Going public is a huge step for any company. Taking a company from private to public through an IPO (or ‘initial public offering’) and listing on the stock exchange is a process that can take months, or even years, of planning, preparation and execution.
Amid the myriad of tasks involved in preparing for an IPO, it’s easy to let your PR strategy fall by the wayside. Companies planning to go public often fail to realise the importance of effective communication with potential investors, business media, centres of influence and other stakeholders well before the listing day arrives. How and what a company communicates to the public in the months leading up to and after the IPO is just as important as what is conveyed at the time the stock starts trading.
Proper preparation for a seamless listing and a successful start as a new public company begins with a comprehensive communications strategy developed with a company’s target audiences in mind. This is vital in order to account for the different, critical phases of an IPO and to effectively deliver key messaging to the public.
At The PR Hub we have several clients currently working towards their goal of an IPO, and our role as PR specialists plays a critical part. Here are my four tips for any company looking to go public or raise capital.
Build a consistent flow of news when it is ‘quiet’
Visibility is key, and like any good PR campaign it’s not enough to deliver one big piece of news early on and then hope that follows you through to the big day. During the ‘quiet’ time it’s important to start gearing your PR strategy to ensure it has momentum, ebbs and flows and consistency. IPOs can be a difficult, lengthy process, so in amongst the legal, regulatory and finance meetings be sure to be on the lookout for any smaller wins you can deliver along the way to ensure you maintain visibility in the media and in front of existing and potential investors.
For example, good news stories might include senior hires, land or equipment purchases, capital raises, revolutionary trials or simply making your CEO or spokesperson available for comment in the media on relevant topics. Sometimes these good news stories are already happening, but because you’re so caught up in the business side of things they seem to slip through the radar. This is why you should engage a PR firm with experience in capital raising and IPOs that will work with you continuously to pull out the news and make sure it gets exposure.
Develop your key spokespeople
At the centre of any great PR campaign is an articulate, passionate and well-presented spokesperson, and in the case of IPO this is absolutely crucial. Your key spokesperson, often the CEO, must not only understand your key message and be across all the facts, but also be able to communicate these in a way that is appropriate and tailored to a particular audience.
Most CEOs in this case will be so focused on developing the business model and taking extensive meetings with investors, lawyers, financiers and regulators, that they may not have had ample time to understand what is required of them when they are asked to present for a media interview or receive an unexpected call on their mobile from a journalist asking some tricky questions. A great PR strategy will take into account the possibility of media training that homes in on the different types of media that might be interested in the business and the questions they are likely to ask.
My other tip for CEOs is to never take mobile phone calls from unknown numbers and instead let them divert to a voice messaging system. It is easy enough to call someone back, but you then have the advantage of knowing who it is, what the call might be about, and, if necessary, you can consult your PR advisor first to discuss the best way to respond. There is nothing worse for the CEO or the PR team to see an article published after the CEO didn’t realise what they were saying would be used for comment, with a subsequent flow on effect of angry investors and/or news that might cause unnecessary uncertainty or disruption to the company’s IPO plans.
Don’t forget to communicate
While you’re building a steady flow of impressive news items, don’t forget that you need to keep communicating this back through to your key stakeholders.
I have seen in the past with clients building up to IPO that they’re so busy doing the deals and making things happen in the background that everyone forgets the power of communication and making sure all key stakeholders are receiving regular news updates.
Just because you might be achieving some great results with media coverage of your ongoing news doesn’t necessarily mean it always reaches the people or institutions who need to hear about it. In the case of those who believed in you and invested early on, it is critical to make sure you have a plan to keep them regularly informed of your progress. Otherwise what they don’t know could create an atmosphere of nervousness or disinterest, and this is the last thing you want at such a critical stage of the process.
My advice is to appoint someone internally early on, preferably not the CEO, who can work closely with your PR team to ensure you have a smooth process for recording and formatting key news announcements on a regular basis. Your PR agency can help you create succinct, easy to read, good looking reports that will keep your stakeholders informed, at ease and excited for the times ahead.
It is also equally important to make sure all of your owned channels such as your company website, LinkedIn and other social channels are constantly updated with relevant information.
Post IPO – Start planning now
Don’t leave your post-IPO planning for after you hit the big date. An IPO is a big change for a company with a lot more scrutiny, more rules and regulations and more accountability to more people. Work with your PR team to start planning what the post-IPO strategy will look like. Share with them your plans, your vision and new business developments that are in the pipeline so they can start to work on messaging and timing and ensure it is tailored to meet the needs of different channels.