A version of this post appeared in Muck Rack.
An initial public offering (IPO) is a complex, transformational — and yes, exciting — experience for a company. The one-to-two-year process includes engaging a team of bankers, lawyers and various advisors to guide the company and its management team. Communications often does not take the lead, but it has an essential role to play in ensuring a smooth transition.
So you just found out that your company plans to go public. Now what?
1. Pull up a chair to the table
Although the process will certainly be led by bankers, lawyers and the executive committee, communicators should take the opportunity to contribute to IPO materials and upcoming events. Review documents to ensure the overall story aligns with corporate positioning and provide supplementary materials for the roadshow presentation and investor Q&A.
2. Understand the IPO process and its communications rules
Make sure you’re aware of the process, disclosure rules, and all legal/regulatory requirements to determine where you can jump in. Consider hosting an internal Regulation FD training so the communications function and employees understand its implications on everything from media interviews to (personal and corporate) social media use.
3. Develop flexible key messaging and use it across all stakeholder groups
There are strict guidelines about what you can and cannot say during the IPO process. To meet all the requirements, develop one set of key messages and tailor them for various stakeholder groups and activities. Key areas to focus on are the industry landscape, growth opportunities, financial performance and (if needed) correcting misinformation.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Your spokespeople will likely focus on their investor roadshow, which will entail many practice rounds. Don’t forget to slot in time to prepare for media interviews or internal communications. Make sure to explain that the media experience will be different than the roadshow and they’ll get questions they weren’t expecting—the last thing you want is for your CEO to get caught off guard on a broadcast interview.
5. Take advantage of a great opportunity: Listing Day
After the IPO concludes, and the stock lists on an exchange and begins to trade, executives have the ability to openly discuss their future plans for the company. Create a strategic, creative communications plan for Listing Day. Make sure you connect early with the organizers at the Exchange to plan out the celebration with speeches, media, social activity and other activations that are relevant to your organization and brand positioning.
6. Engage with media strategically
The goal of media engagement on Listing Day is to reach the investment community and other stakeholder groups. Think about this strategically and leverage relationships with your partners and advisors to get in front of the right reporters. Make sure your list includes IPO reporters, industry-specific beat reporters and trade media. And be sure to use your key messages to help guide the conversation.
7. Enhance the experience with multimedia
When engaging with producers and reporters, share creative assets to help them showcase your company. Images, logos, b-roll and graphics will help enhance the segments and stories. Gather all these assets in advance and distribute them to producers and reporters and have them on hand for media covering the IPO.
8. Bring employees on the journey
Engage colleagues via various events and emphasize the IPO as an exciting chapter in the company’s history—plan a celebration! Also, be prepared for questions you’ll receive from the workforce about what this means for their day-to-day; arm all your authorized internal spokespeople with talking points.
9. Don’t forget to have a little fun!
Don’t forget to have fun throughout the process and especially on Listing Day. Leverage social media and employee celebrations as part of your corporate storytelling strategy and enjoy the day.
10. Prepare for new structure ahead
Going public is a long-term change for a company. There are new expectations for announcements and there are a lot more eyes on the company. Think ahead about how you can create opportunities for the communications team, such as coordinating with investor relations on material announcements and amplifying earnings.
An IPO is a tunnel with a light at the end of it: the process is an intense, long-term project with Listing Day at the end, followed by a longer journey ahead. With the right strategy and preparation, communications can play its part in ensuring a bright future as a public company.
Julia Sahin is a senior account supervisor, Financial Communications and Capital Markets, New York.