Tuesday 25 September 2012

Is social media an appropriate tool for corporate communication?

The CIPR’s event "Is social media an appropriate tool for corporate communication?" hosted by law firm TLT LLP, started off with a great breakfast spread and light socialising before diving into the world of online communications. The panel included Drew Benvie (CEO UK of Hotwire), Nick Masters (Head of Online, PwC), Ian Burge (External Communications Manager, Standard Charter) and Graham Shaw (Partner, TLT LLP).

Drew Benvie stressed the fundamentals of social media in a corporate context are Influencers, Insight and Innovation, the "three I's". Ian Burge further explained that constant, consistent and open engagement is a vital element of a corporate social media strategy. But how do you actually successfully practice what you preach?

The Budget is always a big date in the corporate calendar because of its impact on Tax, and Nick Masters of PwC explained how they ran live coverage through a variety of their digital channels in order to provide real-time commentary and opinions about the implications. PwC made excellent use of social media to engage with its stakeholders at this important time. Proving to be highly effective with increased media coverage, Nick Masters even experienced a significant decrease in journalist calls as they were offered information through online platforms.

Some interesting legal matters were also raised, including the implementation of social media use policies: when does an employee have a right to privacy and what counts as communicating in a public forum? Where social media is concerned, and with complicated privacy settings on many social sites, the lines can be very blurry. Graham Shaw, an employment law specialist, said that in order to minimise the risk of reputational damage and breaches of confidentiality, an organisational social media policy needs to be established, preferably with input from the PRs and those who will be implementing the social strategy. 

The concluding message from the board of speakers was “don’t be scared of social media” – there is a lot of unchartered water so you won’t always know what the outcome will be, but it will usually be good. While the panellists accepted that some companies prefer to be private with their affairs, they maintained that listening is an integral part of a social strategy, giving companies an awareness of what is being said about them online. If you don’t try using social media as part of your communications strategy, you will never experience the potential results.


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