In the new era of digital media, just 140 characters on Twitter have the potential to affect a company’s reputation and severely impact its brand. In this communications minefield, it is essential that boards stay up-to-date on their companies’ social media strategies.
While directors should consider the defensive mechanisms in place, social media presents more than threats to cyber security and reputation. Websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn can create new opportunities for brand-building, instantaneous communication, and increased engagement with stakeholders.
Levick represents countries and companies in the highest-stakes global communications matters—from the Wall Street crisis and the Gulf oil spill to Guantanamo Bay and the Catholic Church. Levick was honored for the past three years on NACD Directorship’s list of the 100 most influential people in the boardroom and corporate governance community and has been named to multiple professional halls of fame for lifetime achievement.LEVICK’s digital team is a communications industry leader, deploying potent social media resources on behalf of clients worldwide.
Grafman monetizes content and investor capital for owners of intellectual property. As president of All Media Ventures, he advises investors, content owners, and media companies.
Grafman is chairman of Majesco Entertainment, a video game producer and distributor. He also serves on the board of directors at Big Tent (licensing), Pixfusion (technology), and is an operating partner at Mercury Capital Partners. He publishes frequently (Directors and Boards, NACD Directorship, Licensing Book, Inventors Digest) and contributes to MSNBC’s “Your Business.”
All of this experience has uniquely positioned Grafman to provide insight—from within multiple technology industries—into the importance of social media as a key component of any corporate strategy.
Fay Feeney, a self-described “digital whisperer,” is a trusted advisor to corporate boards and executives on the newest trends in business and social media. Feeney founded Risk for Good to advise board chairs, CEOs, the C-Suite, and the entire boardroom on how they can fast track their learnings in a digital world. In addition, Feeney provides strategic insights on how to connect to real time information, whether it’s found on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, or Google. This is a competency that will strengthen directors’ “duty of care,” while improving their governance of these emerging strategic risks.
Feeney is a regular attendee at governance education events and is an NACD Governance Fellow. Her insights at conferences have always proven fruitful and her participation in this panel is sure to help directors develop their digital skills.
Braun has done it all: entrepreneur, corporate attorney, and television network president and CEO. He has been managed and mentored by some of the world’s best executives and, in turn, has had the opportunity to manage and mentor other talented people who have gone on to great success. He currently serves as the dean of the Lubin School of Business at Pace University.
Braun began his career in 1977 as a corporate attorney for the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and later joined a client of the firm, International Film Investors (an SBIC), where as senior vice president he structured and negotiated financing and distribution for feature films, including Gandhi, The Killing Fields, Hopscotch, Escape from New York, and The Howling. He has also served as president and COO of Imagine Films Entertainment as well as chairman and CEO of Viacom Entertainment. In this capacity, Braun was responsible for the turnaround of the production/distribution division for prime-time network programming. Continuing his career in the media, Braun served as president of the NBC Television Network and a GE corporate officer. Most recently, he has served as president and COO of Vanguard Animation LLC, which he founded with the producer of the Shrek animated feature franchise.
This is a small sampling of the long career that has uniquely suited Braun to comment on the issues challenging companies today, specifically in the realm of social networks.
Please join this distinguished panel at the “Social Media and Reputational Risk” session at the NACD Board Leadership Conference, and learn how to succeed as a director in the age of social media.
The conference will be held Oct. 14-16 at the Gaylord National Resort inNationalHarbor, M.D.—just minutes from downtown D.C.
For all the hyper-connectivity in today’s world, CEOs and boards have precious few opportunities to reach out to shareholders in a way that is personal, memorable and compelling. Most communication between the C-suite and investors is filtered through multiple handlers and channels. The requisite legal and regulatory compliance language is often such a distraction that the real meaning, and the real intent, of the message can be lost.
The annual letter on the “state of the company” included with a company’s annual report is an ideal tool for CEOs and board chairs to more closely communicate with all shareholders, from global institutions to the smallest investors. Yet too few companies fully seize on this ready-made opportunity. Many CEOs are content to just keep it short and focus on the financial story, offering little context on the events that defined the past year and no articulated vision of what investors can expect in the future.
It’s a missed opportunity, as CEOs could and should be using the annual letter to provide all shareholders a glimpse into who they are and how they’re running the company. They could and should be sharing their best thoughts in their own voice, spotlighting issues and topics in a way that will build confidence among investors that the right management team is at the helm.
The undisputed master of this forum is (no surprise) Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett. Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders topped the recent NACD Directorship magazine’s list of Best Annual Shareholder Letters, which evaluated the entire Fortune 200 list.
Buffett’s letter is understated yet highly informative, giving credit where credit is due, reinforcing the corporate business strategy, and setting the table for how he wants investors (and others, including analysts and media) to perceive the company and its leadership.
On each of the five criteria that NACD Directorship uses to analyze CEO letters, Buffett was in a class of his own. His letter provides a dynamic assessment of the corporate performance, full transparency, a clear outline of the steps Berkshire Hathaway is taking to tackle its challenges, a strategic process that accounts for environmental changes, and insights into the corporate management style. Buffett transforms the shareholder letter from a simple formality into a major influencer on how his company is perceived.
As a tool that actually builds shareholder value, Berkshire Hathaway’s letter is in a class by itself but certainly not the only notable example. Coca-Cola, FedEx, General Electric, General Motors, Google, and Wal-Mart all stood out as companies that go beyond formalities by utilizing the annual report letter as a critical communication tool.
NACD Directorship also singled out others—including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Abbott Laboratories, Amazon, Avon, Exelon, Hewlett-Packard, News Corp., and Zipcar—for how their letters coherently explained and evaluated special circumstances that had arisen.
All of the letters on this year’s list of the best offer a real insider’s view—and it is, after all, the essence of effective IR to help investors feel they’re personally part of the team. Executives act like leaders when they show their stakeholders how they lead.
For more examples of great shareholder letters, visit www.NACDonline.org/Power-of-the-Pen. We hope they inspire you to utilize some powerful communications strategies of your own.
Information technology is a fast-paced environment, and most directors are playing a game of catch up. In the past, technology was reserved for providers, such as Apple or Microsoft, or Internet leaders, such as Google or Amazon. Today, every business relies on technology through a constantly evolving list of options, such as increasing operations efficiency or social media. As expected, this increased reliance on technology entails a higher risk profile, evidenced in security breaches or system malfunctions. Despite these increased risks, recent studies have found that many boards need to refocus how they view information technology (IT).
NACD and Oliver Wyman’s Global Risk Center recently conducted a study to address the issue of IT risk oversight titled Taming Information Technology Risk. According to the survey, nearly half (47%) of directors are dissatisfied with their board’s ability to provide IT risk oversight. Almost a third of directors believed failure to properly provide IT risk oversight stemmed from insufficient expertise at the board level.
A substantial number of corporate boards feel they have not yet met the level of oversight the topic requires. A recent report from the Deloitte Center for Corporate Governance found that while directors should examine IT projects with the same level of scrutiny as any other major capital expenditure, this is rarely the case. The same report also recommended that boards add “tech-savvy directors” who can provide the board with expert oversight.
While every board member will not be an expert in IT, all directors should be well-versed on the subject and able to discuss IT risk oversight in relation to their company’s strategic planning. In Taming Information Technology Risk, six questions are provided that should be on every board’s agenda:
How do you determine the strategic importance of IT to the business?
How do you evaluate the evolving IT capabilities of competitors that could threaten our industry position?
How do you allocate dollars across the portfolio of IT investments to ensure an efficient risk return?
What trade-offs are you making in managing the IT portfolio?
How are you effectively executing major IT programs?
How do you ensure that a breadth of best practice capabilities and processes are in place to protect the firm from operational and security risks—both now and in the future?
The above six questions provide a foundation of the questions boards should ask regarding technology-related decisions. Directors should also take into consideration the ways technology touches their specific company when scrutinizing IT projects. Also, just asking the right questions will only get boards halfway to the finish line. Understanding what constitutes as an acceptable answer is just as critical.