The IPO pipeline is back on, baby! Techies were hopeful that Snapchat’s blockbuster IPO would inspire other companies to take the public markets plunge — and it looks like Silicon Valley has deemed it safe for swimming. But the road to an Initial Public Offering begins long before the Opening Bell — it’s an arduous process that demands business acumen and serious comms skills. Communicating your value prop to potential investors, the media, and the world will shape your company’s journey to the marketplace, so before you test the shark-infested public markets, make sure your ducks are in a row:
Don’t Freak Out … but Can You Do This?
While your sales or marketing teams may have dabbled in PR, investor relations and other external communications successfully in the private sector, going public includes new rules and requires more planning, input and expertise than your day-to-day, business-as-usual communications strategy. Don’t panic, but don’t forget crisis comms! For every single message your company issues, you should have three or four “just-in-case” messages ready to address potential positive or negative alternative scenarios. What if you encounter a trading glitch, a power outage, or a compromising report about your CFO’s collegiate Facebook feed? IPOs tend to bring out the drama in otherwise placid business operations, so there is no scenario too far-fetched to consider — and you must be prepared to respond to them all, on the fly.
Are you freaking out yet? Calm down, Boss-zilla. If your team needs some help handling the big day (and there’s no shame in that), find an agency specializing in financial markets before something goes wrong. There are three steps to this first dance. Follow our lead…
Map out your Timeline
- Pre-Filing Period (6-12 months)
- Waiting Period (3-4 months)
- Post-Filing Period (1 month)
1. Pre-Filing Period Communications
This is arguably the most important phase of an IPO. While the media, potential investors, analysts and regulators likely won’t hear about your business until just before the big day, developing strong communications in the pre-filing stage can lay the groundwork for your company’s success down the road. Start planning your external comms at the same time that you internally discuss a potential IPO. Before diving into all of the regulatory paperwork, and certainly before you start shopping your company around to investors, have your story down cold:
- What is your value proposition?
- What makes you different?
- Who do you want to communicate with as your company gains momentum in national and industry media?
- Who is your target audience?
2. Waiting Period Communications
The waiting period is fairly quiet media-wise, but it’s a critical time to generate individual investor interest. During the investor roadshow, management visits with potential investors to spread the story of your firm. If your communications team did its job during the pre-filing phase, these investors will know about your company well before your first meeting, giving your team the opportunity to drive the message home. Work with your comms team to align messaging, practice Q and A, and perfect this presentation so that it tells your corporate tale in an effective, succinct and engaging manner.
3. Post-Filing Period Communications
The post-filing period is often the most hectic, so hone in on your media strategy. Analysts and journalists will be probing the deep crevasses your company, with the hopes of providing the public with the most accurate data and outlook for your IPO.
Appoint a designated spokesperson, and prepare talking points for key questions. You can’t control what reporters ask, but you can be prepared with coherent responses. If you practice enough, you might even be able to angle the interview towards topics of your choosing (hint: start with aspects that set your firm apart from its competitors).
Your company only goes public once, so make it special. No pressure.