Shout it from the rooftops! Or Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn…

Jason Ouellette

"An increasing number of public companies are using social media to communicate with their shareholders and the investing public," the SEC said in its report Tuesday. And in other news…

That was a quote from a story in the Wall Street Journal that talks about the Securities and Exchange Commission coming around and giving its blessing to publicly traded companies using social media platforms to disseminate information. Now we know that things take a lot longer in Washington, D.C. but this one seems to be a tad late.

Whether you are in corporate communications, marketing or public relations you are all well aware of the reach and power of social networks (when used properly and targeting the right audiences). Now, publicly traded companies that already have a social media strategy in place:

Only 14.4% of companies communicate with shareholders via social media, according to a 2012 survey by the Conference Board and Stanford University. Yet more than three-quarters of the companies in the survey said they used social media to interact with customers.

Here at PAN Communications we’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of companies through the S-1 Filing phase and through their IPO. The one thing that we have made sure to include in our IPO Handbooks for Communications is a section around social media and who, what, when and where. Witnessing it first-hand, I have seen executives shiver and turn white when the topic of social media came up during the filing/IPO process. Understandably so, they wanted nothing to do with it because of the old SEC rules. Now, with a simple inclusion of how they will disclose and share their news (in your 10K, Annual Report and on the investor relations section of your Website), they can leverage their pre-built communities to share financial and corporate news.

This opens the door for a few things if you either work in the marketing or communications department of a publicly traded company or partner with them at a public relations or digital relations agency:

  1. Social Media Policies – You now need to have one in place. Not only for the IR side of things, but for any and all information that is sent out under the umbrella of your brand.
  2. Training – You may use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in your spare time or for personal use but do you really know how to leverage them for your brand? How to craft your news, how to respond (to positive and negative commentary) and who should be responsible for creating and responding via social networks? As a brand ambassador and digital champion you should organize this for your team today
  3. Crisis Communications – Do you have a crisis communications plan in place today? Well if not, now is the time to bring that together. A crisis can stem from a misrepresentation on Twitter to a physical crisis but you need to have a plan of action in place for the unknown. What if your brand is being attacked due to its recent Quarterly Earnings? Do you engage with them online? When do you take it offline? Who should be included? What is the organizations stance on the situation? These questions need to be asked beforehand so that you’re prepared to address the unknown situations.

At the end of the day, this SEC ruling opens the doors for virtually all forms of communication to be shared via social networks. That is a good thing. But what you need to prepare for as a communicator is the plan. How is this getting integrated into your overall communications plan? Do you include it into your content calendars and how and what should you do to support these?

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