by Jean-Claude Torchia
I’ve always been fascinated by economics and public relations. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the relevance, influence and importance of an effective public relations strategy on publicly-traded companies. Things have changed so much since my days as a student of economics at McGill University in the late eighties.
First of all, back then, publicly traded companies relied mainly on their annual general meeting to report earnings, dividends and news on their respective businesses. By and large, communication efforts were systematic, planned, and relatively predictable. The internet was in its infancy and, for all intents and purposes, organizations could manage and control communications in a structured and strategic way. Of course, they had their own issues, challenges, and crises to manage, but time was a commodity that they owned much more than today.
Who has time today?
Look at the stock market. The value of stocks go up and down based on demand. But how many are truly valued based on fundamentals? What is the proportional weighting of the fundamentals of a company placed by investors in today’s world? How many of us invest in the stock market with lessons learned from the Warren Buffett school of economics? With the power of real-time news, and an increasingly more polarized one, the stock-market is becoming more and more vulnerable to what is being covered whether it’s true or “fake”. A strong and profitable company with sound fundamentals and earnings will, of course, grow in value over time but given the power and reach of real-time news, makes the stock-market extremely vulnerable, and I would say more vulnerable than ever before.
Don’t get me wrong, this in not to say that I’m not a believer in the stock market, quite the contrary, as I believe that in the long-run, it’s a good place in which to invest. What I’m saying is that it’s not for the faint of heart. The fluctuations of “blue chips” will no longer be as stable as they once were and this is the result of the inordinate amount of news, good and bad, of an organization. Public relations has become critical both in terms of pro-active communications but also in terms of managing and negotiating through stormy seas.
The key to success in this new world is to hyper-communicate with your key stakeholders in good and bad times and to ensure that you confront issues head on. Alternatively, you will lose control of the message, the reputation of your organization, the goodwill of your business, and ultimately the value of your shares and the financial well-being of all those who placed their hard-earned money and trust in you.