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June 09, 2021
The stock market reached new heights in 2020, and it appears to be poised for another good year, as the Dow, the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 indexes are all positive so far in 2021. And on the heels of some 300 IPOs on the NASDAQ last year, more than 100 companies were slated to go public in just the first quarter of 2021.
This means that PR professionals working for pre- and post-IPO firms will be busy. IPOs generate both excitement and extra work, and they present a meaningful opportunity to collaborate with investor relations (IR) colleagues.
The Bospar team is deeply experienced in helping companies enter the public markets, and over the years we’ve accumulated numerous best practices and techniques for reaching critical IPO audiences like analysts, investors and the press. What’s more, these best practices are central to articulating the unique value proposition of a given company, while making the market entry process much smoother and supporting richer valuations.
In the months-long run-up to going public, PR and IR teams should develop a robust communications plan, which should include an assessment of staffing requirements and an evaluation of the need for external resources like agencies and IR consultants. This is critical because ongoing PR work must not be disrupted by the IPO, and personnel resources shouldn’t be spread too thin.
Winning IPO campaigns are built on an understanding of key success metrics. Firms should research and establish a baseline understanding of factors such as perception and awareness before the IPO. Developing such an understanding of influencers and journalists is usually accomplished via media analysis, assessments of analyst reports, and through original research.
Given solid data, communications pros can plan their IPO strategies. Alignment around objectives is crucial, and everyone needs a common understanding of what success looks like with key stakeholders. There should also be alignment about specific deliverables, as well as goals for positioning the IPO company as one to watch, with solid financials and sound management.
Teams should also collaborate on message development. Designed to drive communications throughout the IPO process, messaging should highlight both the unique story and positive trajectory of the soon-to-be public company. A tight, focused messaging approach should illuminate company positives and simultaneously address risks in a forthright manner.
IPO teams must also regularly meet and collaborate on all stakeholder communications. This collaboration should focus on media relations and on materials like press releases, fact sheets and FAQs. To enhance communication and understanding, PR should sit in on investor calls, and IR should participate in media relations when feasible. This approach helps ensure that everyone has the same facts, as well as an understanding of interactions with investors and the press, reducing potential for messaging inconsistency.
PR and IR collaboration should also include a methodology for routing inquiries from investors and the media and development of plans for managing both one-off requests and ongoing relationships. There should be assigned owners of contacts at important financial publications to maximize return on media relations programs. PR and IR teams should also share program calendars, empowering staff to collaborate and “cross-pollinate” for maximum impact.
Post-IPO, this sort of collaboration should continue. Ongoing refinement of key themes and outbound messages should include input from both IR and the CFO. Each quarterly earnings report should include a plan for media outreach. And best practices also dictate ongoing review of forward-looking financial guidance and maintaining awareness of reportable material events.
Communications teams should also coordinate press briefings happening around conferences and road shows. Regularly updating top-tier media will supplement releases, bylines and op-eds, social media, and other investor/media outreach. Doing so offers “air cover” for integrated PR/IR efforts and can dovetail with larger communications initiatives. Cross-functional teams should plan for creation of annual reports, teaming up to integrate marketing materials and financial data as needed.
It is unlikely that the pace of IPOs will slow moving forward, and comms professionals should look to these events as opportunities. Not only can organizational collaboration make lighter work of launching into the public markets, it can help enhance corporate branding – and, ultimately, shareholder value.
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About the author
Curtis Sparrer is a principal of Bospar PR. He has represented brands like PayPal, Tetris and the alien hunters of the SETI Institute. He is a member of the Forbes Communications Council and has written for Adweek, Forbes, the Dallas Morning News, and PRWeek. He is an active member of the National Lesbian Gay Journalist Association. Business Insider has twice listed him as one of the Top Fifty in Tech PR.