Public relations plays a powerful role in laying the groundwork for an exit strategy for business by highlighting a company’s success in the marketplace, elevating its leadership team and showcasing its IP and data. PR also plays a pivotal role in communicating the exit to the market and to employees, whether it be for filing for initial public offering (IPO) or a successful merger & acquisition process. Let’s examine the power of a good PR team in each of these cases.
How to prepare an exit strategy: Start with the end in mind
The first step toward getting a good valuation is to develop and build a strong partner ecosystem. This accomplishes short and long-term goals that increase valuation. For the short term, a healthy ecosystem of technology partners is the best way to develop a channel and go-to-market strategy and be in a position to demonstrate recurring revenue to investors. For the long term, those technology partners are your best targets for acquisition.
Common misconceptions when leveraging PR in exit strategies
A PR team is a crucial asset when devising an exit strategy business plan, but it’s composed of human beings – not miracle workers. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot with unrealistic expectations or omissions. Here are a few to watch out for:
- Assuming you’ll immediately get press coverage – You might hit the coverage lottery right away, but it’s more likely that your PR team will slowly rack up media wins over time as they build relationships and introduce your offering to the market.
- Confusing press releases with content marketing – Press releases are valuable pieces of content, but they can’t replace content marketing in your overall marketing strategy. Content marketing addresses the pain points of your prospects at every stage of the buyer’s journey and is a necessary component of sharing your message.
- Not using PR to build relationships – This is a good time to remember that PR stands for public “relations.” PR teams excel at introducing journalists and analysts to companies and facilitating long-term relationships. Use their expertise in this area to its full advantage.
- Not using your PR team to do social media – Just as the lines between marketing and PR have blurred somewhat, so have those between social media and PR. Your team is adept at communication across many platforms, and it would be a waste to exclude them from your social media efforts.
- Failing to communicate clearly and fully – Nothing derails an exit strategy business plan like poor communication. Make sure you interact often with your PR team, whether it’s an agency or in-house, discussing all the factors that might affect the communications and messaging strategy.
How PR exit strategies differ depending on desired outcome
When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, a key aspect of your PR team’s strategy will be to create a consistent flow of press releases, which establish a timeline of your company’s momentum and achievements. Even if they only appear on your company’s website, press releases will demonstrate your accomplishments to potential acquiring companies. Acquirers see press releases as a credible source of information about a company.
A well-executed initial public offering (IPO) is often a demanding process that requires a significant amount of messaging and coordination. PR plays a crucial role in building the buzz that is necessary for IPO success. If this is your goal, PR can assist before, during and after the event.
Your “quiet period” begins when you file an S-1 form to register your securities with the SEC. This dictates what you can and cannot say in public regarding your organization. That’s why you must work closely with your PR team before that moment and throughout the process.
Before the quiet period
An IPO-savvy PR team will carefully plan, create and execute campaigns to positively impact market perceptions about your company. This good news will resonate among your key audiences and create market buzz. An important key to success is developing concise and consistent messaging that clearly communicates your company’s business value.
During the quiet period
In this case, “quiet” does not mean “silent.” Though some aspects of the company must remain quiet before the IPO, your PR team can maintain activity to ensure messaging gets out to all the company’s key audiences. Product, staffing and partnership announcements and, in some cases, customer wins, are typically allowed.
In addition, a savvy PR team can also coordinate with the public exchange’s media specialists to generate SEC-approved public awareness of a stock’s first trading day.
Revisit initiatives that got put on the back burner prior to the IPO – with heightened attention on your company. Now is the time to put them into action. Maintain and grow relationships with the media contacts forged during the IPO to keep them informed. This includes disclosure communications, as well as broader stories that show the breadth of your company, vision and value in the bigger picture.
In order to successfully execute your PR exit strategy, it is important to remain in lockstep with the efforts and goals of the CMO and marketing team.
Working with CMOs and internal marketing
Successful PR programs are more than just tactics, and they can’t operate in a silo. PR efforts need to be undertaken in lockstep with the marketing team – or, in the case of M&A, it might be teams.
This means your marketing team should be working with the PR team from the get-go to align on goals and approach, including:
- Review goals and plans together and stay in communication about shifts in the goals of the business and marketing initiatives.
- Keeping your PR team in the loop is essential – that way, they can provide guidance and a steady hand should anything need to pivot (or in a worst-case scenario, go sideways a la WeWork).
PR: Your exit strategy partner
It’s essentially impossible to go public without the vital services that a PR team provides. They create the communications plan and the relationships that will be crucial elements in any exit strategy for business. Avoid the common misconceptions of working with a PR team and make sure your communication with them remains clear and constant. The best practices noted above will help make your exit strategy successful.
Written by Cara A. Sloman.
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