Quinn Hudson, APR, SVP and director of the corporate practice in Atlanta, assessed the situation and recognized additional implications. In sum, the company’s stock had fallen to $19 per share, from $40 per share, a year earlier. Two of the four business segments were not growing. As work proceeded on this initial project, NSI requested assistance from GCI to announce an earnings warning for the third quarter. Hudson assembled the elements for a pre-release announcement and orchestrated the communications. Shareholders and analysts expressed appreciation of the warning, and the media, unfamiliar with NSI, were intrigued by the uncertain future of NSI.
- Loss of investor confidence. The company was consecutively missing its quarterly earnings expectations and share price was at 52-week low.
- Public uncertainty as to the nature of NSI’s business and its goals for the future.
- No established corporate communications function had ever existed at the company.
Hudson would work directly with Chairman and CEO Jim Balloun to refine and share his vision with key stakeholders, developing a solid relationship with the senior decision-maker.
Hudson would involve GCI’s investor relations communicators to support efforts to assure shareholders that NSI stock has strong value, reflecting growth potential.
Hudson would encourage NSI’s ad hoc communications committee to develop two-way communications with employees, investors and the media, increasing the likelihood of NSI making a long-term commitment to communications.
Hudson provided strategic counsel to Balloun and his senior staff on the proposed segment sale, earnings warnings, and communicating the company’s future plans. After meeting with Balloun, Hudson would advise the GCI team on the development of plans, based on what the CEO sought to share with target groups. GCI was able to help Balloun communicate his messages effectively to the media. We developed a comprehensive plan to build a corporate communications department – the first in the company’s history.
The analysts’ morning notes following the warning release reflected the explanation given by the NSI announcement. The company’s stock price remained steady in the face of stock activity nearly six times normal volume (150,000 versus 800,000 shares traded), correspondence (both hard copy and electronic) were prepared and sent to key retail shareholders who represent one-half of NSI stockholders. One hundred senior managers were contacted and given detailed explanations of the warning release so they would be prepared for employee inquiries.
GCI’s role evolved as the situation changed. Hudson was influential in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and Atlanta Business Chronicle’s decision to assign business reporters to cover the company and its business units. He directed the team in securing coverage in the AJC, Atlanta Business Chronicle and GPTV’s “Georgia Business Report”. As rumors flew and speculation swirled, Hudson led efforts to quash these false reports or the leak of confidential information.