Yale Governance Forum – Governance in the Cloud – Keeping Your Eyes Open to Opportunity!

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What an honor to have moderated the Yale Governance Forum panel on: Long Term Drivers: Governance in the Cloud: Short Term Social Media for Long Term Gain

Moderator: Fay Feeney, CEO, Risk for Good

  • Doug Chia, Assistant General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Johnson & Johnson
  • Eric Jackson, Managing Member, Ironfire Capital
  • Richard Ferlauto, Deputy Director of Policy, SEC
  • Lucy Marcus, CEO, Marcus Venture Consulting
  • Dina Mayzlin, Associate Professor of Marketing, Yale SOM (not in picture)

In this fast-moving, 24/7 global world, here is the “All-Star” team I want on the bus with me.  With the leadership of Stephen Davis, Executive Director, Millstein Center, we conducted an experiment in the world of governance: using Twitter to get the message out at the conference.

Here are the results:

Parable on social media: For last week’s #YaleGovForum, we became the first corporate governance conference to promote use of social media. Then we reviewed results. There were 36 distinct tweeters. If you count followers for each, the total comes to an astonishing 69,786. Even figuring overlap, nearly 70,000 people worldwide saw messages from the 2011 Yale Governance Forum, which accommodated just 200 attendees.  Now that is reach!

It was an exciting morning for me to give a read out of our session to the 200+ attendees over breakfast in the Yale Law School dining hall.  This pictures captures the moment.

If it is a little blurry, my story is that I’m so thrilled to be in the moment that I’m vibrating.  Behind me is Stephen Davis, and to his right is Anne Sheehan, CalSTRS, Director of Corporate Governance.

Here is the excerpt from my read-out:

The boardroom oversight of social media is part of a larger “new” area of Strategic Technology and Communications governance.  In 2011, the world is social, mobile, global and always on.  Implications for the business, driven by these factors is a game changer.

From the boardroom perspective, the areas of focus are:

1. Start thinking about using social media as an early warning,  business intelligence filled with real time analytics.  Your role as a director is to help the business see and use trends to create opportunities.  Being engaged gives you a unique opportunity to listen in to the conversation.  You can no longer wait for someone to e-mail you what is happening.  You need to find a way to use the conversation to your advantage.  The panel alone has a reach of over 16,000 people using Twitter.  Imagine the power that having followers can bring as an opportunity and risk.

2. Think about how your business can use these social media channels to reach stakeholders and investors.  We had Doug Chia speak about how J&J used their blog to get results out in real-time from their annual shareholders meeting.  This is an example of using tools set up for marketing for investor relations.  The progressive thinking is that investor relations are becoming investor relationships due to the on-going communications available with social media.

Another example of using social media is Best Buy.  We had the pleasure of having Lisa Beth Lentini, Senior Corporate Counsel and Assistant Secretary, Best Buy Co., Inc. in our audience.  She was honored with a 2011 Yale Rising Star – Go Lisa Beth.

The Best Buy customer service group uses Twitter to search for concerns around technology that are within their expertise.  They reach out to help and provide support and direction.  This is a way to help current and potential clients…smart strategy for the 21st century business.

3.  Early source of news: many spoke of the Japan earthquake and how their Twitter feeds were ahead of formal news organizations in getting the news out.  Imagine the impact to your business to know what is happening before it hits the news.  Good question to ask at your next board meeting: “How do we monitor social media for our business as part of our crisis management planning?”

4.   The SEC is using social media to reach investors.  They are exploring ways to use the social media tools for increased transparency.

We’ve seen what happened in the Egypt Spring, and Eric Jackson spoke of the targeting he was able to do for a call to action for investors to unseat directors on the Yahoo board.  This was in 2008 and a concept ahead of its time!  With the rapid development of social media, this investor spring is to be expected.

So, what can a board chair do to get this on the agenda?  The first step is to accept that learning about technology and social media is a boardroom skill to develop.  This is one element of leading a modern boardroom agenda.  Risk for Good leverages your time and accelerates your learning curve.  When you’re ready to take this on, think about getting these questions asked:

a.  Does our organization see the implications from social media beyond our marketing group?

b.  Do we have policies for employees to use to help them understand how to enhance and protect our brand?

c.  Who in our organization is monitoring the rapidly changing risks and opportunities from this technology?

d.  How is the social strategy evolving for recruiting, marketing, public relations, executive thought-leadership and more?

e.   At a minimum, does our board have confidence that a “Taco Bell” crisis would be handled with our brand intact?   “They took the lemons they were handed and made lemonade.”

If not, what do we need to see and do to get ready for what will be a conversation that includes our reputation?

Thanks again to a fantastic panel and an amazing experience at The Yale Millstein Center learning about the ever-evolving world of international corporate governance.  Here is the event program for your reading pleasure.

For those of us fortunate enough to be in the room, kudos to Ira Millstein and his team.  Ira, Eric Jackson said it, and I agree, “You’re a national treasure.”  Keep up the good work in keeping us open to look at what is obsolete and create space for what is new that deserves attention.

I’d welcome your comments on what  questions and activities you’d add for directors to get started building their understanding of social media.

All the tweeters together in real life.

2011 Yale Governance Forum Rising Stars

Lucy Marcus with Ira Millstein and Stephen Davis - Capturing a great moment!

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