Digital media investment is vital to tell the financial story

Public companies value The Wall Street Journal 's reporting on their quarterly earnings above all else. But except for bellwether companies, such coverage has largely disappeared from the Journal and other mainstream financial media. In today's Internet age, to tell a company's story effectively requires understanding of the media's underlying dynamics.

Declining circulation and ad revenues proved the villains in turning corporate earnings news from must-read to ho-hum. They decimated the ranks of financial journalists. Meanwhile, online media and search engines, aided by the SEC's Reg FD, increased anyone's ability to access earnings news. Google any public company's name plus the word "earnings" and you will find its earnings press release, select online media coverage, and even a free conference-call transcript.

Companies must realize that, on the Web, every day can be their investor day. But only 15% of companies that Institutional Investor rated as "Most Shareholder Friendly" employ social media in their IR mix. This reflects regulatory concerns and corporate communicators' slow learning curve for any new communications medium.

Since the media landscape has changed so radically, companies must rethink how they package and pitch corporate stories.

l Relevance means digital. Every company needs to tell its story in today's media, and that includes videos for YouTube and interactive websites that illuminate a company's big picture role in society.

l It's not a star CEO, but star employees in a YouTube world. Social media has turned everyone into a celebrity, and the business media has taken note. Companies are now featuring employees at all levels, not just the boardroom.

l Online media and influential blogs matter. Smaller, shorter blog hits help build a reputation for financial performance or sustainability programs. Over time, these help create relevance.

l Online media coverage is still important. Yahoo Finance and other financial portals are heavily visited sites for company information. Also, 11 million-plus people read the Journal online every month, according to the Center for Media Research. A story that doesn't run in print still lives forever on WSJ.com.

It's up to companies to tell their own finan-cial stories. They boost their chances of doing so online and through non-traditional media. l

Joe Poulos is an SVP in Edelman's financial comms and IR practice.

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