When a company goes from private to public, it comes under intense scrutiny. At this time, one of the most important factors for leaders of the business to focus on is its brand. Among many other considerations, clearly and positively communicating the company’s brand to shareholders and consumers should be a top priority when going public.
The decision to become a publicly traded company doesn’t just affect leadership, of course—employees at all levels should be trained on what this means and how to move forward when sharing information about the company and its IPO. Below, 15 Forbes Communications Council members share their best tips for CMOs and marketing teams who have been tasked with taking a private company through an initial public offering.
1. Analyze How Your Story Needs To Evolve
CMOs are the storytellers. Analyze your positioning and story and how it needs to evolve for a new audience you have not targeted before (investors). Balancing this audience with your customers is something that takes time. It should be different but complementary. This comes through in your boilerplate, your website, your campaigns and literally every touchpoint and channel in your marketing strategy. - Jamie Gilpin, Sprout Social, Inc.
2. Build Foundational Brand Messages Now
Start early and build your foundational brand messages now so that you can take advantage of marketing that is seen as the “normal course of business.” Put your executives in the media in ways that are safe but can also unearth unexpected responses to their commentary or personality. This will enable you to ensure your IPO is a tremendous success. - Jeanniey Walden, LiftOff Enterprises
3. Align All Key Internal Stakeholders
Make it a priority to fully align all key internal stakeholders on strategy, objectives and messages. Founders are often less aligned on key priorities than professional executives recruited into an already-functioning team, but cohesion is critical. Senior leaders are the most important audience at this stage in a company’s evolution, justifying deep, internal strategic marketing. - Roy Hutchinson, Deem Finance LLC
4. Be Honest And Transparent
CMOs and marketers going through an IPO should focus on building and maintaining a strong brand, as investors will evaluate the company’s brand equity and potential for growth. Additionally, it’s important to be transparent and honest in all communications with potential investors and the public; this includes accurately representing the company’s financial performance and future growth potential. - Nestor Makarigakis, MISTRAS Group, Inc.
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5. Prepare Your Second-In-Command
Don’t underestimate the need for, and value of, your second-in-command. This may be one or several people in your next level of management. Businesses that are quickly scaling need that next layer of leadership to be able to step in and keep the business running while people in roles such as the CMO’s focus on longer-term strategy, including IPO readiness. - Monica Ho, SOCi
6. Focus On Three Must-Haves
For any company preparing for an IPO, there are three must-haves: 1. A strategy for how the company will engage with shareholders and an identified team; 2. A clear, easy-to-understand story outlining what the company’s strategy is and how it will work for shareholders; and 3. A well-thought-out pitch deck that is easy to follow and not full of technical jargon. An upbeat attitude and a sense of urgency also help. - Ira Gostin, G8 Strategies LLC
7. Build Credibility With A Brand Campaign
Do not underestimate the power of the brand when taking a company public. A well-run brand campaign will help build market credibility, spotlight founders’ and leaders’ track records and generate interest from investors, leading to higher share prices. Work closely with external parties, investors, lawyers and bankers to ensure they are on message and understand the company’s competitive edge. - Parna Sarkar-Basu, Brand and Buzz Marketing, LLC.
8. Make Sure The Market Is Ready
Timing is everything. Just because your company is ready to go public doesn’t mean the market is ready. Before going public, make sure the market has favorable conditions overall and for your specific industry. You want investors to be confident enough to buy, so make sure your business is currently in demand and growing before going public. You only get one chance to go public, so make it count. - Asad Kausar, Dabaran
9. Learn To Control The Message
Perception is reality, and it is easier to manage when a company is private. When going public, transparency and responsiveness become critical to success; therefore, controlling the message is core to perception. If it’s not already, this discipline should become core to the operating model. - Paul Stoddart, Salesforce
10. Ensure All Messaging Is Vetted And Accurate
Assume every message is public and ensure all communications are highly vetted, concise and accurate. If you treat all messaging with that level of care, you will be set for success and the transition will be much more seamless and organic going from private to public. Marketing leaders should instill this practice not only in their communications teams but also in the entire organization. - Victoria Zelefsky, The Menkiti Group
11. Influence Brand Perception With Positive Messaging
Brand perception matters—a lot. A brand’s perception directly correlates to the value of an IPO. This is where a brand is monetarily the most influential. Focus on positive messaging across all social and PR channels. Ensure your team members have positive profiles on LinkedIn. Brand perception is key. - Brad Sivert, Tavant
12. Create A Story That Speaks To Shareholders
The majority of your marketing efforts remain unchanged as you go from private to public, with one glaring exception: shareholder communication. Your story has to be compelling beyond the relatively narrow scope of clients, employees and stakeholders. Now, your story has to walk the tightrope between being sophisticated enough for institutions and understandable enough for retail investors. - Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
13. Properly Train Your Employees
Educate your entire workforce on the process. Your employees are your No. 1 advocates and your No. 1 risk as well. People involved in the process forget that the IPO process is foreign to the average employee. Host “going public 101” sessions, have a fireside chat and provide guidelines on how, when and why to share news externally. Don’t risk leaving them behind during what can be an exciting time for all. - Erica Morgenstern, Virgin Pulse
14. Gauge And Respond To Sentiment
Taking a company from private to public is akin to taking down the walls of a fortress. It is important to understand that transparency, perception and responsiveness are key. A company will never succeed at controlling messaging, but it can be super effective at governing and responding to sentiment. I would focus on gauging sentiment along the way and reacting to feedback to drive intentional communications. - Jonathan Shroyer, Arise Gaming
15. Get Clear On Who You Are As A Company
When a company is looking to go public, its people need to get very clear on who they are, what they stand for and how they are getting there. Digging deep is essential. Understanding what your investors want and how you will be evaluated can strengthen your focus. Ultimately, being clear on these aspects will enable the company to communicate its relevance and value. - Rachel Kule, Pursuit PR