Retrieving an SEC press release? Follow these 8 reputation management do’s and don’ts

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Fund managers and business leaders in other SEC-regulated industries are only too aware that it’s only a matter of time before they cross paths with the States Securities & Exchange Commission. -United. When the SEC files a lawsuit, it often prepares a press release that is posted on its website. Although the cases are not yet decided and the target companies are defending themselves (and could very well prevail), the press release itself is enough to cause a rapid and large-scale exodus of investors.

The problem is exacerbated by the media, which, always looking for quick and easy content, rewrites press releases with clickbait-like headlines designed to evoke the feeling that something sinister is on the horizon. The SEC itself has become surprisingly adept at this in recent years, especially for a government agency in white shoes.

Related: 4 Common Assumptions About Online Reputation Management That Are Totally Wrong

News of the SEC’s enforcement action travels at the speed of light through investor populations. In the world of investing, trust is everything. And all it takes to vitiate even the most established and trusted brand name is to place just two little words in front of it: “Fresh DRY…”

For the days, weeks, and months to come, whenever an investor, or a potential investor, searches for this company on Google, the accusation of wrongdoing is front and center in the search results. For most investors, it’s just not worth considering the facts or even reading the entire article. The simple possibility that preparing something less than kosher poses too much unnecessary risk.

Here are some reputation management tips to facilitate a quick recovery from such a press release:

Do: Draft a holding statement approved by your public relations and legal teams that anticipates many questions from investors. Your defense attorney might be reluctant to do this for several reasons. But it can be done in a way that doesn’t harm the defense while allaying investor concerns.

Don’t: Go off script when communicating with investors. This waiting statement must be the only statement used to answer investor questions. Every customer-facing person in your business should have this script and use it as talking points, whether on the phone or through email. Better yet, if possible, appoint a communications czar to whom any investor questions on the subject should be directed. This avoids inconsistent messages.

Do: Launch a positive PR blitz on everything other happening in your business. Negative news is often pinned to the top of search results due to the absence of any other content or news posted about your business. Now is the time to write this article about your company’s recent expansion into energy markets and the rollout of the new interactive customer portal.

Don’t: Engage in traditional PR tactics. It’s time to call your PR agency and tell them to suspend all activity. You are not eligible for prime time at this time. And that story your PR agent told the press about your new ESG auditing and reporting program will only draw more journalists to your company. And, best-case scenario, they write about your ESG agenda but also cover SEC enforcement actions. The most likely case is that they pass on the article completely or write an article titled “SEC Charges…”

Do: Launch a recruitment site, quickly:

Don’t: Be defensive or try to plead the charges in the press, on your blog or elsewhere.

Do: Hire an SEO team to power pre-existing articles and websites that are currently on page two of Google for searches containing your brand.

Do: Try to be the first to break the news to your investors and customers. Let all your investors know about the SEC’s action in a statement that outlines what’s going on and what it means to them. It may start with the expectation statement described above and should be updated frequently with hardware developments. These updates should be accompanied by other unrelated, relevant and positive events.

Related: 7 Ways to Recover After a Reputation Crisis

To be clear, the goal here is not to hide the news from investors or potential investors. It’s quite the opposite. You want to be the first to inform and the first to update. To that end, there’s no reason for negative content to be found on Google if the news has to come from you. The vast majority of searches never go past the first page. If you act quickly and efficiently, you can control the story rather than your opponent.

Companies would be well advised to build their reputation well before an SEC action. Planning ahead for unexpected bad news can ensure that headlines starting with “SEC Charges…” never top the search results, because there’s too much positive content already competing for that real estate. Bad news loves emptiness. So be prolific and proactive.

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