Rethink the IR section of your web site.
Five Steps That Can Be Taken Right Now To Put Social Media To Work For IR Programs By: Doug Poretz • Co-founder & Partner 703-408-1880 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Siegel • Managing Director 703-625-3560 • email@example.com
Don’t start with the gimmicks. Start by focusing on the quality of your content and the tone and approach of your communications philosophy. At the IR section Of your web site, create a blog just for investors. This is where the CEO may post some comments about trends in the industry, or where the CFO can provide further elaboration on an accounting change. How about the head of R&D discussing new products in development, or the head of marketing talking about a new product launch? This would be the domain of the head of IR, and where he or she can also post articles about the IR philosophy, or perhaps a personal description of the mood or the most-asked questions at an investor conference. Yes, much of this may have to be vetted by the General Counsel, but it sets the right tone with current and prospective investors, and it would be a major step forward in total and fair disclosure.
F There may well be questions about which social media tools will have long lives and which will die because they are too faddish or because they do not evolve as quickly as they will need if they are to become integral to the future of communications. But one thing is not at issue: the age of social media is here. People are communicating differently, expecting to receive information differently, and given more options to interact with other people (those they know and those they don’t). Here are five steps that can be implemented right now to bring an IR program up to date with current social media capabilities and habits. This list isn’t a be-all and end-all, and certainly there are other actions that can be taken, but all the following are relatively easy, quick, and inexpensive to do.
About Qorvis Communications Qorvis specializes in corporate communications on national and international levels. Our clients have included Fortune 500 companies, as well as major international companies headquartered in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. We help companies build and maintain strong reputations, manage difficult crisis issues, enhance shareholder value, and protect their interests in Washington, D.C. Qorvis has performed every level of a communications campaign – from international awareness and education to national public affairs. We can do this because we are the best of big and small. We have the reach and resources of a large
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Use Facebook as the centerpiece of your IR social media efforts. Facebook is a true social media leader. A separate Facebook account for a company’s IR program can be established. Assume the name of the company to be “Smith Conglomerate, Inc.,” the Facebook name could be as simple as “Smith Investors.” The frequently used “fans of …” name would be inappropriate for an IR program because it connotes hype. At this site, investors could ask questions and allow the company the opportunity to answer them publicly (all questions can be reviewed before they are posted). It would also be the place where people can link to ways to set their preferences about getting news alerts, or make requests for information, get links to the latest investor calls or presentations, etc. Here, too, would be where the company can give investors the opportunity to choose which social media tools they want to use for contacting the company and having the company contact them: twitter, email, text messages to a phone, Skype, etc. This will significantly assist efforts s to reach-out to a wide group of prospective investors, keep current investors well informed, and give a sign to investors that the company “gets” contemporary communications.
Reach-out to investors through a social media program that includes posts on other sites. . There is no rule that says a company can post its comments only on its own site. If Smith Conglomerate were in the ballpoint pen business, for example, and somebody wrote on either their or someone’s blog that the ballpoint pen business was dying, it’s perfectly appropriate for the company to respond with a posting that says research and market trends that substantiates that the business is growing. Posting on the other site, therefore, does two things: 1) it corrects a mistake that could be dangerous if it was factored-into investor decisions, and 2) it exposes the company (and its contact information) to more people who can then link to the company’s own social media and information program. Correcting a mistake isn’t the only reason to post on other sites – any legitimate reason works. Of course, normal rules of investor relations and legal best practices prevail.
Create a twitter and other microblogging accounts to communicate (and ask for) fast-breaking news. Much news can be communicated in headline form, perhaps with a link attached to the headline. Twitter and other microblogging sites are perfect for that. The company could have thousands of interested investors to whom it can quickly communicate something like “New contract win just announced; extra $xx million in 3rd quarter. See this web site.” Alternatively, twitter can also be used to solicit information. Imagine this: “Have questions for next conference call? Send them to email address.” That way, the company can get a real idea of just how much (or little) an issue is on the mind of investors.
Make all investor relations content widget-able and into a mobile application. Increasingly, people are wanting (expecting) their information to be easily and readily available, wherever they are. Widgets that sit on desktops is one way. Another approach, which is likely to become SOP, is to develop an application for a smart phone. To see what one is like, ABC-TV recently did a feature that covered a mobile application for people who attended the Presidential Inauguration in Washington. You can see the clip here: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=6 639135 Here’s an idea for a smart phone application that could be used for investor relations for our example of “Smith Conglomerate, Inc.” Of course, the number and use of the buttons could be changed from the example below.
In this example, the “investor events” button would give the user access to previous conference calls, investor presentations, etc. The “online community” button would take users to the company’s IR presence on Facebook, which the user can use as a hub for other contact information, to ask questions, and interact with the company. The company could use the “polling” button to survey its investors on questions such as: “Do you think the launch of our new product will be a significant milestone for the company?” Actually, the list of questions is unlimited, albeit a review by General Counsel would be appropriate. The “Annual Reports and 10-Ks” button would allow the user immediate access to critical documents. The button with the telephone icon would be a convenient way to access investor conference calls. And the “Alert” button would be where people can access or request news on a real time basis.