The volatile commodities industry – What challenges face PR and IR professionals?

02 Aug 2016 by Miriam Hanna.

What challenges and opportunities are presented to PR and communications professionals working in investor relations? We take an in-depth look at the issues and speak to senior professionals in the industry.

The yoyo effect of the market price of minerals has provided communications leads and those who head up investor relations with a very unique challenge.

Having spoken to Heads of Investor Relations in a variety of mining firms over the last three months, what has become clear is the huge scope for international opportunity in the sector.

Navigating the ups and downs

With the ups and downs the industry, mining and commodities can be a tumultuous place to work. From a communications and investor relations perspective this can mean dealing with huge redundancies one year, to sharing news of greater than expected profits another. The end result is that you do need to have agility as a team and find the balance between over promoting material but also dealing with a crisis.

A global perspective

For most firms, their primary operational function may be based in Europe or North America with the goods coming out of Africa. The commercial centres for investor relations can be global so there is an opportunity to travel, share best practice but see a wider impact the firm has on local communities rather than just focus on the share price. As Giles Blackham, Investor Relations Manager at Acacia Mining says “We are a UK based corporate with operations in remote parts of Tanzania. Working in an emerging market creates its own challenges because you are removed from the operations as well as being in a different time zone. Even just working with information flows are challenging because of technology constraints that our mines’ locations create.”

Senior level access for crises

Irrespective of sector, most communications professionals will tell you that they want a high level of Senior Executive access in order to make internal processes easier. In most mining firms, there is a lean corporate structure which means that you really do get first-hand experience of how the business is run. The flipside is you do need to plan ahead and have an idea about potential risks. For example, something can happen locally in a remote village in Tanzania which can escalate to a point where your investors and analysts are asking questions. You need to move quickly and have the structures to have approvals to get press releases out even in a leaner structure.

Representing to the market

Generally you are the person closest to the external market representing the firm which is of course a very delicate position. Your role as an investor relations professional is to give the markets, via relationships with analysts and investors, confidence that you are managing whatever has appeared without creating more uncertainty. As Giles says “ You have a role as a gatekeeper between the external stakeholders and the internal counterparts to make sure you aren’t requesting information you could get from elsewhere or just isn’t relevant. You have to stick to your messages and judge the right tone within any response.”

Are you currently working in communications or investor relations in the commodities industry? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks to Giles Blackham of Acacia Mining for participating in our article.

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