Now What? Successful Communications Post-IPO

Maura FitzgeraldMaura FitzGerald, Partner and Co-founder, Version 2.0 Communications

A successful public offering is an event that companies and their stakeholders celebrate and with good reason. An IPO is an auspicious beginning of the next phase of an organization’s life and the success or failure of this new phase will depend on how much planning and preparation corporate leadership has invested in getting ready for it.

Maintain Thought Leadership
Once public, a company has legal responsibilities to many new audiences, including its shareholders. Understanding and adhering to SEC regulations that govern communications is key to successful and effective post-IPO corporate public relations. While the role of a company’s legal counsel in communications is now more important, even more critical is making sure that the lawyers don’t supersede their role. In other words, the most effective communication from public companies occur when the legal and PR teams work together to ensure that what is being said reflects the tone and culture of the company, but stays within the boundaries of what is acceptable to the SEC and in the interests of all company stakeholders. When public companies speak it must be within the bounds of the law – but that doesn’t mean their CEOs should stop being leaders who guide marketplace dialog around issues, controversies and trends. Yes, be careful but don’t stop being insightful and provocative.

Know Your Messages
The best leaders are visionaries and understand how to tell their stories clearly and concisely. It’s the responsibility of a company’s communications team to help develop and package those stories and key messages. They are also responsible for knowing how to adapt the stories for consumption by different audiences, including employees, prospects, partners and shareholders. Message-based media training for executives and corporate evangelists is critical in providing company leaders and spokespeople with the tools and techniques they need to effectively communicate those carefully thought-out stories and messages, especially during critical times.

Develop a Social Policy
Social media has transformed corporate communications because companies can now speak directly to their audiences. This is a great benefit but poses tremendous challenges for a public company. It’s critical that employees understand their role as corporate communicators because most of them have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A thoughtfully developed social media policy and corporate communications guidelines will help employees behave responsibly, both when they are asked to be designated spokespeople and when they are active on their personal social media accounts.

Communicate Plans and Progress
It is especially important to communicate consistently once a company has gone public. Developing, packaging and promoting corporate milestones develops credibility for a company. It also demonstrates to stakeholders that there is a business strategy in place and that company leaders are successfully executing against it. Influencers in the media and on Wall Street focus close attention on a company’s performance, especially during its first year as a public entity. Outlining and communicating a strategy and plan for success and then consistently pointing to achievement of business objectives builds confidence in a company and its leadership, which helps attract the best and brightest employees and the most loyal partners and customers. When an organization accomplishes that, it is well on the road to being a successful public company.

 

About the Author: A seasoned professional in public relations and journalism, Maura successfully founded and grew one of the premier brands in strategic technology communications in the U.S., FitzGerald Communications, to “turn corporate vision into market value.”  Under Maura’s direction, the agency immediately became one of the fastest-growing technology public relations firms, rapidly transitioning from regional boutique to respected national brand in less than three years.  After successfully building FitzGerald Communications to five offices and nearly 200 PR professionals, Maura sold FitzGerald Communications to Omnicom Corp. in 2002. A serial entrepreneur, Maura was not content to sit back when she witnessed a market opportunity evolving.  With new technology innovations flooding the market as a result of Web 2.0, green and alternative technologies and market evolution in the enterprise software and mobile computing arenas, Maura was poised to address the sophisticated communications challenges of these emerging companies.  Together with Jean Serra, an experienced technology communications strategist and senior executive from FitzGerald Communications, she launched Version 2.0 Communications in late 2006. 

 

 

 

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