How will it play on Wall Street? Many firms pay handsomely for an expert in-house answer, shows a new study Assessing Compensation Among NIRI's Senior Investor Relations Roundtable. Released in December by the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI), the study shows senior investor relations (IR) professionals are well paid, have substantial experience, and typically are officers of their firms. "The research findings speak volumes to just how far investor relations has come as a strategic corporate discipline," says NIRI president/CEO Louis M. Thompson Jr. "What we're seeing today are more and more IR people involved in the company's strategic planning," who examine "implications of various corporate decisions as they relate to Wall Street and how the company will be valued." Heavy emphasis on earnings expectations -- and tie-ins with CEO compensation -- have boosted interest in investor relations. And more smaller firms have on-board IR professionals; of last year's 1,000 new NIRI members, half had market capitalization of $500 million or lower, says Thompson.