COMMENT: Thought Leader - How the latest comms technology can helprestore trust in big business

Opinions abound on how to restore trust and confidence in corporate America. From President Bush to SEC chief Harvey Pitt to Goldman Sachs chairman Hank Paulson - the experts are chiming in.

Opinions abound on how to restore trust and confidence in corporate America. From President Bush to SEC chief Harvey Pitt to Goldman Sachs chairman Hank Paulson - the experts are chiming in.

As PR and IR officers, we are in a position to redefine and solidify our careers as the result of these current events. Now is the time to provide senior management with constructive advice on how they can weigh in on the topic of corporate responsibility. Without reaching out to key investor, employee, and customer audiences, some will question whether leadership is in hiding. Silence is deafening.

There are many tools and technologies available to assist in this process.

While some are updated oldies but goodies; others are new to the marketplace.

However, all have a common theme - interactivity and visual communication.

These tools can be used independently or together to help you build upon or restore trust in your CEO, the company, its product, and stock.

Unlike the past, today's news releases are interactive, dynamic platforms of communication. They can singlehandedly position a company and its CEO in the minds of its stakeholders. The list of those routinely reading news releases has expanded from "old media reporters and editors to individual shareholders, who receive real-time news via news and financial portals, and institutional investors, whose eyes are glued to their First Call, Bloomberg, or Reuters equities terminals all day long.

News releases are no longer a one-way communication, since the introduction of interactive surveys now allows you to hear the needs and concerns of your audiences, and to make changes based on this feedback. Through multimedia, including digital photos and streaming video - embedded within news releases - you can introduce your CEO to your stakeholders and make a visual connection with your audience. By providing instant access to more company information, such as with brochures and snazzy online presentations of financial data, you can further educate and involve your stakeholders in your business.

But four times a year? Did you ever think you would want it less? There was a time, not so long ago, that companies looked forward to their quarterly earnings announcements and conference calls. The news was good - people were making money hand over fist. But as soon as the tide started turning, companies ran for cover. Don't you think it makes sense to stand tall so others will too? Make it simple. Help investors and the media locate the important information in your news releases by adopting a template that provides that information up front. Don't hide the truth in hyperbole.

Follow SEC guidance to post GAAP numbers ahead of proforma results. If you stand by your numbers, others will too.

Involve your audience early and detect future problems before they arise.

Include interactivity with your conference call notification, and allow your online audience to pose questions before the call. By using an interactive notification device, you can address your audience's concerns on your quarterly calls. By including these stakeholders in your plans, you will assure them of your integrity.

Make the CEO a video star. Don't let the CEO hide behind his or her words.

Give your audience a chance to visually communicate with the CEO. Through a corporate video, VNR, or SMT, you can give your CEO face time with stakeholders.

Do it on a continual basis, and begin to build that much-needed rapport.

Corporate communicators also need to persuade management to take their show on the road. How often do you recognize your employees? Remember, they're your most important stakeholders. Not only do they have a vested interest in the company, they represent it to all your other stakeholders.

Why not include them in your analyst road show? Posting the presentation on your intranet will foster greater employee trust.

The more transparent you are to the widest possible audience, the better.

Reach the individual investors and institutional investor simultaneously.

Using a commercial wire service to disseminate your news allows you to reach all stakeholders around the world. It levels the playing field and will help you build a broader consensus.

CEOs need to stand up for what they believe in. Make a statement. The more CEOs who come out in support of President Bush's plan or others that have been proposed, the better off corporate America will be. Whether you issue a news statement declaring your opinion, or make yourself available as an expert to the media, taking a stance is a positive thing.

By counseling senior management to embrace the latest communication technologies to take a stand on corporate responsibility, you will be living proof that "the best defense is a good offense. By harnessing the power of interactivity and visual communication to cultivate relationships and communicate with your stakeholders, you will restore trust.

David B. Armon is president of PR Newswire's Americas Division, which offers electronic distribution, targeting and measurement services on behalf of some 40,000 customers worldwide.

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