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Posted on 08.09.2012

Social Media’s Growing Role in Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Though Gibson Guitar entered into an "agreemen" with the federal government earlier this week, the company was immediately clear it was not going quietly into the new arrangement. Within hours of inking a deal with federal authorities, Gibson CEO Henry

Juszkiewicz had a few words to share with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - and anyone else in the wired world that was interested in listening. Juszkiewicz didn't mince words when he spoke of Gibson being "subject to two hostile raids on its factories by agents carrying weapons and attired in SWAT gear." Nor did he share his thoughts in a 45-second story on the evening news or a subdued interview on Sunday morning (or even Sunday night). Instead, he released his statement via Twitter, and supported it with every word of the government's agreement so that "anyone can independently draw their own conclusions."

In case Twitter followers and interested readers couldn't intuit for themselves the taste of bile that Juszkiewicz was choking back in his statement, Gibson also included a few Q&As to further illustrate their position and give reporters additional "color" for their coverage:

Q.3. Wasn't the Government's conduct here, with its armed raid on your headquarters and manufacturing facilities, so outrageous and overreaching as to deserve further Congressional investigation, just calling a spade a spade?
A.3. I don't retreat from any of my prior commentary, but I am gratified that this resolution puts the matter behind us. We are a forward-looking company hoping to move our business ahead in an environmentally forward-thinking way.

  Nashville Social Media ManagementAs far as I can tell, approximately 150 news sites and bloggers picked up this particular question - pretty impressive results.

Gibson certainly isn't the first company to turn to social media to advance a position or address an issue (Domino's Pizza, anyone?). Social media can provide companies and individuals an oddly one-sided platform from which to bullhorn a message or position. Sure, social media is theoretically premised on engagement and ongoing dialogue, and building a following on social media (and maximizing its ROI) requires sustained commitment. But anyone can establish a YouTube account and post a video message - avoiding the hassles of the TV interview and the subjective whims of an outside editor. There really is no requirement to maintain ongoing dialogue with viewers if the goal is simply to distribute a message.  Perhaps it's not a particularly social move, but it certainly can be effective.

Recall the days following the death of Michael Jackson, when the 24-hour news cycle was busily crucifying the quack doctor who seemingly anesthetized the King of Pop to death. In a brilliant move, Dr. Conrad Murray's defense team released a video on YouTube of a composed, well dressed, intelligent physician making thoughtful remarks about a tragic event involving a patient. The national media immediately ran segments of the video, leading millions of viewers (and probably a few potential jury members) to check out the video for themselves.

I've discussed before the interesting move of Walmart CFO Charles M. Holley when he posted a message to the financial news aggregator site Seeking Alpha explaining how the Fortune 1 company planned to maintain its position in the global marketplace. I'm always interested to see how Dell Computers propagates investor presentations, interview videos and relevant news articles with its IR community on the DellShares social site. And dozens of companies have moved into the safe, secure and compliant social community StockTwits, sending (and queuing) real-time and trackable financial messages, including live tweets of analyst calls. (These are the creative geniuses who created the $(TICKER) tag).

I'm highlighting successes here, but I'm sure there are some corporate communications/social media failures out there as well. Leave a comment and post a link - we're interested to know more!

* In the spirit of transparency, Lovell Communications is honored to include Walmart as a client.  

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