shareholder bases. These parameters should be taken into account. As you will see from other posts of mine the feedback we receive from our clients websites is a good mixture of commercial and investor related, so to use the number of shareholders as an indicator is necessarily correct. Our message is provide an open communications channel and they will come. All sorts of people will come.

Moving to the number of visitors by sector the stats pretty much mirror the visits. Again the utilities, telecoms and diverse agro-businesses all attracting good traffic.

Strategically companies and listed companies should try to capture the identity of this traffic and build an online community over time. This grows into a strategic resource, but the process takes time, so those companies starting sooner than the rest will be ahead of the game in the future.

The other key take away is to monitor what goes on. If you have bad traffic stats then there’s a problem with your content. If you don’t have the ability to identify traffic to your website then you should start. Speak to someone whose business it is to monitor these things.

Sorry one last thing, if your SEO is non-existent then you can have the best site but no-one will know. SEO is not something that is just done. It’s an intuitive process done by experts to ensure that you come up the ranks in Google et al.

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The duties of Directors will be set out in law when the new Kenyan Companies Bill is adopted into law (not anytime soon). In the interim, Kenyan companies are in no-man’s land with respect to how they are to communicate with shareholders. Kenyan directors are not acting in the interests of shareholders, they are not promoting the success of the company and they are not maintaining a high reputation for business conduct as a result.

Here is some text THAT WILL BE PASSED INTO LAW in the future. It states pretty clearly what directors should do. I further consider the implications of not implementing progressive shareholder communications practices in light of this legislation by way of a few questions:-

Duty to promote the success of the company

(1)        A director of a company must act in the way he considers, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole, and in doing so have regard (amongst other matters) to—

If Directors do not spend say US$10,000 a year in ensuring that their shareholder proxy materials are widely available to shareholders, is this acting in good faith? If money is an issue how does the Board determine what is a reasonable amount? Since the dropping of the requirement to distribute hard copy annual reports is it reasonable for listed companies NOT to apply any of the savings (many hundreds of thousands of US$) to alternative means of communicating with shareholders?

(a)        the likely consequences of any decision in the long term,

If for the sake of a few dollars thousands of retail shareholders (and possibly institutional investors) are alienated in their right to receive shareholder information, will this have positive or negative consequences for the company in the long term? The consequences in the short term are that shareholders are demanding their “book”  (annual report) direct from the offices of the listed companies. Disturbing management. How does a listed company “guess” how many annual reports to print? Should directors consider the commercial benefits of communicating with shareholders progressively as a means of obtaining some return on their investment?

(b)        the interests of the company’s employees,

Is it in the interests of employees to have all of the information available to investors in order that investors make educated investment decisions available to them? If employees have the same access to the information that shareholders do will this instill a sense of belonging and motivation?

(c)        the need to foster the company’s business relationships with suppliers, customers and others,

Does the manner in which a company treat its shareholders and investment community impact its overall reputation in the market?

(d)       the impact of the company’s operations on the community and the environment,

(e)        the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standards of business conduct,

Could the absence of good shareholder communications affect a company’s reputation for high standards of business conduct?

(f)        the need to act fairly as between members of the company.

If the information needs of the institutional investors are considered over those of retail in shareholder communication practices could this be perceived to be or actually be treating members of the company unequally?

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Here is why you should consider your investor relations website as a key communications tool when carrying out a capital raise or rights offer:-

Rights offer documents are typically presented as legal documents, not as holistic marketing documents (dare I say that advisors purposely keep the text as short as possible in these documents). Marketing your investment story should involve providing sufficient narrative and professional presentation of your corporate identity and brand. You should target both retail and professional investors, local and foreign. They should be able to immediately visit your website to gain a complementary or a greater understanding of your company, its brands and other information. Each category of shareholder participating in your share structure adds something different to your share price and a broad mix of shareholders is generally thought of as ideal.

It’s important to be able to advertise your rights offer to a dedicated audience. Your shareholder base is one audience, but with inefficient postal services, nominee accounts hiding your true shareholders, you will not achieve truly effective outreach. Efforts to identify other audiences can complement a capital raise and this is where the value of identifying visitors to your website can be helpful. The efforts of a listed company to communicate with their shareholders are therefore two-fold:-

  • BOTTOM UP – your company sends information to your shareholders in your shareholder list at a particular point in time. This is not fool proof because of nominees and inefficiencies in the postal system.
  • TOP DOWN – any shareholder, whether they be registered in nominees or directly, or whether they are a prospective investor, can come to your website and make educated investment decisions and obtain timely and comprehensive information to support these decisions on an ongoing basis.

It’s important to be able to widely disseminate the opportunity to invest in your rights offer. The fact that an underwriter is required to underwrite the whole offer does NOT render meaningless all other marketing initiatives. Just because your adviser and sponsoring broker have a dedicated investor audience, it does not render an online investor marketing campaign meaningless. All these initiatives work together to allow your directors to say that all reasonable efforts were made to raise capital from different investor communities.

With respect to what we actually do in a capital raise, here is a brief checklist:-

  • Launch an online investor relations website sufficiently early to procure online registrations from investors interested in your company – these typically will be from around the world and will contain global media houses e.g. Bloomberg, ThompsonReuters etc. parties that can add significant value to your capital raise PR.
  • Ensure that a professional and comprehensively populated website enables investors and stakeholders to obtain all the information they need to make an educated investment decision. In an IPO situation the market hype generated can be a huge asset as investors are very willing to register online to receive news and information.
  • Liaise with any PR / professional advisers regarding the release of narrative supporting the issue, as soon as the deal is unconditional. Disseminate this PR material online widely.
  • Publish the rights offer document online as soon as its available and broadcast the availability of this document widely to our dedicated investment communities and distribution channels : twitter account, blog, Linkedin.com and Africansens.com. Hardcopy distribution of rights offer documents is ALWAYS LATE and or a mess up.
  • Distribute broker research online, through your website, our distribution channels.
  • Actively solicit feedback from the investment community and enable and ensure that all investor queries are dealt with immediately
  • Target the top 50 or 100 shareholders in your company by obtaining email addresses and loading these contact details to an online communications module to enable communication at any time – this is really helpful in crisis communications or when you want to release significant news to the markets without paying massive fees for hardcopy publication.

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Bralirwa website: So what if you lie?

Published on October 27, 2010 by in Websites


The Bralirwa website requires you to enter your date of birth before you enter their website. Anyone can enter their date of birth. So what if a kid lies about their age and enters the website and sees a few pictures of the dirty beer bottles from which their parents habitually drink? Kids have far better things to do than cruise corporate websites.

You cannot buy alcohol through the website, the website does not promote the abuse of alcohol and imagery of alcohol is so widely available that this sort of irritation is meaningless. This requirement needs to be dropped. Whether its Heineken’s governance policy or Government legislation.

It detracts from the usability and access of a corporate website and is an irritant to website users that have to repeatedly enter their dates of birth, any date of birth – there’s no verification process.

The internet’s a competitive place, unless you can capture someone’s attention and provide the information they want the’re gone.

My recommendation to Bralirwa would be to put an alert service on their website so that information can be pushed to the users rather than them visiting the site. I would want to see the law / governance policies responsible for this to see if there isn’t scope for moving all those dirty pictures of beer bottles behind a registration page, so that only financial and operating information is viewed. And viewed immediately when you land on the page. This will provide quick information to website users.

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OK. You can. But its costs an arm and a leg. This should not be so. I like Bruce Grobler. He knows his stuff, is obviously passionate about it and takes time out to tell consumers of the Internet in Zimbabwe what the truth is. A bit like us and online investor relations. We work hard, do extra for listed companies to improve the overall corporate governance regime as well as make some money for ourselves.

The story of the Internet in Zimbabwe is much like the story of online investor relations in Africa. Exciting, but slow. Read the attached presentation on why we are all frustrated with the Internet in Zimbabwe.

His report in the presentation above, sourced from publically available data, as at 21 September 2010 shows that Zimbabwe only has one fibre landing bandwidth, it’s called SAT3, has a total of 340 Gbs and it has a drop off in Namibia. Powertel Communications brings in 155 Mbps via an STM-1 fibre link to Botswana Telecommunications Corporation. This means that the whole of Zimbabwe has a total fibre capacity of 155 Mpbs which is shared out to most ISPs.

Bruce then shows the international transit map and Zimbabwe’s two sources of Internet bandwidth: Powertel and Sky Vision satellite. He also notices that some providers were routing certain subnets via fibre but their transparent proxy servers routing via satellite. What this means to us plebs is that all the pages we browse for some service providers come in from satellite but are delivered on fibre. Why is this significant? The service providers are saving money – you are on fibre, you click Google, it goes to their servers which intercepts the signal which then uses satellite to give you access. You thought that you were getting fibre.

Bruce’s conclusion points out that Zimbabwe basically has one terrestrial international link and when it fails local providers don’t seem to have the satellite capacity to maintain all of their clients. Not all providers are using the fibre link as a primary one, and have satellite capacity and he points out that this is not their fault: if they were to buy additional capacity on either link to fully support redundancy you would be paying double for the Internet. Double of a lot is a lot more.

There is good news:-

“A lot of exciting things are happening with new sub-Marin fibres being layed, and some of our local IAPs rolling out new fibre networks, connecting us to our sea-faring neighbours. Keep an eye on the horizon.”

Call Bruce on + 263 776 404 527. Don’t send him an email the link is currently down. LOL.

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One really good tip for corporate websites in Africa is to incorporate Googlemaps into your website. It’s slick, increases website traffic and immediately puts you ahead of 99% of your peers and competitors. Plus the people interested in your company will appreciate it and use your website more. One downside is that you probably need to sort out your ugly looking website.

You can’t sort out your ugly sister but you can sort out your ugly website.

Here’s one option:-

And here’s another

As you can see the position of your position can be branded.

Give us a call if you want us to provide the code for your website – an excellent tool to brighten up your website.

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Buying websites: “ass about face”

Published on October 7, 2010 by in Websites


My mother, true lady that she is, had a saying when I grew up that is repeated in the heading above. This saying comes to mind every time I hear a potential client  wanting us to submit a bid for “a new website”. ”We want one how much will it cost?”

“Well. Dear madam, we can, for US$25 (or for free if you are my mate), show you how to get a website for free.”

“Or for 35 million Rand we can procure one from one of the companies that supplies the South African Government departments.”

Let me explain this in a saying that is familiar to you ” how long is a piece of string”?

There is one very important thing to note before you “buy a new website”. It’s not a normal transaction. With websites its the opposite of everything else, you show your budget then define what can be done, rather than say buying other services where you show the services needed (everyone knows what this is) and then see what it costs.

I have learned this over time. Knowing this saves time and money and pain.

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