GE uses corporate blog to disclose information to investors

26 November 2008

By Catherine Crofton

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General Electric, parent of NBC Universal, has gained attention in the blogosphere over the last few weeks since the October 22 launch of its corporate blog, ?GE reports – Your source for what?s happening at GE.?

The response has been both positive and negative. Criticism has primarily focused on the accessibility of information disclosed in this way – although anyone can receive automatic updates through RSS feeds, which take all of 2 minutes to set up. And North America enjoys the highest penetration of internet usage in the world.

What?s important to note is that GE executives say the blog permits them to disclose more information and on a more frequent basis, which translates into greater transparency regarding issues that would otherwise remain internal. “This is a tough environment, a lot of misinformation in the marketplace,” GE spokesman Gary Sheffer said. “This is just a fast and simple way to punch through it and to make sure that you tell your story in a simple and engaging way.”

This immediacy is one of the many positive outcomes of the new Reg. FD governing corporate web sites and blogs. In terms of engagement, I love the fact that GE incorporates video to support many of their blog stories. (Jason?s post on the Q4 blog yesterday sited another great example of this tactic, as employed by Overstock.com.)

In taking a quick look at the GE blog, one can see that they are receiving numerous comments, which isn?t surprising considering that the company has lost 62 percent of its value in the last year. Many of these comments are asking for more and different information. Some are suggesting specific measures be taken to protect shareholder value.

At first glance, this may seem a frightening scenario for the IRO who feels it?s better to ?manage? what?s being said about their company. The reality is that the Internet has provided a voice to everyone (as per Gary Sheffer?s comment on ?misinformation?) and social media has amplified that voice. In today?s market there is no way to muzzle disgruntled investors and it?s much better to communicate with them.

Ruth Cotter, Director of Investor Relations, Advanced Micro Devices said it best in a recent presentation on social media, ?Our communications are much more proactive. Instead of ?pushing? information at investors, we are now engaged in conversations with them. We?re learning a lot from this dialogue.? And this in turn helps shape future communications.

With corporate leaders such as GE embracing the new SEC guidance, it is anticipated that other companies will follow suit.

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