Johnson Controls: Tweeting with the times

Apr 23, 2013
<p>Johnson Controls talks about why it set up an IR Twitter feed &ndash; ahead of the SEC&rsquo;s social media announcement</p>

While Johnson Controls has a number of company Twitter accounts and even its own Facebook page, Glen Ponczak, the firm’s vice president of global investor relations, agrees with many in the IR community when he says there simply hasn’t been much demand for social media from his department.

But with the recent launch of his own IR Twitter account – @JCI_IR – Ponczak says he would rather experiment with technology ‘and maybe try to write the book’ rather than wait for investors to demand new communication channels. ‘I don’t think anybody’s asking us to do it,’ he explains. ‘But I was in a different role here at the company in 1994 when we launched our website, which essentially said, Here’s the company information and here’s investor information. Nobody was asking for that, either, but obviously now you can’t not have it.’

The new Johnson Controls IR Twitter account is also, in part, a recognition of the fresher faces Ponczak has seen cropping up in recent years. ‘IR has not been a particularly techie field when you look at it from a communications standpoint; it’s been very much one to one,’ he says. ‘But I think when you look at the generational shift of new analysts coming out of business school, they communicate in a different way, and we as IR professionals have to understand that. And just from a customer satisfaction standpoint, we need to be able to deliver information in ways that people want to receive it – and that’s changing.’

But for Ponczak, who runs a one-man IR program at the large-cap company, Twitter isn’t just about keeping up with Johnson Controls' IR Twitter feedinternet trends and a younger generation. ‘A website requires people to go to it and check it every once in a while – it’s the same thing with email, to a certain extent – but Twitter provides a way of pushing news instantaneously to those who might be interested,’ he says. ‘Twitter takes nothing to set up. It doesn’t cost anything.’

Some IROs are understandably nervous about using social media, especially in light of Regulation FD and the SEC’s well-publicized spat with Netflix over a Facebook post, even though ultimately the commission decided against taking action. It even decided to approve the use of social media channels for investor communications, provided firms alert shareholders in advance as to which channel they will be using.

Maintaining a Twitter account can also be time-consuming, however. In light of this, as far as Ponczak’s IR account is concerned for now, Twitter is all about linking to content already published on the investor relations website.

With a calendar set up covering the next three months, Ponczak says he plans to tweet just once a week and keep things simple. If there isn’t any news, the IR tweets will be supplemented with white papers and other links to educational information on the Johnson Controls corporate website. As well as offering speedy access to information, ‘it’s a way of bringing our investors information that maybe they wouldn’t normally come across,’ Ponczak adds.

The IR program’s Twitter feed garnered 150 followers in 24 hours – moving up to 162 a week later – and Ponczak is confident that as long as he offers up valuable, worthwhile messages, he stands to grow ‘some pretty good numbers’. Retweeting and linking into the company’s other Twitter feeds – some of which boast more than 7,000 followers – can’t hurt, either.

He has no plans as yet for a Facebook page – he simply doesn’t have the manpower – but Ponczak says his next tech plan is to launch a series of short videos on the hot topics of each quarter. His reason? Given that he often hears many of the same questions repeated over and over again each quarter, he is taking a lead from his corporate PR and communications background in trying to talk to as many people as possible, in the most efficient way possible.

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