The importance of stakeholder engagement plans

Our Investor Engagement Counsel Christine Bowen explains why entering the public market is not the end game.

When the business grows, we intend to list the company. Being a public company shows “we’ve made it!”.

There are many valid reasons why company founders might aspire to list on a public exchange – access to more capital and/or the release of invested capital; profile and improving opportunities for growth - and these reasons are fostered by a vast array of companies that have successfully made the leap from private to public, such as the recent listing of Prospa Group (ASX: PGL)

However, many aspirant companies fail to recognise that listing is not the end game. In fact, it is simply the first step towards the start of a new journey in a company’s history and one that requires an increased level of accountability and stakeholder engagement.

Prescriptive listing rules and corporate regulations drive an increased level of accountability. While these rules are often unfamiliar and undoubtedly onerous for companies, they are in place to serve the interests of shareholders and other stakeholders and are fundamental to market integrity and investor protection.

So, there’s no doubt, compliance with the rules and regulations is legally adequate, and many listed companies do just that. But is it enough? We would advocate for more.

The key, and often challenging first step however, is accepting that being a public company shifts expectations. No longer can the business, once privately-owned, “fly under the radar”. Stakeholders, be they shareholders, employees, regulators, the community, or the media, expect to varying degrees, to be kept informed about the company’s strategy, operations, and financial results.

Enhanced stakeholder engagement has the potential benefits of driving broader interest in a company, better valuations, and a quality investor base. The latter is key in providing support for growth plans, future capital management needs, and business challenges such as market downturns, industry disruptors, or corporate actions.

So, what does a stakeholder engagement plan look like?

Like corporate strategies, every stakeholder engagement plan will, and should be specific to a company. However, there are key elements that will form the basis of any sound plan. 

  1. A recognition the company is owned by its shareholders. This recognition typically sets the basis on which the company communicates with its stakeholders at all levels, in some instances even contributing to framing the culture of a firm.

  2. A commitment to communicate on a regular basis - typically quarterly but always in a timely manner. Most companies will, by necessity, comply with regulatory expectations, including continuous disclosure obligations. However, often meeting these obligations goes no further than reporting financial results. An enhanced engagement strategy looks to create an ongoing dialogue about a company’s strategy, financials, and operations through a variety of communication platforms.

  3. Set time aside to meet with shareholders and the broking community. If not managed properly, this can be a time-consuming activity – but it does not need to be. Typically, there is significant value for a company, including an understanding of market views of business performance and governance, the potential to grow the investor base, and hear ‘street talk’ about competitors.

  4. Consistency. Communicating with consistency and regularity provides the opportunity for a company to set and report on key metrics, which stakeholders can use to assess the company’s performance. Additionally, it helps investors assess the company’s positioning relative to its competitors.

  5. Prepare for contingencies. Being able to communicate with shareholders effectively and quickly is critical should the unexpected occur, such as corporate actions or events that adversely impact the company’s operations.

I’ve been helping companies enter the public market and succeed once listed for over a decade.  Having a sound stakeholder engagement plan as the foundations of a company’s interactions has proven to be the key, consistently.

If you would like some help, get in touch

The future is private: Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to overhaul Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced plans to overhaul the way Facebook operates, primarily making it more private. Wells Haslem Mayhew foresees major challenges for social marketers and corporate users of the platform.


The key challenges include:

  • How do you speak (organic content and advertising alike) to increasingly private groups (something that's already proving a problem)?

  • How do you understand people's interests, and therefore target your content, if it's all private?

  • How do you identify real influencers if you can't see their Instagram likes?

After a string of controversies in the last couple of years, Zuckerberg plans to turn the company around, proclaiming that "the future is private".

The public News Feed will change as the platform pivots towards private messaging, shopping, and dating.

Facebook plans to roll out features that encourage users to interact with their close social circles, rather than the current public news feed model. As part of this overhaul, Facebook has unveiled a redesign of the app and website, focusing on groups and events. Further down the line, Facebook plans to unify Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp while still shifting the main Facebook app away from the News Feed and toward more manageable and privacy-focused interactions.

Later this week, Facebook will be running Beta testing in Canada for Instagram. The bold plan is to remove the number of likes on photos and video views from permalink pages and profiles, encouraging users to "focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes you get". Instagram will allow the original poster to keep track of their likes and video views, but the number won't show up on the main feed.

While we don't know everything, we do know this: these changes will affect the way users, businesses, advertisers, news sources, and investors interact with the social media giant.

Our only hope is this: Facebook understands the need to monetise, and it's never going to be a user-pays model - so the company will have to find a new way for marketers to reach their audiences.

And finally, the cynic might wonder if this change is driven by big corporates' appetite for big data - and if users are in private groups and mistake this for meaning their information will be kept private, people will be inclined to share more - and that's serious data that can be monetised.

Interested to learn more? Hear Mark Zuckerberg's vision below.

Media release: Global PR network builds APAC influence with new Japanese partner


Australian public relations firm Wells Haslem Mayhew Strategic Public Affairs has announced Asoviva LLC as its official Japanese partner as part of the IPREX network.

Wells Haslem Mayhew Co-CEO and IPREX Asia Pacific (APAC) President, Alexandra Mayhew-Hills, said Asoviva reinforces IPREX’s position as the leading PR network in the world.

“Asoviva is a welcomed addition to the IPREX network, especially in the Asia-Pacific region where it joins partners across China, Australia, and New Zealand,” Ms Mayhew-Hills said.

“Asoviva’s understanding of the Japanese market and its expertise in technology, healthcare, entertainment, and gaming industries will be a great asset to all IPREX partners and our clients.”

“We are increasingly seeing clients seeking an alternative to the global PR firms, and with reputable partners such as Asoviva on board we are able to provide a better option.

“Partner agencies must pass an extensive evaluation to ensure they are the best in business, ensuring our clients have access to trusted PR partners in across the globe,” Ms Mayhew-Hills said.

IPREX is a $420 million network of communication agencies with 1,600 staff and 110 offices worldwide.

Joint CEO of Asoviva Hiroshi Yasunaga said Asoviva was an integrated communications agency headquartered in Tokyo.

“We create and manage communication environments based on in-depth analysis of our clients’ target audiences,” said Mr Yasunaga.

“Our approach has helped many overseas companies establish strong market positions in Japan, and it is also highly effective for clients using Tokyo as a hub for work across multiple Asian countries.

“As partners in IPREX we will increase our clients’ reach and influence as we help them engage with their audiences anywhere in the world.”

Led by three co-partners, Hiroshi Yasunaga, Keisuke Maeda, and Masashi Otobe, Asoviva is well positioned to assist clients with communications, marketing, research, design, and content development.

Clients include Amazon, LEGO and Japan Rail East.

Federal Budget 2019-20

Last night’s Federal Budget is being described as a bona fide election budget, with lower-middle income earners and small business among the winners. Mental health, infrastructure, education and cancer research also received ample funding.

Following the Royal Commission, financial regulators received a funding boost. The Government will also fund a Climate Solutions package to combat climate change.

Here is our wrap up.


Modern politics - an 18-year-old's perspective

Will Andrews was an intern at Wells Haslem Mayhew in February 2019.

He is in his first year of a Bachelor Commerce at the University of Sydney.

After graduating from high school, nothing seemed more imminent and important than the upcoming elections, state and federal.

While it can be assumed that many young people vote the same way as their parents, there are the rare few who formulate and evaluate their own electoral preferences.

I’ve always been keenly interested in the politics of our nation, the illusive face, the barely visible reality. Whilst it has taken me longer to understand the rather unpleasant truth of politics, the same questions remain potent, even in my rather inexperienced mind.

In my view, the role of government has never changed. What has changed is people’s perception and unusual ‘reliance’ on our leadership. The most obvious cause of this new interest and emotional attachment to politics is the media.

Prior to the easy access and relatively ‘free’ sources of social media, most people were not attuned to the daily actions of Government. A sense of trust existed that our elected representatives could work for our benefit behind the scenes of daily life.

Whilst it is impossible to reverse the advent of social media or control the significant voice of citizens in government, some change is needed. Questions need to be asked as to what we can/should expect from government. For me, my expectations are low, I do not want politics to feature in my daily life.

Nothing shows the lack of maturity and suitability for governance than the videos of Question Time. Politicians address each other with the same level of disgrace that two drunk people would show during an argument on the street. What is supposed to be a critical point for policy discussion is nothing but defamation and character assassination. How is that supposed to garner the proper respect that a people should show their leaders?

Whilst I am not blaming all of Australia’s political failures on Government, they are the epicentre of the problem. Before I continue with this point, I should stress that while my opinion may not be correct, it is a perspective brewing rapidly in the minds of young people.

The ‘us versus them’ mentality is not just an issue for politicians. Many young people are beginning to understand that the media is equally, perhaps more, to blame.

We have been fed the opinion that political journalists are there to ‘keep our politicians accountable.’

This ignores the fact that like any other private company, media firms are focussed primarily on profits. These profits are made by gaining viewers who would otherwise not care as much about politics, thus encouraging stories that create emotional reactions, clouding understanding.

My first step in election evaluation is changing the type of question I ask myself.

I do not ask, ‘why does that party deserve another term?’. Instead, I think it better to ask, ‘why shouldn’t they have another term?’.

This question is based around the premise that we should assume a government will remain in office, only to be removed in drastic circumstances. Consistency in administration far outweighs the disruption and inefficiency that goes along with a change of governing party.

To complete this step properly requires the understanding that every government will make some unpopular decisions, no matter how good they appear at election time.

What direction has the country or state moved in since they have been in office? What direction are we heading in?

Assessing the integrity of each party’s promises during the election is vital. This is directly drawn from my experience and viewing of how parties contest elections. I try to decipher which policies were designed to gain votes and which policies were genuinely adopted due to their merit.

Proving why the other party should not be in power is a bad habit that Australia has seemed to pick up. For me, and many other young people, a party should contest an election by expressing their own merit, letting the people decipher the differences.

Despite all the hopefulness I have for a renewal in political integrity, people are fed up. It is easy to look disapprovingly towards other Western nations’ politics: the shambles of the US Congress and Brexit are just a start. But one can’t help but notice that our own country is drifting inexorably toward the same fate. A lack of trust in the political system is, in my eyes, the beginning of the end for an effective and respectable government.

So, as young people approach their first ballot box this year, we can only hope for something different.

We are sick and tired of reflecting on the good old-fashioned stoic leadership of Hawke through to Howard, as if that style is lost to history, just out of reach.

Considering there is not that big of a difference between the two major parties’ policies, we are well placed for an upgrade in standards.

Who this will come from remains to be seen.

Out of the wilderness & in with a shout - the remarkable resurgence of NSW Labor

In 2011 Labor was down and out. Could 2019 see them back in control? Wells Haslem Mayhew Special Counsel & Labor Upper House candidate Julie Sibraa discusses the way forward for Labor over the next five months.

On Saturday 26 March 2011 the voters of New South Wales dispatched a 16-year-old State Labor Government with brutal efficiency.

As I stood alone at what would be my all-day vigil at the St Kieran’s Public School polling both in Manly Vale that election day morning, I felt, even more than usual, the full force of what the expression “they’re waiting with baseball bats” meant, such was the hostility towards me and my cardinal-red Labor t-shirt.

One woman, having observed a queue of people refuse to take my how-to-vote, asked me whether I needed a hug. As kind as she was, she also refused to take my leaflet. I truly understood at that point how bad things were.

Later that night, the seats tumbled, and the margin of the Liberal-National Coalition victory progressively went from healthy to jaw dropping. As the pendulum swung by a record 16.5 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis, it knocked over 28 Labor seats. We were reduced to just 20 seats in a 93 seat Legislative Assembly – at that time the largest swing against a sitting government at any level in Australia since World War II.

The swing in the former Labor seat of Bathurst - Ben Chifley’s birthplace - was 37 per cent. Not even the talent and popularity of New South Wales’ first woman premier, Kristina Keneally, could in any way turn the tide that washed Labor out.

On election night, former premier Bob Carr memorably said: “It has taken a lot of effort to produce a result this bad. A lot of effort – spread over four years.” Harsh but fair.

Conventional political thinking was that the scale of such a loss would have Labor out of government in New South Wales for at least three terms – 12 years – or more. Heads greyer than mine said sadly, “I’ll never see another NSW Labor government in my lifetime”.

A sad state of affairs given Labor’s proud history in this state.

Fast forward seven-and-a-half years to November 2018 and Newspoll has the Liberal-Nationals Coalition and Labor at 50-50 – albeit in a poll taken before the resignation of Opposition Leader, Luke Foley. This puts the 2019 State Election well and truly in play and a win for Labor a distinct possibility. How has this happened?

A majority the size of that won by Barry O’Farrell and the political mandate that went with it meant his new government pretty much had carte blanche to do whatever they liked – and they were well-prepared. The big consultancy firms, anticipating an unprecedented bonanza of work coming their way, helped O’Farrell write policies and work out how to finance the big infrastructure projects Labor couldn’t and wouldn’t even try.

Much of the work involved privatisations and asset sales. Consultants also advised on ideas to restructure government departments to shed public sector jobs which would in turn reduce recurrent expenditure and the proportion of the budget spent on employee costs.

This approach has been the ongoing hallmark of the O’Farrell/Baird/Berejiklian Governments – asset sales or “asset recycling” and privatisations – with cashed up superannuation funds only too willing to do the buying. For example, the sale of Port Botany and Port Kembla to three superannuation funds and an investment firm in Abu Dhabi netted the Government $5.07 billion. These and other critical asset sales barely raised an eyebrow in the media or broader public, such was the supremacy of the government’s political position.

Even the fall of Barry O’Farrell over an undisclosed bottle of Grange and Independents Commission Against Corruption revelations against several Liberal MPs from Newcastle and the Central Coast, didn’t seem to slow the momentum to sell, privatise and outsource. Now led by nice-guy former Treasurer Mike Baird and his sidekick, the replacement Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, the program continued.

In 2015 New South Wales again went to the polls. Labor had a new leader in Foley and although the Baird Liberal-National government was re-elected comfortably, Labor ran a faultless campaign for an opposition still bedevilled by the sins of its past, clawing back 11 of the heartland seats lost in the 2011 purge and setting itself up for a fighting chance in 2019.

Since then, the Coalition has lost two safe seats through by-elections in Orange (previously National) and Wagga Wagga (previously Liberal) to Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and an Independent respectively. Labor will need to win another 11 seats back to be in a position to govern the State in a probable hung Parliament. Sure, it’s a big ask, but in the volatile political environment that currently exists, it’s possible.

Eight years is a long time in government today. Problems can no longer be blamed on the former government and political capital is in short supply. Nice guy Mike Baird is long gone back to the world of banking and finance, and the Premier is showing increasing signs she has little control over her cabinet and MPs. Treasurer Perrottet’s recent demand that he be given a seat closer to where he lives (what!) at the expense of another cabinet colleague because he didn’t like the travel time to work, was simply astounding and an indication of how demonstrably out of touch members of the government have become.

We saw further evidence of growing dysfunction within the Liberal-Coalition ranks in the course of events around the Wagga Wagga by-election and its eventual outcome – a 28 per cent swing and the loss of a seat the Liberals had held since 1957.  Revelations in ICAC relating to sitting Liberal MP Darryl Maguire, his refusal to resign from Parliament, his forced resignation, the stoush between the Liberals and Nationals as to who should run for the seat and the suggestion of disgruntled Nationals handing out for the Independent and eventual winner Joe McGirr, all add up to some serious issues within the government’s ranks. The fallout from that historic loss is still being felt as reports surface that Liberal and National MPs have continued to sledge one another via text message.

Despite eight years with a far more favourable economic climate, the return of the “rivers of gold” in stamp duty and the eye-watering proceeds of public asset sales – $26 billion alone for the sale of Transgrid and half of Ausgrid - the fact is NSW’s key public services, like schools and hospitals, the principal responsibility of a state government, remain chronically over capacity and underfunded. The stories of teachers buying their own materials to use in class and patients waiting hours for emergency treatment continue and more and more of the costs previously borne by government have been offloaded to the NSW taxpayer by way of tolls, higher public transport costs and fees and charges. Traffic congestion is no better and trains and stations are still overcrowded. And the cuts to services continue. Recent attempts to cut funding for out of home care services for children with severe disabilities and funding for Disability Advocacy services were only stopped after a community outcry.

The Liberals’ obsession with using the sale of critical public assets to build monuments (asset recycling) reached peak arrogance and absurdity with their decision to tear down and rebuild both the Sydney Football Stadium and the 18-year old Sydney Olympic Stadium at a cost of over $2 billion. All this while school students continue to study in demountables and classrooms without air-conditioning and nurses in rural hospitals are looking after up to 11 patients at any given time.

The 2019 Labor campaign will be values-based, harking back to the great Labor governments of McKell and Wran. It will focus on our core strength when in government – delivering services to the people of New South Wales. Labor’s policies to do this include commitments to nurse-to-patient ratios, a school-building program, air-conditioning schools, funding local libraries, restoring TAFE, a massive fund to upgrade Sydney train stations, using the funds from the sale of the Snowy Hydro Scheme on transformational projects in rural and regional New South Wales and outlawing wage theft, with many more policies to come.

Despite the recent fall of its leader Luke Foley, replaced by an experienced and highly competent new leader in Michael Daley, Labor is a serious contender for the 2019 election. Labor has held its nerve, got its act together once more and the electorate is waking up to the fact the Liberals have sold the farm. The public sector workforce has been either substantially eroded or outsourced. The costs of vanity projects like the two stadiums are being worn by taxpayers at the expense of core services in hospitals and schools and other valuable community programs.

Adding to the Premier’s problem is the federal Liberal National Government (Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison), which has become so hapless and divided it is almost incapable of governing. Even if the State Government was performing well, the implications of the Wentworth by-election result must surely be keeping the Premier awake at night. With the federal election most likely to take place after the New South Wales election, it’s possible the voters with their baseball bats might decide to strike early and vent their anger on the Berejiklian Government.

After eight years of Liberal-National Government in New South Wales, we’ve seen three Premiers and four Treasurers. That’s not the stable government the people of New South Wales were promised or expected when they turfed Labor out nearly eight years go for much the same offence. As the polls have shifted towards Labor, panic has set in amongst the troops and the Premier has been forced into a series of embarrassing backflips including modifying the stadiums folly from a $2 billion plus plan to a $1.5 billion plan, the backflip on the Sydney Marine Park which would have upset the commercial and recreational fishing industry, and most infamously her decision, under pressure from radio broadcaster Alan Jones, to overrule Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron and allow the building’s famous sails to be used as a ‘giant billboard’ for the Everest horse race. More unpopular policy jettisoning and backflipping in the coming months is a sure thing.

Michael Daley leads a fresh team of shadow ministers and MPs who were mostly not even in the Parliament when the old Labor regime was thrown out in 2011. In the seats we don’t hold, all but a handful of candidates were preselected months ago, in some cases well over a year ago, and have been out campaigning for some time. Labor is ready to govern once more.

Saturday 23 March 2019 - bring it on.

Michael Daley and his team

Michael Daley, 53, is the member for the eastern suburbs seat of Maroubra – a seat continually held by Labor members, including two Premiers - Heffron and Carr, since its creation in 1950. Daley is born and bred in Maroubra and an avid Souths Sydney Rabbitohs supporter in the National Rugby League. A former in-house lawyer for the NRMA, he entered Parliament in 2005 in a by-election following the retirement of the long serving successful Premier Bob Carr.

Daley became the Minister for Roads in the Rees cabinet of 2008. In the Keneally government, he served as Police Minister and Minister for Finance.

Hailing from the centre, or right faction of the Labor Party, Daley has long been considered leadership material. In the washup from Labor’s disastrous showing at the 2011 state election, Daley sensibly declined to contest the leadership, which saw former trade union boss John Robertson elected, only to himself fall shortly before the 2015 election, replaced by Luke Foley.

Michael Daley is considered a highly competent, safe pair of hands to lead the Labor Party’s 2019 campaign. His experience in government and pragmatic approach to public policy will stand the party in good stead with voters on a range of issues, from the economy through to bread and butter state service issues of transport, health and education. His key team of Ryan Park in the shadow Treasury role, Jodi McKay in roads and transport, Jihad Dib in education and Walt Secord in health are all close allies of Daley. The leadership transition has been seamless.

Julie Sibraa is Wells Haslem Mayhew Special Counsel and an Australian Labor Party candidate for the Legislative Council at the State Election.

Scott Morrison – Australia’s new Prime Minister

Scott Morrison has been elected Australia’s 30th Prime Minister after winning today’s Liberal Party leadership ballot 45 to 40 against Peter Dutton. Julie Bishop also stood for the leadership but was knocked out in the first round.

Josh Frydenberg was elected Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, with an “absolute majority” ahead of Steve Ciobo and Greg Hunt.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull resigned immediately from his Sydney eastern suburbs seat of Wentworth. A by-election will be held at a yet-to-be-determined date.

Prime Minister Morrison was Treasurer in the Turnbull government. He has been in Parliament since 2007, representing the seat of Cook, situated in the Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney. He has served previously as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister for Social Services.

Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg was Minister for Environment and Energy in the Turnbull government. He has been in Parliament since 2010, representing the seat of Kooyong in the inner-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. He has served previously as Assistant Treasurer and was Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister under Tony Abbott.

The conservative wing of the Liberal Party, led unofficially by Tony Abbott, has been undermining Turnbull’s leadership for more than a year. They were at odds with a number of Turnbull’s policies, including energy security, combating climate change and changes to superannuation.

While discontent has been brewing for some time, the recent poor showing by the government in the by-election for the Queensland seat of Longman and disagreement over energy security and climate change, were catalysts for Dutton’s original challenge on Tuesday this week. Nevertheless, the decision to seek to roll a Prime Minister, who was by historic standards not performing poorly in opinion polls, was surprising.

It goes to a deeper ideological schism at the heart of the Liberal Party between conservative right-wing members and more socially progressive colleagues.

However, the practice of dumping prime ministers midterm has become a recent feature of Australian politics, commencing with Labor’s rolling of first term Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2010.

Budget 2018

Last night's Federal Budget has been branded 'an election budget', with the Turnbull Government announcing an overhaul of the personal tax system, more money for older Australians' care and employment, and a slew of new medical research and technology initiatives. 

Mental health services and the Great Barrier Reef were also big winners, while financial services measures were centre stage and the 'black economy' was targeted.

Here is our wrap up.