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AGM Questioning: How to predict and prepare for the key issues

Annual General Meetings are one of the major events in the Communications professional’s calendar and for most FTSE100 companies they tend to represent the highest platform for issues and stakeholder management during the year.

Predicting which questions are likely to come from the company’s most vocal and antagonistic shareholders is a difficult task for companies and one which alva has recently sought to address using its powerful content analytics engine. With the world’s media watching, making sure the Chairman or CEO has sight on difficult questions and has the information to respond effectively is key to maintaining trust in the leadership team.

A great deal of planning goes into most FTSE100 AGMs, though many of the statements around corporate strategy, financial issues and operational approach have been pre-prepared for other events such as full-year or interim results. This means that at this stage, the focus of AGM communications planning tends to be on issues and stakeholder management.

The focus areas for issues-scanning in this field tend to be threefold for multinational companies, for whom a global footprint and complex relationships with multiple stakeholders can produce particularly tough questions. With some NGOs travelling to London from across the globe to make their point at the AGM, is it important to have fully scanned the following three areas to help predict what the contentious issues may be: The wider corporate landscape, specific industry issues, and NGO concerns.

Corporate considerations:

Having sight of the issues raised at FTSE100 AGMs across the City – both for the current year and for previous years is important in understanding which issues national media are likely to give prominence to. These issues are usually not sector-specific and have the potential to affect all multinationals. Recent examples include criticism of executive pay or diversity on the board, which have marred the reputations of companies from multiple sectors.

Industry considerations:

Issues raised at AGMs for companies within the same sector are perhaps the most obvious place to look for difficult questions. Companies need to be aware of how they are perceived across a range of issues, both legacy and topical, by their various key stakeholders. Understanding the risk for your company on a particular issue, relative to others in the sector, is key to predicting on whom the media will focus and whether your company will be singled out for criticism.

NGO considerations:

Understanding the agendas of the major NGOs for your sector is critical, as they usually make a point of being vocal at AGMs, often asking the toughest questions. The key to this group is to understand the trends – what was an issue last year may have dropped off this year and understanding the relative priorities of each NGO and your company’s exposure to each is key to effective issues management.

Finally, combining this intelligence with a view of the “close-stakeholders” which are specific to a company’s own operations, and should already be known in most cases, can highlight strong correlations between issues. This can be very powerful in making sure no rock is left unturned, resulting in a smooth AGM for Communications.

Conducting this research 2-6 weeks before the AGM will make sure that the intelligence is still relevant to the organisation’s current circumstances, while providing adequate time to action the findings and brief the relevant executives ahead of the meeting.

To solve this issue, alva recently analysed all content related to every FTSE100 AGM, for both 2016 and 2017-to-date, across citywide, industrywide and NGOwide issues to help companies build a picture of the risks likely to affect the AGM.

alva’s analysis can be benchmarked against a company’s own issues landscape and answers the following three questions:

  • Which issues could create problems at my company’s AGM?
  • How can I mitigate them and what has been successful for other companies?
  • Who do I need to engage with to make sure this happens?

 

If you would like to know more about alva’s AGM landscape report or about any of our analysis, please contact christopher.cleves@alva-group.com – +44 203 735 9794.

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