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.
OK, director-colleagues (and those who are similarly aligned), I am sure you are all following the current season of best-film and best-acting nominations and awards with great interest. Or, maybe not. In either case, it’s time to step away, and to take a brief detour from your desktop, or your laptop, or your iPad, or whatever device on which this appears.
We’re going to have our own little group of highly unofficial award nominations. Not “Best Director,” not “Best Committee,” not “Best Board.” Those—or their facsimiles—have already been created. Our job here is to identify the awards that we hope our own boards would win for their own work. And my job is just to start the ball rolling, or rather, to get you thinking.
Here are my categories and a few comments on potential nominees. I hope you’ll read them, and then add to the list. After all, if we’re going to turn this into a three-hour event worthy of a network telecast, we’re going to need awards across a whole barrelful of categories. I’ll start, but then you’ll need to chip in.
Topic That Most Boards Aren’t Sure How to Deal With: Nominees: Social Networking, Political Contributions, Number of Women on the Board. Current Favorite: All of the above. One that won’t go away for a while: Number of women on the board. Our colleagues around the world have begun mandating membership ratios.
Least-Favorite Current Topic among Board Members: Nominees: Social Networking, Proxy Access, Say on Pay, CEO Compensation, Director Compensation. Current Favorite: All of the above.
Most Fruitful “New” Board Practice: Nominees: Instituting and participating in a regularly scheduled, board-management offsite on corporate strategy; reallocating more board time to committee meetings, as opposed to full-board sessions; changing the location of meetings from isolated boardrooms or offsite rooms to onsite, “middle-of-the-action” company locations; changing where people sit at meetings; and putting in a speaking-time limitation or edict to reduce the effect of “air-hogs.” Current favorite: Unclear, but we sure know the LEAST favorite. People HATE changing where they sit. Alas.
Wildest Idea to Improve Board-Member Focus: Nominees: Measurably increase mandatory director shareownership and retention requirements; Take the Undercover Boss reality show concept and apply it to directors by making them go “undercover” as employees; Administer a “How Much Do You Know about Your Company?” quiz to members at the board meeting and openly grade it immediately thereafter; Conduct a “Zero-PowerPoint” board meeting; Have board members randomly selected to present on the topic: “What I Learned in the Past Month about Our Company.” Current Favorite: None. In fact, just the mention of any of these could easily induce a lively—if not awkward— conversation about social networking.
Other nominees? Other categories? The envelope, please.
A recent conversation with one of our members via the NACD LinkedIn Group has prompted me to think about how social media might affect the work of companies, the behavior of shareowners, and thus the leadership of boards of directors.
The conversation started like this: I attended an elearning conference and, inspired by some of the sessions, decided to solicit the views of NACD membership on how the emergence of social media might require new skills and mind-sets from those charged with company oversight: the board of directors.
I had only one response. “Neil” wrote: “Other than the notion that social media plays out quickly, are the oversight issues any different from what they were in the past? In the pre-social media world, companies I served had policies (and less formally, unwritten “understandings”) in place with respect to media/public communications and crisis management. Other than establishing a proper framework that includes setting policy and ensuring there’s a system of assuring (or at least optimizing) compliance and reviewing the policy/program from time to time as appropriate, I see actual oversight (i.e., implementing, monitoring and executing) as the realm of management.”
Hmmm. I had meant the general role of overseer, not just the oversight of social media initiatives. It’s also interesting that my correspondent immediately equated social media with crisis whereas my colleagues at the conference instead saw it as a valuable tool for collaboration. People talking to each other, sharing ideas and swapping stories can be, of course, both a boon and a threat. Perhaps what it threatens most is the long-established idea of control and command leadership, as practiced by so many boards and C-suites. Thus, if implementing, monitoring and executing business activities remain the responsibility of management, oversight of these activities today could, for good or ill, be provided directly by stakeholders, moving at a speed and with a force that is completely out of kilter with the careful deliberations of the best boards.
At the conference, presenter Phil Cowcill (follow him on Twitter here) shared the idea that “technology makes companies naked,” forcing a new transparency that private meetings and closely held notes could once have hidden. “Invite technology into the room,” he advised, “for you cannot keep it out. The value of collaboration is more valuable than the threat of the loss of control. Learn to treat your stakeholders as partners and you will benefit from knowing what they think and feel.” The baseline extrapolation for a board would be to make intelligent use of the social media environment to solicit relevant third-party views on business issues, winnowing worldwide views to supplement the information provided in the board book.
Bob Reisner, former vice president of strategic planning for the U.S. Postal Service, agrees that the speed and ease of information sharing and communications poses leadership challenges for boards and management teams. “Shareowners, customers, employees, suppliers and communities can now insist that they be included in guiding the shape of the future,” he said, “and that will either be frustrating and bewildering for those who seek to maintain control, or enriching and transformational for those who anticipate the wave and act.” Bob is writing a book—provisionally entitled DemocratizingTransformation—and shared some of his thoughts when we talked recently in Washington, DC. “Constituents have access to their own collaborative tools, official or not,” he said. “When they engage the official media and have the same collaborative tools, boards will have to work out how and when to engage them in governing and shaping the future. The democratic impulse can’t be stopped or contained (without new costs), and so it will require leaders to define new rules and embrace a new, collaborative, open, transformational style. Increasing risk and uncertainty has raised constituent activism, and many traditional constituents (and some new ones) will view the future as too important to trust to management [and boards] alone”
You may still receive the information that informs your board decisions via the board book, the newspaper delivered daily to the front door, and your deep experience of the industry and company you serve. You may still cherish your leather seat at the beautiful board table, and the tenor of the high-level discussions that take place behind closed doors. And you may be right that your board has the people, commitment and brain power to continue to act as a strategic asset to the company, and as an effective monitor of management. But keep an eye on the social media tsunami, and follow this drill to ride the giant wave:
Bring stakeowners and shareowners into decision making—solicit information, listen, learn and act, and encourage company managers to do the same. Support company initiatives that encourage collaborative problem-solving at all levels of the organization.