Social Media (PR) and Financial Reporting (IR): Never the Twain Shall Meet?

Image of Social Media (PR) and Financial Reporting (IR): Never the Twain Shall Meet?

Thomas J. Rozycki, Jr.

By Thomas J Rozycki, Jr., Senior Vice President, CJP Communications

Recently, I have had the opportunity to lead several educational sessions at a number of financial services companies focused on writing for social media. Invariably, the discussion turns to what is “permissible” under compliance, and, perhaps more importantly, what, if any, platforms are the most successful in reaching their intended audience.

I tell participants that the dictates of common sense apply just as much to social media as they do to “standard” methods of disclosure. Further, I explain that while you cannot fit a balance sheet into a tweet, more and more, individual investors, institutional investors, analysts and the media are leveraging digital platforms for intelligence and information gathering.  In short, if you are not leveraging these platforms now, you will be very soon.

Look through a any recent business magazine (or, more appropriately, blog or Twitter feed) you will, with certainty find countless article espousing the benefits of social and digital media for the enterprise, such as Forbes’ andBusinessWeek’s stories. Undoubtedly, agencies and heads of corporate communications along with their teams have had to become experts at effectively utilizing “new media” for their day-to-day branding and communicationsactivities.

Understandably focused on maintaining compliance as ever-increasing regulations mount, IR professionals have seemingly been left behind in the social/digital blitz. What many don’t realize is that the ease of use of these applications presents potential ROI, and ability to bolster their company’s public image.

Where social/digital content fits in the disclosure process

There is little doubt that SEC filings will, and should, remain the standard mode of full disclosure, and will never be supplanted by social media disclosures. Especially in light of the recent SEC sweep of registered investment advisers’ social media presence, IR professionals, need to stay ahead of the two primary issues that they face when engaging in social media:

1.SEC regulations relegate social media platforms to a secondary option; and

2.Finance doesn’t “happen” on social media channels as the investor audience is not centered in these platforms.

Simply put, annual reports are not written 140 characters at a time. There is no Facebook app for 8-K filings. But there can be, and already are, benefits to utilizing digital and social media channels in disclosing financials.

In order to reach maximum constituency, reporting companies should incorporate relevant financials into their social media efforts. The high level of transparency and interactivity afforded by social and digital media channels make it an effective tool for IR professionals, and not to mention the unprecedented opportunity for exposure that is the hallmark of the digital revolution.

Maximizing the impact of public documents

Recent changes in the SEC’s notice and access rules now offer increased flexibility in how a company is able to present information to its shareholders. More frequently, companies are turning to digital content to enhance their annual reports, producing web-based documents that incorporate video content and pictures/video alongside the traditional report. The use of dynamic content presents fully-shareable documents that can drive impact and coverage, allowing the company to maximize the earnings cycle to showcase their brand and story alongside its numbers.

One of the major functions of the PR professional’s job is to generate brand development opportunities. What is too often overlooked is the IR professional’s role in doing the same, and how effective it can be to breed PR opportunities from IR activity to tell your corporate story.

Where PR meets IR

Today’s CFOs and IROs are expected to do more than just run the numbers. They are relied upon to be thoughtful contributors to the company’s development as a branded entity. Digital and social media content are the underutilized catalysts that can facilitate this collaborative approach.

Of course, traditional outreach will always remain the first essential vehicle for disclosure, and the means by which companies will likely turn to in conducting filings for many years to come. However, appropriate use of digital and social content platforms make earnings releases and other regulatory filings a chance to showcase your corporate story.

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Thomas J Rozycki, Jr. is a Senior Vice President at CJP Communications, an Inc. 5000 faster-growing company and former winner of The Holmes Report Small Agency of the Year communications consultancy. Tom was nominated for the PR News Crisis Manager of the Year Award this year for the high-stakes program waged on behalf of a shipping client after its vessel was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. CJP Communications won for Best Crisis Management Campaign in 2009 for this campaign. Tom is also a frequent contributor to the PR News Crisis Management Guidebook.

Published: July 25, 2011 By: commproadmin