How PR Fits Into an Exit Strategy Business Plan
By Cara Sloman, Chief Executive Officer
When you think of an exit strategy for business, you likely first think about getting acquired or going public. The role of public relations might not be the first thing that comes to mind – but it should be one of the first. PR highlights your successes, promotes your thought leaders and showcases your intellectual property and differentiators. In fact, with rare exception, it’s virtually impossible to realize your exit strategy goal without the help of a strong PR and marketing effort.
What’s your desired outcome? How to prepare an exit strategy
Developing and building a strong partner ecosystem is the first step toward getting a good valuation. This accomplishes short- and long-term goals. 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.
If your goal is a merger or an acquisition, a main spoke 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.
If your goal is an IPO, you’re in for 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.
There are three distinct phases of an IPO with respect to your communications strategy. Your “quiet period” begins when you file an S-1 form to register your securities with the SEC in the U.S. 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.
With the goal of positively impacting market perceptions about your company, an IPO-savvy PR team will carefully plan, create and execute campaigns. 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
Don’t assume that the so-called “quiet” period means that no communication is possible.
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.
Take another look at the initiatives that had to wait in the wings before your IPO. Now is the time to put them into action. Your PR team will help you 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.
To make the PR component of your exit strategy successful, make sure to stay aligned at all times with the efforts and goals of the CMO and marketing team.
Some things to avoid when it comes to PR and your exit strategy business plan
Similarly, keep in mind that while your PR team is an essential component, it’s important to be realistic. Here are some missteps to avoid when it comes to leveraging the power of your PR team.
- Lack of clear and thorough communication – Nothing jeopardizes an exit strategy business plan like poor communication. Make sure you interact often with your PR team, discussing all the factors that might affect the communications and messaging strategy.
- Assuming press coverage will hit immediately – Though it’s possible that you’ll garner coverage right away, 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.
- Failing to use PR to build relationships – 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.
- Thinking press releases are part of your content marketing strategy – 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 leveraging the PR team for social media – Your team has expertise in communicating across many platforms, and it would be a waste to exclude them from your social media efforts.
Marketing and PR working together
As mentioned above, PR initiatives are not an island unto themselves. Nor is public relations merely a set of tactics. PR efforts need to be undertaken in lockstep with the marketing team – or, in the case of M&A, it might be teams. Your marketing and PR functions should work together from the beginning to align on goals and approach. This includes reviewing goals and plans together and staying in communication about shifts in the goals of the business and marketing initiatives. It also includes keeping your PR team in the loop so they can provide guidance and a steady hand should anything need to pivot.
PR’s vital role
A modern exit strategy for business requires the help of a knowledgeable and well-connected PR team. These professionals set the communications agenda and build the relationships you’ll need to achieve your goals at every stage. By avoiding common assumptions and making sure your marketing and PR functions are tracking well, you will set yourself up for a successful exit.