Web-Based Disclosure Still Not Ready for Prime Time

July 29, 2009

The one-year anniversary of the SEC’s Interpretive Guidance Release on web-based disclosure will likely pass unnoticed this weekend– and for good reason. In the eyes of most market participants, it has proven to be a non-event that has gained little traction among issuers reluctant to tinker with a proven and effective disclosure system that works exceptionally well.

In retrospect, there are several reasons why the SEC’s Guidance Release failed to become the landmark event that its supporters had hoped for:

  • Within weeks of its issuance, the global financial system was in danger of imploding, diverting the attention of the media, the investment community, and other key audiences. As the markets teetered, most constituents were oblivious to the change — and a good many continue to be unaware of its potential implications to this day.
  • The fact that web-based disclosure was a pet project of former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, vilified by some observers in the wake of the financial crisis, wasn’t a selling point either.
  • At the end of the day, however, the major reason why the SEC’s Guidance Release has had marginal impact is simple: The financial marketplace recognized its very real shortcomings. In the process, investors have tacitly reaffirmed a proven regulatory disclosure model that has emerged as the global gold standard.

The orderly flow of price-sensitive information to all market participants — available simultaneously, in real time, and without restrictions, to institutional and individual investors alike — was judged to be too important to be left to chance.  RSS feeds, corporate blogs and standalone web postings are no substitute for the broad-based distribution of a news release via a secure multi-channel distribution platform.

The SEC’s Guidance Release purposely lacked clarity and definition; the variables to meet compliance standards ultimately proved far too vague to justify the risks.

Furthermore, we see constant reminders of why credible information channels are so important. Just this past weekend, Reuters rejected a faxed release originating from the Middle East about a purported takeover that was later exposed as being fraudulent. The editor on duty immediately questioned why a release of this magnitude wasn’t transmitted via a recognized commercial news wire such as Business Wire — and he correctly decided not to run the story.

There is a lot more to the disclosure process than simple “information access.”  Authenticating the source, editorial review, and secure networks all contribute to the effective functioning of the global financial markets. We’ve spent nearly a half-century earning our stripes as a reliable, credible news source, which is more important than ever as governments grapple to restore financial stability and transparency.

We certainly don’t want to seem dismissive of the SEC’s Interpretive Guidance Release. In the final analysis, it cast a much-needed spotlight on important new technology tools that help to expand  investor outreach.

We stated from the outset that corporate web sites, blogs and RSS feeds are indeed valuable adjuncts that can help get the corporate message out. We are certainly huge proponents of technology and, in fact, use many of these complementary tools to augment our patented news delivery network.

It is reassuring to note that once the initial hoopla surrounding the SEC’s Guidance Release died down, reason ultimately prevailed. Slowly emerging is a hybrid approach that retains the broad-based disclosure model at its core, while also including the ancillary communications channels cited in the agency’s position paper.

We’ve seen this evolution before — our own distribution network went from telephone lines, to satellite systems, to Internet protocol. Along the way, we folded in fax, e-mail, RSS feeds, blogs, IR web sites, and any other communication tool that will increase “full and fair” disclosure.

The real winner now that the dust has finally settled: Investors who are enjoying the best of all possible worlds.

– Neil Hershberg, Senior Vice President, Global Media for Business Wire


Who Do the Media Trust?

July 24, 2009

(edit: Pierson’s full quote appears below.  The initial post paraphrased and omitted a competitor)

The explosion of online news and changes in the media in recent years have prompted a lot of discussion on how much people trust the media, but a recent incident highlights just who it is that the media themselves trust.

Reuters reporter Ransdell Pierson writes about a recent incident in which an unknown party called his office on a Sunday to fax a press release detailing an offer to buy Harman International Industries at a 100% premium from their most recent closing price.

Pierson’s response?

“If it’s such a big transaction, shouldn’t this news be coming over the PRNewswire or BusinessWire?”

Unable to verify the information on the release, Pierson decided not to run it, nor did any major news outlets.  But it popped up in enough places to spike Harman’s share price.  Now, the SEC is suing several parties in Kuwait and Bahrain to recover profits from what appear to be suspicious trades based on the takeover offer, which was in fact fraudulent.

Pierson’s response is a good indicator of how the financial news community views Business Wire — as a legitimate, credible source of news.  It’s a reputation we’ve built over the 48 years, and we’ve done so by ensuring that fraudulent news never makes it to the wire.

Before we’ll send out a press release, we vet it thoroughly, making sure first that the issuing party has properly established membership with Business Wire and is a legitimate organization.

We also have newsrooms staffed 24/7, with experienced editors and staff available around the clock to look at every press release and ensure that it’s real news.  A press release dealing with a known company like Harman — a Business Wire user — and from a company who had not established membership with us and whose existence could not be verified, would not have made it out over our wire.

The media look to us for credibility and legitimacy, and your company can as well.  Our experienced staff and security procedures make us a trusted source for any kind of news.


All Things Press Release Podcast: How Much Does it Cost to Send A Press Release?

July 23, 2009

Truly one of the most oft-asked questions we get from professional and newbie communicators alike is: How Much Does it Cost to Send a Press Release?

While we don’t pretend to be objective about our preferences, the answer ranges anywhere from free to thousands of dollars and all points in between.  Take a listen at the All Things Press Release Podcast, below, where we tackle the question:

How Much Does it Cost to Send A Press Release?

Like what you hear?  Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

Have ideas for a future podcast?  Please let us know.  Email blog_group@businesswire.com or connect with us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/businesswire.


SoCal Communicators Discuss Social Media and PR

July 21, 2009

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Business Wire Los Angeles hosted a breakfast event July 16 where public relations professionals from across the Los Angeles area gathered to discuss best practices for companies to engage in the social media.

The panel discussion, “Communicating Through Social Media: How to Build Relationships to Reach Your Audience,” focused on how social media is impacting the public relations industry, what opportunities exist for PR professionals because of the emergence of tools like Twitter and Facebook and what companies are doing to engage with their audiences through these new platforms.

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Karen Kovacs North (far right), Director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California, moderated the panel, which included (right to left):

Among the key points made by the panel:

  • Ms. Jordan notes that companies tend to jump into social media without knowing why. She stressed the importance of knowing what the business objective is. The reason you should go on the social web is if your customers are there, not just because it’s an item on a checklist.
  • Ms. Scott says it’s important for a company to have an individual voice. For example, she believes it’d be more personable for a brand like the 99 Cent Store to have an individual Twitter account, like @elsie_at_99Cent, rather than just a corporate account, like @99CentStore. She thinks there’s an opportunity there for the store to show the customer a different side of the brand.
  • Ms. O’Neill says that social media is not a bolt-on, but rather a part of an integrated communication strategy. Brands should be ready to take on the expectations that come with engaging with customers on these platforms. There is an expectation that you can answer questions and help if they have a complaint. Your organization needs to be set up to communicate on a more immediate level.
  • Ms. O’Neill believes that you should just be who you are on Twitter. Not every post needs to be promoting something for your brand. She believes in tweeting about what you’re passionate about and talking about what resonates with you. Twitter is what you make of it—be who you are.
  • Mr. Mendoza says that social media has opened up so many opportunities for everyone in our field. It’s shifted our approach, giving us direct access to consumers. There are so many tools out there now to engage with our audiences, it’s just about being strategic about it. But with so many opportunities, Mr. Mendoza believes that social media is more exciting for PR than it is threatening.
  • Ms. Jordan says that social media has shown the cracks in the public relations industry, in the sense that PR isn’t known for being a part of strategic and integrated communications. In this way, PR hasn’t evolved with the industry enough.
  • Ms. O’Neill notes that we’re starting to move away from public relations, marketing, customer support, etc being in their own individual silos and starting to level out a little in communicating to the public. It’s all about talking to real people and establishing relationships now. Who is better equipped to lead the charge than public relations?

Hear some audio clips from the event:

Read the rest of this entry »


All Things Press Release Podcast: Why Add Links to your Press Release

July 21, 2009

Ah…where is the link love?   In all our outreach and education efforts, we encourage clients to include hyperlinks in their press releases.  But they frequently don’t–what a missed opportunity.

Sigh.

In this edition of All Things Press Release, we explain why you should add links to your press release:

Like what you hear?  Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

Have ideas for a future podcast?  Please let us know.  Email blog_group@businesswire.com or connect with us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/businesswire.


Business Wire VP Michael Becker on IROs and XBRL

July 15, 2009

Michael Becker, Business Wire’s Vice President, Global Disclosure and Financial Reporting Services, recently contributed an article called “IROs Need a Seat at the XBRL Table: Simple Steps You Can Take to Be Prepared Now” to Bulldog Reporter’s IR Alert.  The piece takes a look at the potential relationship between investor relations officers and their companies’ XBRL implementation, urging IROs to go beyond simply complying with web posting requirements and get involved from the ground up.

  • Read the article at IR Alert.
  • Download this article as a PDF.

All Things Press Release: How Long Does it Take to Write a Press Release

July 15, 2009

Today’s topic on the All Things Press Release podcast: how long does it take to write press release?

This question was covered in a recent Business Wire PR Peeps poll, and continues to be a frequent query from our clients.  More than half of PR practitioners polled said it takes “several days” to write and get approval for a press release.

How Long Does it Take to Write a Press Release is discussed in the podcast, below.

Like what you hear?  Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

Have ideas for a future podcast?  Please let us know.  Email blog_group@businesswire.com or connect with us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/businesswire.


All Things Press Release Podcast: How to Write a Good Headline

July 14, 2009

Today the All Things Press Release podcast is addressing the question:  How to Write a Good Headline?

Headlines have always been important in drawing readers into your press release but with today’s nanosecond attention spans, they matter even more.   Write a crummy headline and your press release sits;  craft a dandy, and you draw readers in, increasing chances of engagement.

The three-minute podcast, a production of Business Wire, aims to help  communicators large and small get the most out of press release efforts.  Tips, how-tos and guidance based on experience will be served up courtesy of Business Wire staff and outside counsel alike.

How To Write A Good Headline is featured in the All Things Press Release podcast, below:

 

Like what you hear?  Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

Have ideas for a future podcast?  Please let us know.  Email blog_group@businesswire.com or connect with us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/businesswire.


All Things Press Release Podcast: When’s the Best Time to Send A Press Release?

July 13, 2009

 “All Things Press Release,” a podcast about, well, all things press release, launches this month with three-minute-or-less podcasts that  address the most frequently asked questions posed to Business Wire editors and account staff.

The podcast, a production of Business Wire, aims to help  communicators large and small get the most out of press release efforts.  Tips, how-tos and guidance based on experience will be served up courtesy of Business Wire staff and outside counsel alike.

When’s the Best Time to Send a Press Release?  debuts the series, below.

Like what you hear?  Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

Have ideas for a future podcast?  Please let us know.  Email blog_group@businesswire.com or connect with us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/businesswire.


Press Release Case Study #2: Heinz Launches MyHeinz Personalized Ketchup With Pittsburgh Steelers Tie-In

July 13, 2009

Latching on to a timely news hook is a great way to turn an ordinary story powered by a press release into online traction and product sales.  Heinz North America played that move brilliantly in the following press release case study highlighted at a recent Business Wire webinar.

Heinz aimed to promote MyHeinz, a custom ketchup site where one can create mini ketchup bottles with personalized labels.  Want  John & Amy’s Ketchup on the table at your third wedding anniversary barbecue?  Well http://www.myheinz.com is where you make it happen.

myheinz

How to get the word out?  Heinz, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,  waited for a timely news cue:  the Pittsburgh Steelers’ recent sixth Super Bowl win.  Oh and did I mention these custom commemorative ketchups come in six- packs?  Six for six–get it?  The adorable Steelers “six packs” of ketchup feature each of the storied team’s six Super Bowl Wins.

The press release announced the availability of the Steeler’s commemorative pack (they’re still available, by the way, if you want one) and added the product photo (above) to attract more attention.   They also included links to the MyHeinz webpage.  The release ran on Business Wire’s National circuit with an additional EON: Enhanced Online News posting.

The result?  Heinz saw an extra 20,000 visitors to their site and 5,000 six-packs sold–@ $36 a pop!

“We received a significant influx of traffic to the web site as a direct result of the press release distribution…and had direct pick-up of the release on key news sites that directly target our consumers,”  said Tracy Parsons,   Heinz North America Manager, Public Relations.

Lesson learned:  A timely news hook and a great photo can get you on the radar screen of consumers and result in online sales.

To watch the entire press release case studies webinar, check out the archived event.

Do you have an impressive press release case study that involves Business Wire services? Email monika.maeckle@businesswire.com


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