The Internet has become an influential source of investor information and chat room discussions can impact share price, according to a recent survey of more than 120 public companies conducted by international public relations agency Fleishman-Hillard. Yet most companies still don’t have a communications plan in place that includes strategies for dealing with issues raised on the Internet.

The majority of respondents (84 percent) believe the Internet has become a more influential source of investor information and almost two-thirds (60 percent) hold the view that Internet rumors can have an impact on share price. But only 20 percent could confirm that their companies had a communications plan currently in place that included strategies dealing with the Internet.

“Our experience has shown that understanding of public companies can be substantially broadened through effective Internet communications,” says Anne Lachance, senior vice president and partner in Fleishman-Hillard’s Canadian financial communications practice. “However, the survey results reveal that beyond providing basic corporate and financial information, few public companies have implemented a proactive and strategic online investor relations program.”

About three-fourths (73 percent) of respondents have been the subject of third party Internet chats or postings and about one-third (34 percent) confirmed that an investment professional or analyst has asked them about information or rumors related to their company on the Internet.

As a result, the agency is urging clients to take a more proactive position when it comes to IR on the Internet.
Says Al Bellanchia, senior partner and director of the global financial practice, “Providing the type of information online that will enable stakeholders to make informed investment decisions or draw objective conclusions about a company will strengthen the company’s standing in terms of its regulatory compliance, improve its ability to respond effectively to investor needs, and enhance the overall value of its investor relations and communications activities.”