Maura 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.