Then everything changed abruptly as we headed in to 2022. The frenetic pace of global IPOs slowed, concerns around inflation and rising interest rates spurred a massive sell off and many tech stocks took a nosedive. The IPO window for technology companies has effectively closed for the foreseeable future.
Here at Brands2Life, experience shows that there is no reason to throw out your comms plans for the remainder of 2022. In fact, the best practice communications strategy and tactics you’ve been pursuing through the last rounds of funding and in preparation for an IPO remain best practice while IPO plans are on hold.
The global pandemic ushered in severe, lasting changes in the way we work, accelerating the need for digital transformation across all industries and markets. At the same time, tech companies delayed their IPOs thanks to large late-stage funding rounds. These forces combined for the blockbuster IPO years of 2020 and 2021.
If you’re a communications leader at one of the many companies whose plans have now been put on hold, it’s important to keep in mind that when the IPO gates open once again, competition for attention will again be fierce. We learned from the last cycle that an IPO is no longer a news generating event in itself. With the possibility again for more IPOs each week than there are days – and certainly more than there are columns for the business writers at WSJ to fill – a stand-out narrative remains essential. And it needs to be built over time through consistent storytelling and shored-up by third-party research and customer case studies to make the most of the IPO when it eventually comes.
“This is a narrative that takes time to engrain and build excitement for with all stakeholders, including potential investors, employees and customers,” says Brands2Life Managing Director, USA, Rene Musech.
“It also needs to be communicated over a pro-longed period across your available communications channels. And this includes the journalists who have the potential to cover your IPO well before you are hoping they will write a story. Don’t wait until the S1 becomes public to share with the world the company’s journey and vision for the future,” she advises.
You’ve found yourself with more preparation time than expected and it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted. Your spokespeople in the event of an IPO, at a minimum your CEO and CFO, can stay fresh on your messaging and continue to gain confidence with broadcast media training sessions every three to six months, providing more opportunity to engrain the feedback from the training.
Rene says, “There is also more time for some lower profile broadcast interviews to gain live experience. With fewer IPOs to cover, you are also more likely to be able to take advantage of opportunities for your spokespeople to tell the company story on background to influential business journalists.”
This is also a good opportunity to build stronger business press relationships by approaching journalists when you aren’t asking them for something, and instead see if there is a way you can be of help to them.
“You can’t build strong relationships with media if you only speak with them when you are asking for something, and that rings true for your customers too. Customer storytelling is an essential aspect of any good IPO comms plan and now is the time for some giving, so later they are more open for you to do some taking,” she says.
Just as you have to dress for the job you want, your comms program should reflect a maturity that demonstrates you are ready for life as a public company. This includes preparing your organization and getting in the habit, if you haven’t already, of maintaining a steady cadence of news announcements.
For starters, your team should release quarterly momentum announcements that echo the quarterly reporting required when the company is public. Ideally these announcements include revenue growth, ESG and leadership diversity metrics. Your team should proactively share these with an inner circle of media and analysts, along with posting on a newswire.
In addition to maintaining and growing your earned media program during this period, it’s a good time to further boost the brand through a multichannel campaign that could eventually include an out-of-home activation on listings day.
Refusing to ‘waste’ a market crisis and continuing to deliver a robust communications program through to an eventual IPO will enable you to not only ride through market volatility but also hit ‘go’ at any time on a countdown to IPO. And preparedness, as they say, is the key to success.