FINRA’s Deep Dive into Fintech: Discussing How Wall Street’s Regulator is Staying on Top of Industry Innovation

By Silvia Davi, Chief Marketing Officer, Equities.com

The constant influx of new technologies into the financial sector is driving major transformation on Wall Street. Most recently, the advent of advanced systems like artificial intelligence, big data and high frequency trading has made the finance industry almost unrecognizable from what it looked like just a decade ago. While it’s created a net positive effect—facilitating more efficiency and transparency in the market for the most part—it’s also become impossible to track through traditional means. For investors and regulators, an inability to keep up with this progress creates very concerning vulnerabilities, to say the least.

These new issues are something the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) realized early on. It’s also why Wall Street’s leading self-regulatory organization, whose mission is to provide investor protection and promote market integrity, invested so heavily in modernizing its operations years before this current wave of innovation really hit the market. Leading the effort all the while has been Steven Randich, Chief Information Officer of FINRA. Prior to joining FINRA, Randich’s extensive experience had been on the other side of the table, holding similar roles at Citigroup (C), NASDAQ (NDAQ), the Chicago Stock Exchange, IBM Global Services and KPMG.

Today, FINRA’s architecture isn’t just keeping pace with Wall Street, it’s arguably ahead of most of the industry’s key players. In this Equities.com interview, Randich gives us a peek under the hood of FINRA’s newly revamped, well-oiled machine and explains how it positions the regulator to protect investors better than ever.

EQ: The financial industry has been undergoing a significant period of innovation and technological disruption in recent years. We’ve seen this through the prevalence of Fintech startups, big data analysis, algorithmic trading, and so forth. Yet, as the industry regulatory body, FINRA hasn’t only kept pace, it’s actually been leading the curve. How has fully embracing emerging trends such as open source data and cloud computing early on helped you stay ahead of the industry you’re tasked with watching over?

Steven Randich, Chief Information Officer of FINRA

Steven Randich, Chief Information Officer of FINRA

Randich: It is really amazing how FINRA, as a financial services industry regulator, has been able to achieve the level of innovation, creation and successful deployment of such advanced and pioneering technology. In most respects, we believe we are several years ahead of the vast majority of financial services firms. At the recent Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent annual conference, where FINRA had a total of eight speakers, AWS’s CEO stated that FINRA is “one of the very, very top practitioners of building on top of AWS” and that they have learned much from us. We set forth in 2013 with a deliberate, yet unconventional approach to our implementation of big data software in the public cloud.

First, we insisted on being self-sufficient, by doing it ourselves, by training our own employees, and not relying on vendors. Next, we wanted to do it in the public cloud, not the private cloud, as is so prevalent in the financial services industry. We did not want to continue acquiring proprietary technology, provisioning it for peak and disaster recovery, and then watch it depreciate in our data centers. Instead, we wanted access to massive scale at commodity costs. Third, we wanted to use open source database and big data software. We had numerous proprietary database vendors telling us to use their software, insisting that the open source software was not mature and would not scale. Lastly, we felt in order to fully leverage the cloud model, we needed to re-architect and rewrite our software from the ground up, as opposed to a “lift and shift.” This approach allowed us to fully leverage the demand elasticity of the cloud, build cyber security controls into the foundation of our software, and to fully automate the development operations (devops) function.

EQ: What are some advantages FINRA now has at its disposal with open source and cloud technology that weren’t available with your legacy infrastructure?

Randich: There are several. First it is important to understand that open source big data software and the public cloud present distinct, yet symbiotic, advantages. Public cloud allows massive (virtually limitless) processing and storage scale at commodity prices. Previously, we had major challenges with the physical storage and processing capacity of our legacy data warehouse appliances. When implemented wisely, with 100% elasticity, we have access to this scale on demand. In other words, pay for it only when you need it, so it is significantly less expensive than resident infrastructure. A related benefit is that we don’t need to provision for peak capacity because we can burst our available capacity to meet the processing peak for only the time that it is needed, and only pay for such. Resiliency and business continuity also are superior to the traditional primary and secondary data center approach, again with the ability to provision and pay for disaster recovery processing infrastructure only when needed.

Open source software, like those in the Apache Software Foundation, like Hadoop, Hbase, Hive, and Spark allow FINRA to leverage the massive scale and elasticity of the public cloud. With open source, and its broad software developer community, we have access to much more product development and innovation, because the number of software developers contributing to the software are not limited to the employees of one company. Often, we see hundreds of developers from all over the world contributing to these open source software products. Which brings me to the last major advantage of open source, which is that you are not locked into a vendor’s proprietary software and their limited quantity of software developers, e.g. no vendor lock-in.

EQ: In terms of scope, how much data and what moving parts are involved on a day-to-day basis regarding the infrastructure you’ve built on the cloud? What are the advantages and challenges you face when dealing with the size and complexity of the financial markets, now that they’re moving at lightning speed?

Randich: We now have over 20 petabytes in the cloud, representing over 90% of FINRA’s total data volume. The volume in the cloud is growing rapidly, as on average, every day we collect 50 billion market events from broker dealer firms and exchanges. These include pretty much every quote, order, cancel, and trade occurring in our equity securities market today. We have had peak days where we have collected 75 billion market events. Before moving to the cloud, we had clear challenges in dealing with this data volume given our fixed footprint infrastructure. This was particularly challenging when, after collecting the data, processing it, and then surveilling it, a firm or exchange would inform us that the data they had previously sent was done so in error and needed to be resent. In these cases, which are not rare, we would have to determine what the impact of the resubmitted data was to our previous surveillance results.

Now in the cloud, we can store and process multiple versions of the data simultaneously, so we can handle the resubmissions with relative ease. We have been observing 20% year over year increases in total market event volume. With the unlimited scale, at commodity costs, of the public cloud, we can absorb these market volumes increases with no effort whatsoever. Finally, now that we are not spending so much time on managing our infrastructure by dealing with capacity constraints, we can focus much more time on innovations to our surveillances so that we can stay ahead of the latest developments in market manipulation and fraud and consequently be a more effective regulator.

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EQ: Artificial intelligence is another area garnering intense interest in the market right now. Is this an essential area for FINRA going forward as you continue to try and transform data into information?

Randich: Yes, FINRA is investing specifically in machine learning software and algorithms to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our surveillances and are currently pursuing a proof of concept in our market surveillance area. We are experimenting with several open source machine learning platforms and are expecting to benefit from the rapid innovation that is occurring in the open source community. While it is early in our process, we are optimistic that machine learning will ultimately add value to our regulatory effectiveness.

EQ: FINRA’s cloud-computing roll-out began in early 2014 and was projected to be a 30-month project. Can you reflect on the process and how it compared to your initial expectations? Did it evolve as the market evolved?

Randich: The migration of our market surveillance platform to the cloud began in January 2014 and completed in full in July of 2016. Our initial expectations were that this migration would reduce our costs, both data center infrastructure, and labor associated with the operational work necessary to keep the system working within a constrained capacity environment. The project completed on time and delivered these cost reductions. However, there were several big and pleasant surprises.

First, the performance has been stunning – on average a 400-fold improvement in the time required to run surveillance queries. Second, the cybersecurity is superior to that of a private data center model. Features like encryption, micro segmentation and many others contribute to make our data safer in the cloud. Thirdly, the resilience and business continuity is better than that of a private data center model because our processing and storage of data is ubiquitously and virtually running in dozens of geographically distributed data centers with varying data center utility providers. Of course, these additional benefits require a proper system design and architecture, taking advantage of functions that AWS makes available to their clients.

EQ: FINRA’s primary goal is to protect investors from fraud and bad actors within the industry. How have new innovations and technologies in the financial industry changed the way in which fraud is being committed? What are some new threats and risks that investors need to start paying more attention to?

Randich: As trading has become increasingly electronic, and consequently faster, market manipulation and fraud have become more sophisticated and consequently more difficult to catch. With the fragmentation of our markets, where orders in the same security can be sent to and executed on multiple exchanges, alternative trading systems and liquidity pools, there are greater opportunities for manipulators to disperse their trading activity in an attempt to avoid detection. Further, we also see market manipulators using accounts at different firms to trade in an attempt to obfuscate their activity.

For all the reasons I noted above about the benefits of the AWS cloud, particularly its speed and on-demand capacity, FINRA is much better positioned to detect and deter this kind of nefarious activity. Through our surveillance systems that are enabled by the cloud we see one, virtual integrated market, not a fragmented market. This is powerful and essential for us to continue to protect investors and promote market integrity.

EQ: The industry’s perception of FINRA as a technology heavyweight has certainly grown in recent years, largely due to the efforts you’ve spearheaded here. How does this wider acknowledgement as an innovator help FINRA better achieve its goals as a regulatory body?

Randich: As with most things nowadays, the more advanced the technology being used, the better. Particularly in our industry with the electronic high frequency trading (HFT), the speed, and the massive volume of market events every day, we simply could not keep up and be able to properly surveil this activity without sophisticated advanced technology. In many respects, our regulatory competency is fueled by our technological prowess. For this reason, we in FINRA technology have been quite noisy in the press, at industry conferences, etc. about our innovation and success in implementing advanced, pioneering technology. At this point in time, we have dozens of financial services firms visiting us frequently to learn of our experience in migrating our most critical and data intensive applications to the cloud.

About the Author: Silvia Davi is a seasoned global corporate communications and marketing professional with over 18 years of experience. Ms. Davi was recently Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for The Food Bank For New York City. Prior to that she was Vice President and Head of Strategic Communications and Marketing at Broadcast Music, Inc® (BMI®), a global music rights management and royalty distribution firm. Ms. Davi joined BMI after serving as Vice President and Head of Corporate Communications and Brand at Marsh & McLennan, where she was responsible for spearheading a new brand identity, as well as developing corporate responsibility and sustainability PR programs. Prior to that, Ms. Davi spent eight years at NASDAQ OMX as Vice President, Corporate Communications and Head of Global Broadcast Media Strategy, where she led the corporate communications for key business lines, while working with C-suite executives and overseeing the exchange’s flagship and broadcast studio in Times Square known as NASDAQ MarketSite. 

 

This article originally appeared on Equities.com

 




TransMedia Group To Launch ‘Cyber Security Seal’ Warning Hackers To Keep Away

CommPRONewsItemBy CommPro.biz Editorial Staff

International PR firm TransMedia Group said it’s facing a bit of a “cyber dilemma” after having been hired to launch CyberSecuritySeal, a mark warning hackers that personal data stored on a website is protected.

The firm said it was weighing the positives and negatives of launching a Public Relations campaign that could be tricky as the goal is to warn hackers to move on, but without presenting a tantalizing challenge for them to try and break through a site’s security.

CyberSecuritySeal is a mark that is the online equivalent of those awarded by Good Housekeeping, The Better Business Bureau and other organizations validating high standards of quality, only this seal is a sign of state-the-art data security applied to a company’s website.

“The trick is to discourage hackers in a way that doesn’t sound like an enticing challenge to their nefarious impulses,” said Tom Madden, founder of TransMedia Group.

TransMedia said the CyberSecuritySeal™ will be a registered mark that assures customers that a site has passed a security review, implemented an Incidence Response Plan and put in place safeguards and strategies to improve the security of personal data, thereby reducing the risk of a data breach.

“Our publicity will emphasize that display of The CyberSecuritySeal on a website is clear warning to anyone attempting to steal data that there is tracking technology embedded that will assist authorities to identify invaders and lead to their arrest and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law,” said Madden.




Strategic Communications Won’t Stop A DDoS Attack, But A Lack Thereof Will Make It Worse

Samantha Kruse

Samantha Kruse

By Samantha Kruse, Account Supervisor, LEVICK

Allison Miller, Fellow, LEVICK

Hackers went back to the basics this past week with one of the oldest cyberattack tricks, a distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS. The attack, which shut down many prominent websites including Amazon, Twitter, and Spotify, took place on Friday, October 21, and was aimed at Dynamic Network Services Inc. (Dyn), a company that operates what is essentially the digital telephone book for the internet.

The attacks were well planned and well executed, and the apparent ease with which they took down major websites is raising questions as to what companies can do to protect themselves from attacks like these from a security standpoint, and what they are doing to protect their brand. As these attacks are nearly unpreventable, security experts maintain the best way to mitigate damage from a DDoS attack is early detection through monitoring, and separating, good and bad website traffic. Without an immediate solution to rebuild the internet, enterprises must focus on the essential strategic communications elements that can help soften the fallout and speed up brand recovery following such an attack.

Strategic Communications Won’t Stop A DDoS Attack, But A Lack Thereof Will Make It WorseOne of the more detrimental implications of attacks such as these is what they can reveal about a company’s online presence to the hackers, pinpointing vulnerabilities. The damage for companies that rely heavily, if not solely, on online transactions (think healthcare, financial services, online retailers, etc.), will be catastrophic. Tech behemoths like Reddit and Netflix, whose service was interrupted for hours during Friday’s attack, are under a microscope. Public perception of a company that operates sophisticated online services can be quickly harmed by that organization’s inability to protect the sensitive information of its customers or by a discontinuance of the services its customers pay for and expect to receive. It is increasingly important for companies to put together a strategic communications plan before a DDoS attack occurs. While there is no step-by-step plan that fits each organization, these are a few basic elements necessary for a cybersecurity communications plan:

  1. Onboard highly-trained third parties, such as forensic specialists and outside IT consultants, in peacetime. These experts can be quickly and efficiently deployed in the event of an attack.
  2. Train employees on data security basics and test your enterprise crisis communications and data security plans. While an individual employee may not be able to protect a company from a DDoS attack, they can be your biggest weakness or biggest advocate in recovery. Employees who are not educated on protocol could take to Twitter and comment publicly on the attack before the company is ready with a statement or has even investigated the scenario.
  3. Control the narrative. Inform affected internal and external parties about what happened and what you are doing to fix it before they find out from another source.
  4. Build in alternate forms of notification that are not dependent on email or online customer service centers, recognizing that a DDoS attack will sever connection to an online network rendering a company unable to access its customer databases or answer queries/complaints coming in through those avenues.
  5. Coordinate your message with your business partners and vendors. If your business operations depend on other service providers, be sure that they are notified before the general public about any potential cyberattack that could also impact their operations.

While there is a plethora of measures that a company can take to mitigate a crisis stemming from a DDoS attack, the frequency and the potential impact of these attacks looms large. Though ransomware and phishing attacks are on the rise, companies cannot neglect inserting DDoS attacks that could serve as smokescreens for follow-up security breaches into crisis simulation drills.

About the Author: Samantha Kruse is an Account Supervisor at LEVICK. Samantha has worked with companies and brands in the legal, energy, education, insurance, real estate, agriculture, and professional sports industries. Samantha focuses on reputation management, including data security incidents and product recalls. 

 

 




How to Maximize a Conference: 3 Lessons from #PRSAICON

3-lessons-from-prsaicon-visit-the-booth

Conferences, trade shows and industry events are a huge investment of time and resources. So how do you make the most of your experience?

Cision spent the last few days at PRSA International Conference 2016 (#PRSAICON) giving presentations, engaging on social media and even launching our next-gen platform Cision Communication Cloud™. In that whirlwind of activity, I noticed a few tips and tricks that can help you get more out of every conference you attend.

1. Being yourself pays off.

A lot of the people you meet at an industry event are people you already have some connection to, although you may not have ever met in-person. Maybe a coworker from another office, an industry influencer you follow on Twitter or a client you exchange emails with. What is the point of coming all the way there to meet them face-to-face if you are not going to be yourself?

I’ll give two shining examples of when being yourself paid off for PRSA attendees.

To understand why the first example is such a huge win, you have to understand all conferences are a Twitter war. Companies want to engage new audiences, attendees want to capture the best soundbites and everyone want bragging rights for a clever, high-profile post.

During Theresa Payton’s keynote on cybersecurity she covered how easy it was for hackers to get their hands on your password. After Theresa shared some stunning stats and a few poignant examples, Laurent Lawrence secured some major bragging rights with a well-timed, hilarious tweet.

The 65 retweets and 154 likes add up to more than half of Laurent’s followers — without taking into account the newcomers based on this clever gif. Gifs are a great way to engage on social media and this one summed up how everyone in the room was feeling at that moment.

The second example I want to share is about having an honest voice and not being afraid to use it. When an attendee made a comment via Twitter about one of the presenter’s outfits during her session, several conference goers found it to be sexist and uncalled for. One of the first people to say something was Heather Whaling, founder of Geben Communication.

2. Go the extra step when you engage.

Heather’s tweet struck a chord, starting one of the most active Twitter conversations of the entire conference. She followed it up with a blog post later that day to elaborate her thoughts on the topic when 140 characters were not enough.

She didn’t scrap her tweet just because it was sure to be a sensitive subject, she didn’t sugar coat how she felt and she didn’t use this as an opportunity to simply vent or attack someone she disagreed with. She took a clear stance and the subsequent blog even offered next steps for PRSA to help address the industry wide issues with sexism in PR and set a call to action for others to get involved.

Because she went the extra step, next year’s conference may have an entire track dedicated to sexism in PR.

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Continue reading here on BEYOND PR.

 




Crisis Communications for Government in the Digital Age

julie200By Julie Murphy, Partner & SVP, Public Relations,  Sage Communications

Whether it is a terrorist attack, political corruption, cybersecurity breach or natural disaster, the government is no stranger to crisis and the tricky communications that come along with them.  Federal and local government organizations are held to an even higher standard of ethics and transparency, given their mission and citizen-driven purpose. 

Despite the abundance of valuable guidelines for crisis communications, even the best public relations pros often come up short.  Crisis situations are highly emotional, move much faster than desired and are loaded with unpredictability. 

The pieces rarely fall into place to capture the 1980’s Tylenol textbook response that we all studied closely in college.  In the famed case, Johnson & Johnson acted immediately with full transparency to alert customers across the nation when it was discovered that some Tylenol bottles had been tampered with and poisoned.  Due to the company’s ethics, open communications, and determination to put public safety first, Johnson & Johnson gained more credibility and trust with their customers than they enjoyed before.

The digital age and ever-growing presence of social media have introduced a modern-day newsroom that operates in a minute-to-minute environment, where it’s often more important to be first than it is to be accurate.  Had Johnson & Johnson experienced this crisis today, the company would have likely experienced significantly more problems.  The news would have traveled much faster and the traditionally PR-shy company would not have likely gotten its act together ahead of public discovery.  Social media videos of tampered Tylenol bottles would have gone viral, rumors would have spread and it would have been much harder for Johnson & Johnson to make a comeback.

Social Media and the Rise of Unqualified Thought Leaders

The modern communications environment leaves public relations professionals in a much more precarious position when a crisis breaks.  One of the biggest game-changers has been the introduction of citizen journalism.  Unlike the ethics that guide traditional journalism, social media is often driven by what gets the most attention – whether it’s true or not. 

In looking through the lenses of crisis communications, it’s important to note that social media platforms tend to be extremely self-righteous and haughty environments.  This type of banter can throw even the best communications practitioners off kilter, but it is important to understand the context and act accordingly.  This is largely driven by who the naysayers are and their influence, whether there is truth behind their message, and whether a groundswell is building.

Michigan Governor Drinks Flint Water

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is one of the best examples in the recent history of terrible crisis communications.  Government leaders withheld information on the water toxicity for nearly five months before making it public, and even then did not disclose the full urgency and danger.  Deception – particularly when it comes to public health – is the fastest route to permanently ruining credibility.

While surely the traditional press would have covered this issue extensively before the digital age, citizen journalism and the social media platforms available today increased this crisis by tenfold.  Governor Rick Snyder, in attempt to assure the public that the water situation was improving, drank filtered water with local residents and posted on Twitter that he will do so for the next 30 days.  This effort was not perceived well by the citizens, where calls for imprisonment and his resignation were the tamest responses.  This was followed by demands to see his grandchildren drink the water, pictures of bathtubs filled with corroded water and much more.

Authenticity Rules

Today’s world of communications offers instant access and limitless ways to express yourself as an average citizen.  Honesty, ethics, compassion and open communications has never been more important, particularly in government where the sole mission is to serve its citizens.

 About the Author: Julie Murphy leads the Public Relations division at Sage Communications, a full service integrated marketing communications agency, and can be reached at jmurphy@aboutsage.com or on Twitter @julielitzmurphy. 




Security, Preparedness, and Exposure – The Panama Papers Paradigm

Samantha KruseBy Samantha Kruse, Account Supervisor, LEVICK

The fallout from the leak of 11.5 million documents held by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, first revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has yet to reach its peak. Though comparatively fewer Americans than internationally-recognized names have been exposed so far, the number of American institutions implicated is on the rise. So, what should U.S. businesses be doing as a result?

With repercussions yet to come for U.S. corporations, individuals, and their institutional advisors, here are four steps that organizations can and should be taking now:

  • Plan for the worst

Identify the specific vulnerabilities of your organization. Map out your top concerns and shore up defenses. FBI Chief Information Security Officer Arlette Hart, reacting to the record-breaking leak of confidential information, cautioned individuals who share data with other parties to be mindful of whether those vendors are properly protecting said data. The consequences of this information leak on privacy, including the particular vulnerability of the legal sector and its sensitive client information, will be far-reaching.

Cybersecurity is at the forefront of many companies’ risk management plans, yes, but how many corporations are concerned with the security of their vendors? Are we too focused on whether an employee might leave a laptop in an airport security line or whether organizational files might be hacked and encrypted by a foreign entity? Americans and U.S. companies ought to take this opportunity to refocus data security efforts.

  • Spell out your intellectual argument 

Your rationale should be easily understood. Prepare your messages on organizational relationships, data security protocols, and reputational integrity. Avoid qualifiers and long-winded explanations. The more precisely you can get the key point across to your audience, the better. When a crisis hits and queries ensue, a company should not be scrambling to draft a multi-page response. A truthful, positive statement that highlights relevant facts is the most effective way to respond at the outset.

  • Line up your champions

Use peacetime to secure and prep your messengers. When your company is implicated in a crisis, third parties add invaluable perspective. Often, you cannot control the narrative on your own. But, if you have already cultivated allies who can add a trustworthy voice to the conversation on your behalf, you have ensured a more wide-reaching, validated foundation of support.

For example, if customers wrongly accuse a food company of fault in a product recall, as the American public did during the peanut paste recall of 2009, engaging third party experts in the food industry who can validate the company’s position   via online and social media posts is a good way to reach concerned Mommy bloggers looking out for their child’s safety.

  • Be flexible and well-informed

Organizations recover reputations more quickly when they communicate efficiently and honestly. Follow the breaking story to inform your strategy. The full picture of the Panama Papers has drastically changed on a daily basis. Iceland’s Prime Minister initially stepped down and then recanted his decision. So much about the ultimate impact of this growing story is still unknown. It is essential that companies monitor social and traditional media conversation to inform strategic decisions about customer and stakeholder engagement. Earlier this week, the same day that a teenager died from an accident as a result of a Takata airbag explosion, Takata airbag user Honda promoted a tweet about the company “pioneering safety.” While the tweet may have been planned for distribution in advance, the company should have adjusted its social media content.

Yet again, the Panama Papers have highlighted the importance of effective communications and crisis preparedness on the international stage. Financial regulations and data privacy will undoubtedly be impacted at a global level as a result of the corrupt schemes that have come to light over the past week. How will you and your organization fare?

About the Author: Samantha Kruse is an Account Supervisor at LEVICK. Samantha has worked with companies and brands in the legal, energy, education, insurance, real estate, agriculture, and professional sports industries. Samantha focuses on reputation management, including data security incidents and product recalls. 

 




Helping Investors Stay Calm in a Volatile Market

Nati KatzBy Nati Katz, Manager, Technology Practice, Burson-Marsteller

Senior and longtime market experts claim that what happens during the first few days of January dictates the year’s overall stock market performance. If that’s true, and considering the opening trading day of 2016, investors have a lot to worry about.

The first day of trading in 2016 brought the Dow Jones industrial average down 470 points below 17,000, representing the largest percent decline on the first trading day of the year since 1932. At the same time, the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index saw its sixth worst opening day ever. The tech-heavy NASDAQ, which is home to many regularly high-performing stocks, saw the worst start to the year since 2001, falling below 5,000 and settling at a 2.1 percent loss.

These numbers are undoubtedly worrying investors, which leaves communications executives at publicly traded companies in a challenging position. Their job is to maintain a sense of stability, growth and confidence among respective stakeholders.

The good news is that at its core, investor anxiety is partly derived from silence – and the natural antidote is communication. Following are a few best practices.

Don’t get stuck playing defense

One thing you should avoid is being pushed to the corner when it’s already too late. If you find yourself explaining why there’s no need to panic – you are most likely playing defense. Instead, have an ongoing program that conveys the values and benefits of the company, its services, products and solutions.

One of the most effective programs year round is a thought leadership plan that is implemented through your spokespeople. An effective executive communications initiative includes key messaging from different divisions of the company – communicated throughout the year by a pre-determined list of key executives serving as experts in their respective fields. Ultimately, the goal is to have no month go by without positive news being published.

‘Diversity’ isn’t just for good investments

Communications with stakeholders and key audiences shouldn’t take place exclusively in that comfort zone of your friendly “home publication.” I know several companies that maintain cozy relationships with certain broadcast networks, a particular financial show or an individual host. The tendency is to work with those networks exclusively in the hopes of seeing positive coverage. But it also leads to infrequent media appearances, as even your “besties” can’t host you every month.

Instead, supplement business media outreach with outreach to industry verticals: e.g. retail, transportation, hospitality, food & beverage, IT, cybersecurity. All play a valuable role and can help to convey your company’s messaging throughout the year.

‘High-frequency comms’: Hashtags, cashtags and #TBTs

The media today and its 24/7 cycle is no longer affected merely by what’s in the mornings’ papers (or sites) but by what’s being posted, tweeted and shared in a flash on social channels. The markets have already shown their volatility and sensitivity to breaking news on social media, not only by companies themselves, but also by individuals, fraudulent sources or hacked accounts.

Don’t let external influencers fill a content vacuum when you can be a reliable and credible source yourself. Although it can be difficult for public companies to maintain the pace content consumers are accustomed to on social media, attempt to be consistent and proactive. Ideally, your social media team should be given the latitude to generate, capture or leverage existing content from within the organization and re-purpose it for an ongoing, proactive social media campaign. Content can reflect the thought leadership plan mentioned above, include formal company news – under the SEC guidelines for social media – or even be creative, for example participating in #TBTs (Throwback Thursdays) – to engage your current stakeholders and attract new ones.

While communications professionals clearly cannot control stock performance any more than they can control China’s trading woes or oil prices, you can have a significant impact in building trust with investors and stakeholders and showing the bigger picture encompassing a company’s momentary dips. By being proactive and consistent in communications across media and social media, you can grant a sense of stability to stakeholders and stockholders.

About the Author: Nati Katz serves as a manager in the technology practice at global PR agency Burson- Marsteller, a Young & Rubicam Group company. He owns none of the above mentioned stocks, and does not have a professional relationship with the companies included in this piece. You can follow him at on twitter and LinkedIn