It’s not often you get to hear about social media theory and practice in the context of investor relations. However, on Wednesday, November 20, The Boston Chapter of the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI Boston) hosted a panel discussion at the Boston Newton Marriott titled, “Using Social Media to Bridge the Gap Between IR & PR.”
The panel, moderated by Dennis Walsh (@DwalshIR), Vice President at Sharon Merrill, included Karen Raskopf (@Kraskopf), Chief Communications Officer at Dunkin Brands, RJ Jones (@RrrrrJ), IR Officer at Zillow and Darrell Heaps (@DarrellHeaps), CEO at Q4 Web Systems.
Based on prior conversations I’ve had with colleagues, peers and clients alike, the investor relations profession is not one that seems quick to adapt to trends in communication related to social media. It's not surprising, as I've heard in the past that social media can leave some wondering the value.
"The analysts we speak with aren't on social channels."
"Our industry is too heavily regulated for social media to have an impact."
"The financial analyst firms don't allow their analysts to use social media."
These are just a few of the reasons I've heard. With that said, I am sure this particular topic for NIRI didn’t draw a SRO level anticipation, but for those that didn’t make the time, they missed a thought-provoking and lively discussion from the three panelists and moderator.
Dennis kicked off the proceedings with many examples of poorly executed social media communications, including instances when issues resulted even when social media activities were seemingly implemented well. Who can forget NetFlix or even Carl Icahn’s notable tweet that resulted in a $2,000 fine:
Twitter is great. I like it almost as much as I like Dell.— Carl Icahn (@Carl_C_Icahn) June 20, 2013
After Dennis set up the conversation, Karen Raskopf highlighted Dunkin Brands effective use of social media within a broader integrated marketing and communications approach. Working hand-in-glove with IR, it was clear that social is moving the brand forward, as evidenced by the recent #MyDunkin effort. But still social communications has not found its way into IR practices.
Fret not, RJ Jones raised eyebrows, challenged attendees and wowed many with how Zillow has firmly embraced social media in all aspects of the company’s communications, most notably in its IR practices. It certainly helps when the CEO, Spencer Rascoff (@spencerrascoff), is active on social channels, and the communications approach and strategy is well grounded and truly an authentic reflection of the corporation, brand and voice they wish to carry to all their stakeholders. As RJ noted, “We want to embrace all voices, even detractors.”
However, he cautioned, “You don’t want to be in a position where you have the wrong voice with social media.” A word of caution that JP Morgan found out most recently in its #AskJPM effort. Dawn Kopecki at Bloomberg did a nice summary on why it’s important to understand fully the goals and objectives of a particular social media campaign and sometimes in hoping just by “being social” you are cool, it doesn’t always work that way. Well worth the read and I am sure the results were not what JP Morgan was looking for.
The panel discussion was closed by Darrell Heaps. He made several strong points to consider including one related to breaking down the silos that may exist within communications functions within an organization. These same silos don't exist in social media. In social media, all communications are unified.
All in all a lively conversation and for many of us continuing to bridge the gap, or reinforce the ultimate value of PR and IR working in unison, yes even in social media, it was a good event. And no recap would be worthwhile without a few tips/techniques and overall reminders and pointers.
- Make sure to insert both your ticker symbol (AKA cash tag) into your Tweets so your company comes up in searches by the financial community. RJ noted for Zillow that all financially and IR related comms also use the hashtag #ZEarnings along with $Z.
- As with any communications effort, your social media communications needs to align with your vision and brand. As one panelist noted, it’s all part of the checklist, making sure you have the right brand, right leadership, and clear story points you wish to communicate.
- It’s not the wild, wild west. Social media policies for employees and those participating in social media communications are not an option, but MANDATORY. Again, as one panelist noted, if you mention our company name, it needs to be in compliance with our social media policy. And, it was also refreshing to hear how it’s necessary to keep it fresh and to TRAIN employees and social media practitioners within the company on what is in the policy.
When planned accordingly, executed well, and in alignment with brand and corporate goals, social media communications even in investor relations can be powerful. As RJ noted, and as Zillow CEO uttered on the first earnings call the company did leveraging social channels, perhaps now is the time to get the party started.
Disclosure: I was not fortunate enough to receive a Dunkin Donuts gift certificate for asking a question, nor was I incented with one to blog about the event. My colleague and EVP at LPP, Christine Simeone is on the board at the Boston Chapter of NIRI as the Membership Director.