By Darin Wolter, EVP of Global Sales for Marketwired
By now, you have probably either read or heard about the SEC’s latest ruling regarding social media and how companies can disclose material information, such as earnings or market moving information via social channels. In an evolving age of social communication, this is an important step and a natural one. While the ruling came as big news to many, those of us at Marketwired were happy to learn the SEC is embracing options that make it easier for companies to share information with their stakeholders in ways that work for them.
We recognize that not every company is going to immediately turn to Facebook and Twitter to post their acquisitions and earnings, but if you are an IRO, Investor Relations Professional, you likely have questions, which is good, now is the time to begin planning. Here are a few guidelines we recommend following:
- All Smart Social Strategy starts with listening. Start monitoring social media if you aren’t doing so already. Watch for your company name and keywords related to your company and industry. Tune into what employees and executives are saying. Also tune into what your investors are reading on social channels (because they are paying attention.)_ It is likely your PR or Marketing Department is already listening, meet with them to discuss what information you need and how to monitor for IR’s interests.
- Join the conversation, begin to better understand what social disclosure strategy is best for your company and gain comfort with the process. You can start simple, by tweeting a link to your earnings press release. The immediate benefit is to create a reputation, crisis and general risk management channel that is trusted by the organization’s top investors and analysts.
- Review your company’s social media policy. Make sure it covers disclosure issues and what to do if a mistake is made. Make it a point to educate executives and share updates.
- Register an Investor Relations (IR) Twitter handle and dedicate a portion of your Facebook page to IR. Your social channels should reflect your website and have a dedicated IR section.
- The IR section of the newsroom has to reflect that a company uses its social handles to disseminate information.
- Establish these social sources as credible, corporate social channels. This will decrease confusion if there are others.
- Publish handles everywhere: on your website, on news releases, etc.
- Use these handles to tweet links to releases and blogs.
- Educate investors on which social channels they can leverage and how to do so, then publish this information on your IR website. A thorough Q&A will help your analyst and financial community, as well as the general public, better understand the disclosure process.
- Spend time with top investors, prospects and analysts to understand their views on social channels as acceptable and useful forms of disclosure.
- Develop a solid social media crisis plan that addresses a range of “what if?” scenarios. It is critical to ensure there is a crisis plan in place for the company. From people to procedures, the planning should be proactive.
Ultimately, the market sets what qualifies as good communication and transparency for a publicly traded company. Companies have many options, which gives them the ability to develop a communication plan that works best for their stakeholders and investors. IRO pros should be motivated by the social demand of their key audiences, and inspired to embrace options that support effective, efficient communication. This isn’t a revolution; it’s an evolution.
Your investors are active on social channels, which means there is an increasing expectation that all of your company is represented in the social space as well. This expectation isn’t limited to IR pros, it extends to engagement, marketing, sales and customer service, too. Your investors want to see that you are accessible, engaged and a part of the conversation.
What is your company doing to prepare for distributing news over social channels? How are you complementing your existing disclosure practices? What are your next steps toward social disclosure?