As social media becomes an increasingly important tool for IR professionals, establishing careful guidelines can help maximize its impact.
Whether you like it or not, social media is making its mark on the world of Investor Relations, meaning that IR teams must adopt a proactive social media strategy or risk falling behind the competition. Of course, with all of the sensitive information and strict legal language involved with corporate reporting, social media poses a number of unique challenges that every organization must face.
Every IR professional should be well aware of the importance of tact and discretion in the field, but social media has complicated our ideas about the limits to individual expression while on the job. After all, it’s illegal to control or limit what employees post on their own personal accounts, but there are obvious risks associated with using a public forum to disseminate information (especially when it relates to IR). For this reason, according to PRNewswire, IR teams should craft a completely transparent policy that clearly outlines how social media will help the company reach its goals.
Once your policy has been finalized, you need to ensure it’s aligned with your organization’s other rules and regulations — including those concerning workplace conduct — it also needs to be aware of and adhere to financial disclosure laws, explaining the risks and consequences of disclosing confidential information.
You may therefore want to limit the policy to exclusively cover communications about company products and services, for example. Remind employees that ultimately, they are the only ones responsible for what they post online, and that personal accounts express personal opinions. If a team member publishes any work-related content, it must be clear they are doing so on their own behalf.
Emphasize Accuracy, Honesty, Respect
Because social media is inherently public, respect is of the utmost importance, and needs to be a core component of your social media policy. Though it’s tempting to use technology as a buffer when dealing with conflict or a situation requiring delicate diplomacy, direct communication is typically the best solution. Obvious as it may seem, reiterate that social media is not the best platform to issue complaints or criticism, and that anything posted on the internet stays on the internet forever.
This is also why honesty and accuracy are equally critical. All posts need to reflect the integrity of your organization, and should be properly researched and well-edited before they hit readers’ news feeds. Providing examples of both best practices and inappropriate or improper social media communication is an effective way to clarify your expectations. Mistakes are inevitable, however, so your policy should outline the proper ways to quickly address any errors.
In the end, a well-crafted and clear social media policy (and strategy) will maximize the value of this increasingly important tool.