Serena EhrlichMeasurement services are designed to cut through the communication clutter and help surface issues, rumors and discussions that can positively or negatively impact the company and its reputation.

When it comes to creating a useful measurement and monitoring program, it’s important to mention that investor relations and public relations teams must be equally involved in its creation. In most companies, company monitoring programming is led by PR or research and analyst teams. In 2015, it is imperative that IR professionals become part of this program. 

Why monitor?

It’s just as likely that a company will be attacked by an activist on social channels as it is to receive a customer complaint. The sooner you know that this is happening, the sooner you can take the steps needed to protect your company.

O'Dwyer's Aug. '15 Financial/IR and Professional Services PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's Aug. '15 Financial/IR and Professional Services PR Magazine

Moreover, new tools allow companies to see the direct impact of their news, as well as industry news regarding the company’s stock price, which is an extremely important metric for those charged with protecting that number.

As tools evolve, however, so too must our goals. Communication professionals must learn to spot emerging trends, rumors or attacks that can impact the true financial core of a company — their stock price.  In order to do this, communication teams must become more involved in understanding how company news is shared and distributed across social channels, as well as how stock price-impacting rumors spread, and which tools are available to measure it.

By monitoring what’s being said and how company news affects trading behavior, companies can achieve a much deeper, nuanced understanding of not only how your communication program impacts the financial health of your company, but the kind of investors your news is attracting. 

Today business news discussions initiate in two ways. It’s either company initiated or it begins with a 3rd party: a partner, an employee, a reporter, an analyst, a stock holder, an activist, a brand fan, or a brand hater.

When a public company distributes a news release, that information initiates a wide range of response communications. From analyst reports, to tweets, to message boards, others outside the company begin supplying and consuming perspectives that directly impact not only the news, industry and financial media coverage generated from that release, but the stock price itself. 

This sort of impact can be monitored and measured with reporting services such as NUVI, which tracks in real time the social discussions generated (brand reputation), and the Market Impact Report, which measures the impact of these discussions upon your stock price (financial health).

Third party communications tend to initiate on social channels and spread outwards to local media, trade press, financial and national media and ultimately financial audiences. The sooner communications pros are alerted to potentially damaging or incorrect conversations online, the faster they can activate a plan to refute that data.

In 2014, Rocco Pendola, at that time the Director of Social Media at TheStreet, initiated a social discussion on the state of brick and mortar sales, and of large retail stores in general, featuring a series of photos of a half empty, unkempt retail store. Rocco used Twitter to share his opinions and called for his followers to share similar images of their local stores. Rocco initiated this discussion on Twitter but in response to reactionary comments by the brand and response images shared by his followers, this discussion turned from a social conversation to a financial discussion, generating a series of secondary discussions that could have had serious impact on stock price.

Rocco isn’t the only person doing this. Stockholders, analysts, employees, prospects, reporters and more are all online and are actively talking about the companies they interact with every day.  These updates are easily found and often acted upon by those doing research for articles, trading stock or determining whether they want to buy from you or not. 

With so many audiences discussing companies across so many forums, catching negative discussions early is no longer considered an act of luck, but rather, a necessary and standard part of the investor relations program. 

What to measure, how to respond

When it comes to social discussions, even negative ones, communication professionals must develop a thick skin.  Social channels provide users a way to connect with businesses — in real time — and empower audiences to provide public feedback, positive or negative, true or false, with their followers.

Obviously, many social media posts related to a brand or business don’t trigger a crisis or impact a company’s reputation or stock price.  This is why it’s important to listen to what’s being said, to separate a complaint from a potential problem, and to be prepared in advance with a social response program.

When it comes to measuring brand sentiment and impact from an investor relations perspective, there are two key elements to measure.

The first includes company and industry related terms or phrases that are already being used when discussing that company’s overall well-being. This includes C-suite names, company experts, brand and product names, cash tags (a ticker symbol proceeded by $), competitors, industry terms, Industry reporters and analysts, activists, key investors, reporters, annual industry events and holidays.

I suggest searching these terms regularly as a means of establishing a baseline of average discussions, and to pay attention when conversations surpass this baseline.  When conversations go beyond the normal limits, look for salient discussion themes and from there, determine a response plan. 

Many companies utilize decision trees to help identify how negative discussions should be handled.  The best way to create one of these is to combine your current customer service response programming and your crisis communication plan.  Identify what scenarios are considered a low, medium or high threat and build a process on how to elevate and reply, reducing anxiety and reaction time when a threat does appear. Then when a crisis or attack does occur, you can refer to this to determine next your steps.

Protecting your stock price

Of course, for IR professionals the most important element of measurement continues to be the impact of company and industry news on the company’s stock price.  Luckily a product launched in 2015 to help with this.

The newest monitoring tool available, the Market Impact Report showcases how news events impacted a company’s stock — and those of its competitors — trading volume and volatility as well as aggregates sub-penny, odd-lot, block transactions and media monitoring. 

The time-stamped media monitoring component of these reports highlights stock price and volume changes as soon as stories about your company post to media and investor points such as AP, Bloomberg, CNBC, Fly on the Wall, Forbes, Fox Business Network, FT.com, MarketWatch, Reuters, Seeking Alpha, The Business Insider, TheStreet.com and The New York Times

Allowing IROs to understand which stories are impacting their stock price, a key function for IR practitioners, is made simple with these new reports. These reports not only provide users an instant view of the overall market impact, they are inexpensive and easy to use, dramatically reducing the amount of time and number of tools needed to uncover this important information.

Given the age in which we live, it’s time for investor relations professionals to take control of their stock price. IROs can no longer claim they “didn’t know” an attack was coming, or the impact of their news upon their stock price.

With the launch of low-cost monitoring tools such as NUVI or the Market Impact Report this can easily be done, taking you one step closer to managing the real, tangible impact of news upon the financial health of your company.

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Serena Ehrlich is Director of Social and Evolving Media at Business Wire.