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08 Sep. 2020 | Comments (0)
On the ESG Blog, we’re pleased to feature pieces by thought leaders in our field. The following post is a report abstract by Elizabeth Richards, Head of Corporate Governance for The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), on the recently released “Why Company Directors Should Use Social Media.”
COVID -19 has accelerated the need to improve stakeholders’ and employees’ trust in companies. Fresh innovations are needed. What was regarded as radical is fast becoming business as usual. Directors who follow the ICAEW’s advice and ‘get social’ aren’t entirely altruistic. In due course the pandemic will be regarded as an important historical event and so it is a perfect time for directors to build their personal brand by having the courage to try something different.
ICAEW’s suggestion is for company directors to use social media and they make a persuasive argument. Social media is low-cost and convenient. Directors can show their appreciation for the way company employees have adapted to COVID-19 by demonstrating their own flexibility, starting with communicating directly with employees in a way which suits them. There is certainly a lot to talk about. Directors and employees may enjoy exchanging views about whether homeworking should be made permanent, and whether there should be other changes to the business model such as exploring new commercial opportunities.
During COVID-19 video conferencing has partially or completely replaced face-to-face contact for many employees and directors. If individuals find virtual meetings impersonal they may start to feel isolated and the danger is that information flows are impeded. Social media may help solve these problems.
Other stakeholders will also appreciate hearing from directors on social media. It is an ideal way to break down barriers, humanize boardrooms and gain a competitive advantage.
ICAEW sets out home truths about social media but it’s important to keep fears in perspective. Some of the perceived barriers to directors’ use of social media are imaginary. Other perceived problems can be overcome if directors are sufficiently determined because they recognize the benefits of using social media for themselves, the companies they run, company employees, etc.
ICAEW has provided a five point Action Plan. They suggest that in the early days directors are mentored by a communications specialist from their company. Directors will need help deciding which social media platform is best for them. Directors may feel more comfortable starting with closed groups which only company employees can join. However, closed groups are just means to build directors’ confidence. In order to enjoy the full benefits of social media directors must go public as soon as possible.
Directors who add their stories and opinions to social media will support their companies’ social media activities and demonstrate their willingness to engage in new conversations. The public will be relieved to discover that directors care about what they think, and directors will see for themselves that the public are interested in what they know. This dialogue will reap maximum benefits if it involves a candid but respectful exchange of views followed by reflection about what’s been heard.
If directors make themselves accessible through social media this will help resolve misunderstandings, heal animosity, and meet the public’s curiosity about who is in charge of companies. The insights which emerge will improve boards’ decision-making, and the diversity of the director community will be transparent.
A fresh analysis of social media and objective consideration of its benefits will inspire directors to take part, and the steps in the ICAEW action plan will allay fears and cure inertia. To read the full report, click here.