Tag Archive for: startups

I was on a webinar presented by Morgan Stanley and PwC about preparing for an IPO – and something struck me – there was optimism, and the organizations were signaling their faith in the return of IPOs, soon. 2023 has been an IPO graveyard, but as one host said, “One thing we know is markets change, and so it will also be for the low point of IPOs.” Their advice? Prepare now. Preparing for an IPO is a daunting task for any startup, and the focus is often on due diligence. Yet communications and PR are critical to public offering preparedness. What do pre-IPO companies need to do from a communication standpoint? 

 

Reputation Building 

Bankers know that when you pitch them for your IPO, the company has a verified financial model and total addressable market (TAM). And founders know investors are looking for the next $1 billion brand. This makes your company’s reputation extremely relevant. So when you’re looking to stand out to investors, nothing shows social proof quite as well as media coverage. Media coverage can go on the road with you and helps you stand out to investors. Confident, media savvy CEOs give investors confidence; it shows you can handle a very different role as CEO of a public company. 

Thought leadership is vital to reputation building. During this growth stage, executive visibility is more relevant than ever. Since a solid thought leadership program takes time and strategy, we recommend starting a thought leadership program at least 24 months before an IPO

Create a Compelling Narrative

Many founders mistake the pitch to investors as the corporate narrative. The two are cousins, but different. The narrative should resonate with key stakeholders, investors, and the public, highlighting the company’s mission, accomplishments, and long-term vision.

Know the Difference Between IR and PR

IR (investor relations) and PR (public relations) have important but slightly different roles in a company’s growth pre-IPO phase. Investor relations focuses almost solely on analysts covering topics your potential investors care about. Meanwhile, PR is targeted towards a broader set of journalists, and the public at large. They can and should work together. For example, both should play a role in any press releases. IR will ensure due diligence is met and ensure the investor messaging is correct, while PR will want to ensure the brand message is consistent and the media targets get the information they need. 

Crisis Planning 

The best time to manage a crisis is before a crisis. Before you go public, and get caught up in all the details of going public, plan for a crisis. How you handle a crisis will affect your brand, and god forbid you to have a crisis during your roadshow or quiet period. Your crisis planning should include many scenarios, from the employee, to property, to product, and, yes, cyber security. Every one of these scenarios could require different stakeholder involvement and point persons. Your crisis planning should include table top exercises and the executive team should review crisis PR plans at least once yearly. 

ESG Planning 

 Investors want to be part of companies with the broadest investor audience, and ESG (environmental, social and governance) is part of that, especially since some brokerage firms and mutual funds are offering investment products that employ ESG strategies. Larry Fink, Blackrock CEO, and co-founder, said ESG is “capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you, the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your company relies on to prosper,”.

From a PR perspective, ESG and even purpose-driven brands have special sensitivities, and it’s important to have a coherent plan and PR strategy for these talking points for all your stakeholders, from investors to customers. ESG is not just for the “woke” – investors see the writing on the wall and have for some time. Also, buyers beyond GenZ see the importance of ESG. 

Audit Your External Communications 

Ensure your website and any owned media meet all regulatory requirements – including executive bios, blog posts, and social media. Look at this moment as your last chance to shower before prom. Your website and social media should also be robust and brand consistent. You want everyone to see you in your best possible light, and the most accessible way for new friends to get to know you is your website. 

Media Training 

The press is not the enemy, but they aren’t here to be your BFF either. Talking to the press live and learning to work with the media under various conditions, including in person with lights and mics, is a skill. While you may have undergone media preparedness before interviews, now is the time to take on a full media training program for your CEO, executives and spokespersons, including anyone who attends public events (like trade shows) on your behalf. 

Expect media training to take several days of intense hands-on training and review. Since all relevant stakeholders will be together, it is also a good time to review and practice your crisis plan too. Since media training is a skill, conducting this exercise well before IPO is recommended. 

The Big Show

Your company will never again go public. This is one of the few indisputably great news moments.  Someone (not the CEO) must ensure the moment is documented and promoted. Do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s true – not every company makes the front page of the Wall Street Journal when they go public, but it is news – and someone will care. Using this opportunity to connect with journalists is key; it’s a great time to fill up the trust bucket in the eyes of journalists. 

Prepare for the moment with some notable key messages and brand-worthy must-airs. Run through your must airs and make sure you are prepared to answer questions that might come your way. Have your day meticulously planned with your communications in mind and watch the accolades roll in. 

Effective pre-IPO PR planning is crucial for companies aiming to go public. By crafting an interesting narrative, engaging media and influencers, developing investor communication strategies, building a strong online presence, managing crises, leveraging thought leadership opportunities, and engaging internal stakeholders, companies can establish a positive brand image, attract investors, and generate enthusiasm around their IPO

 

What types of PR do you need, and when do you need then? The type of PR you choose, mostly has to do with your larger strategic initiatives and your desired PR outcomes. When hiring a top PR firm, prioritizing initiatives and timelines is usually incredibly important to companies in emerging industries or companies with big ambitions, but not huge PR budgets. So when SHOULD you use the most important types of PR for fast-growing and ambitious companies?

Strategic Public Relations

Research is the forgotten science behind PR. From surveys and studies that impact consumer or stakeholder opinion, to consumer, product, or media trends, strategic PR puts emotional intelligence in context.

Many startups skip this part because they perceive it as expensive. But that’s why Avaans Media offers a strategic analysis as part of its bespoke PR services. We think it’s important to inform strategies with data. Even startups without a reputational history can benefit from analysis of media trends. The strategic analysis can also save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted advertising or brand expenses because of bad timing or a lack of insight into a buyer’s state of mind.

Media Relations

Media relations is the most visible part of PR.  It’s so visible in fact, that many people think media relations IS PR. It’s usually media relations that secure proactive press and work directly with the media to improve their impression of your company. Most ambitious companies use media relations when the goal is to increase visibility and improve their reputation for stakeholders. Stakeholders could be current or potential investors, current or potential customers or clients, government decision-makers, and even the media itself. A solid media relations strategy keeps you in good graces with the media and improves your reputation with positive press. Media relations can be product PR, like with a new product launch, or during a particular product sales cycle, or it can be part of the thought leadership and strategic relations campaigns.

Media relations PR tactics for fast-growing companies include active outreach to journalists and maintaining an eye on news that impacts the brand, its competitors, or its customers. Media relations PR professionals never forget the “relations” part of their job and ensure that content such as press releases, pitches, and products are delivered in a media-centric way. Your media relations team has two important stakeholders: the media and you, and it’s often a delicate balance.

Community Relations

For emerging industries like cannabis and drones, community relations is a primary PR tent pole. Community relations are the proactive steps a company or brand takes within a particular community to improve its reputation or ease concerns about its product or operations. Community relations can be within a geographic area, a demographic group, or an industry. Tactically, this might include partnering with nonprofits, purpose-driven initiatives, or education campaigns.

Crisis Communications

No one likes to think about it, but from product recalls to cyber attacks to executive missteps, having a solid plan in place for a crisis is an important part of building, and maintaining a hard-earned reputation. Tactically, this should be a plan that’s in place for a variety of crises that could impact your business. You will consider your risks, your stakeholders, and key people who need to be involved, and how they need to be involved. Crisis communications can be one of the most expensive forms of PR if you wait until there is a crisis to engage a PR agency.

Digital/Online Communications

Most modern PR firms, especially those that serve companies with ambitious goals,  will incorporate some level of digital PR in a comprehensive PR strategy. This could incorporate content, social media, and at the very least, how the latest Google changes impact your PR. You simply can’t ignore that your reputation lives and breathes online. Make sure your digital PR collaborates with your SEO and your social media.

 

Thought Leadership

From public speaking opportunities to content contributions to commenting on important news and leading important conversations, thought leadership for executives improves brand reputations and community relations. What would Apple be without Steve Jobs? What would Spanx be without Sara Blakely? Both CEOs built an incredible brand and added value to it with their own personal branding. Entrepreneurs of fast-growing or ambitious companies with their eye on an IPO or fundraising should invest in thought leadership because it’s one of the most valuable forms of PR.

For startups and ambitious companies, PR is an investment in your company’s future. Knowing when to use important types of PR for ambitious companies will help you prioritize your PR investment.

When Should Your Fast Growing Company Hire a PR Agency or a Marketing Firm?

With everything happening so fast in your hyper-growth company, when SHOULD you hire a PR agency? We speak to businesses all the time asking us if they’re ready for us and often, the answer is “no, not yet.” So, how do you know if you’re ready for an agency? We specialize in working with organizations with ambitious growth goals, so we’re in a good position to know what works and what doesn’t.

6 Signs Your Ready for a Public Relations or Marketing Agency

You Have A Proven Business Model/Product

It’s easy to think that if you had a PR agency or marketing company running things you’d have those customers you need to prove your product works. But if you haven’t been able to get a grass-roots movement on your product, the question is whether the product is viable and whether more exposure means more users/customers or not. There are simply times when throwing money at an exposure metric just isn’t the right thing at the right time.

Plus, it’s important for you, the founder, to get out there and get feedback on your product. You’ll learn things about your customers and your product that you really need to know. You should have a stable team and at least some certainty that the market wants your product. If you’re unsure, it’s too early for an agency.

It’s A Race To The Best Brand

There are some industries where the biggest distinguishing factor for your product is the brand, the emotional response customers have to your product and style. In these situations where you need scale and fast, having an agency is important because you’ll need consistent execution that also adheres to a strategy. Consistent press coverage is a defining factor for becoming the best-known brand.

You Have A Story To Tell

It’s heartbreakingly true: starting a company is not news. Globally, there are about 11,000 startups per hour every single day. You hear about 1/100,000,000 of them with any regular basis. The ONLY way to cut through the clutter is to have a real story. You something truly compelling, because journalists are soooo tired of hearing about “the <insert adjective> new CEO taking <insert startup community or vertical> by storm.

If you THINK you have a story, but need some help, call us. We offer a consulting strategy service that will help you flesh out your story and we can help you determine if there are any other gems.

You Have The Internal Resources and Assets

This is the moment when you’re probably considering hiring an internal team, but you realize hiring this group of people would require you to take your eye off your core mission.

Internally, you DO need someone who provides your marketing or PR agency with access. It’s this person’s job to interface with questions and changing directions. They need to be both in the C-level loop and empowered to give direction to the agency, which leads me to the next…

You Have A Budget Over And Above The Monthly Retainer

Whatever you’re spending on a Branding, PR or Marketing execution, plan on at least another 30%-40% for activation and assets. In the PR world, you’ll need assets (video, images, studies), events, and press services. In the marketing world, it’s one thing to create the content; it’s another thing to make sure it gets seen.

We provide an audit and a digital strategy program that allows brands to take the roadmap and either implement it for themselves or hire us (or another agency), this plan usually includes competitive analysis, campaign ideas, and best practices for everything from content development to advertising.

Do you Have a Campaign or Project That Needs Person Power

The best time for a PR and Marketing Agency to come on board is when you need a variety of unique skill sets, and you need them fast. Sometimes, you have an idea or campaign that you need help to execute. Hiring an agency to identify opportunities, solutions (and potential pitfalls) is a good idea here because you’ll get that execution boost you need without having to recruit and hire a team. You need a team of specialists, amazing writers, creative graphic designers, analytics interpreters and you don’t need any of them full-time, nor do you have time to manage this in-house team of creatives, but you do need them.

5 Pre-Announcement PR Tips for Reputation Management

 

If you’re ready for a product launch, a funding round, or an executive announcement, now is a good time to look at how other people will see your company when they do more research.

 

Brush up your social profiles pre-announcement. 

No matter what your brand or your industry you always want to present the best first impression, your social media are part of that first impression. Ask yourself whether they’d be OK with you lifting a quote from your Facebook or LinkedIn and using it in an article about your business?

If the answer is no, check the privacy settings and do some cleanup. While we’re at it, check your photos and see if there’s anything there that’s off-putting or off-brand.

If you’re not sure whether your first impression is on-brand, ask others you trust in business. Ask yourself if you’re believable and trustworthy to a stranger and to your target audience? What would you think of your business if you just stumbled upon it on Linkedin or another social profile? Please consider these tips as a starting checklist.

 

Reputation Management: Google Your Executives & Your Company

While we’re at it, when was the last time you Google’d your executives and your business? Do your search while using Chrome’s “Incognito” feature and you’ll get a view of what others see about you first. Don’t forget to do an image search too. When you raise awareness of your company Google searches by the public and the press are fair game.

If you’re not happy with what you see, you can do some reputation management blocking and tackling, which will take some time. So be sure to do this well in advance of any major announcements.

 

Public Relations: Define Your Key Messages

What are you trying to say and to whom? What truly makes you special and why should anyone care. Remember, when you’re trying to attract press, you need a STORY, something newsworthy. Unfortunately, due to the sheer number, a product launch is rarely newsworthy, that’s not to say NEVER, but usually, there has to be a story to tell along with the launch.

Make sure you’re so prepared with your key messages that no one can distract you from your message, which is wrapped nicely in the context of your business story.

And while you’re at it, make sure that the press you’re sending your story is important to the readers of the publication or outlet your pitching.

Public Relations: Consider Media Training

If you’ve never done press before, it might be more nerve-wracking than you expect. Yes, journalists are people too, but it’s not their job to make you look good, that’s your job.

The journalist’s job is to write a story people will be interested in reading.

Sure, some publications will be very friendly, but all will appreciate your extra level of professionalism.

Spending at least a day preparing by recording yourself in front of a camera with some best practices for PR will pay for itself a million times over, because inevitably, there will be a question you didn’t expect, and having the tools at your disposal to help you keep your cool will give you confidence.

 

Content: A MUST: Good Photos 

Great headshots and product pictures are not a “nice to have,” they are a requirement. Don’t even think about sending a selfie. Make sure the images are high-resolution enough for print. If you have the budget, get a video too since you’ll use it over and over for all sorts of purposes.

You can have some photos done that showcase your  business personality, but definitely get basic headshots and product pictures on white and black backdrops.

You’ll be bummed out if you get the press of a lifetime but there aren’t any product shots or pictures of you and your team because they were low-quality or low-resolution.

 

Managing your online and media reputation is critical to your business, particularly if you’re a new brand, a relatively unknown brand, or your doubling down on an initiative like fundraising or an IPO. It’s shocking how few brands keep up with their own reputation. The thing about your reputation is that when it’s hurting you, you’ll never know because you can’t measure what’s not there. So be proactive about your reputation at all times and it will pay for itself.

Ways for Startups  & Hypergrowth Companies to Inspire Radical Employee Loyalty

This presentation will take you less than 5 minutes to get through but will make you re-think your startup marketing efforts permanently.

In today’s world where disruption is everywhere, it’s never been more important for hyper-growth companies and their executives to think holistically about their marketing and PR – inside and outside.

Leaders at even the fastest growing companies can create empowered, full-filled employee advocates that supercharges every single business goal. 

How can CEOs of today’s fastest growing companies create thriving cultures where employees are your best advocates?

 

Download the presentation here:

Employee Advocacy for the Startup for Hypergrowth CEO