Lynn Tyson can tell you firsthand: IR isn't the job it used to be. Back when she was handling investor relations at PepsiCo Inc., and even in 2000, when she joined the IR department at Dell Inc., the job was basically to be a conduit for communications between

management and the investor community. Then, all in rapid succession, came the Y2K scare, the dot.com bust and the accounting scandals. "The years 2000 and 2001 were a time when we suffered the worst operating setback in Dell's history," says Tyson. "Our department responded by conducting a perception survey to find out what some big institutional investors were thinking and discovered that there were fundamental concerns about Dell's ability to grow and thrive."

To address investor anxiety, Tyson's department developed a set of metrics and proof points to make the company's strategies and performance highly visible and accessible to investors. But probably the most crucial decision involved the status of Tyson and the department: To demonstrate the importance to Dell of both the messenger and the message, Tyson was put on the company's executive management committee.

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