Why Your Tech Exit Strategy Needs B2B PR
By Cara Sloman, CEO, Force4 Technology Communications
As you start thinking about your exit strategy, one of the first elements to consider is how public relations will play a part. If you’re a high tech company, you’ll need a plan to amplify your message so you can stand out in this crowded marketplace. In fact, it’s almost impossible to execute an exit strategy without a B2B PR team highlighting your successes, promoting your thought leaders and showcasing your intellectual property and differentiators.
Developing an exit strategy
The first step toward getting a good valuation is developing and building a strong partner ecosystem. 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 able to demonstrate recurring revenue to investors. For the long term, those technology partners are your best targets for acquisition.
Are you looking to merge with or be acquired by another company? If so, a key element 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.
Are you heading toward an IPO? Then you are about to embark on a demanding journey 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, a technology PR agency can assist before, during and after the event.
IPOs are regulated by the SEC and divided into three distinct phases. 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.
Phase 1: Before the quiet period
A PR team with IPO experience will carefully plan, create and execute campaigns with the goal of positively impacting 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.
Phase 2: The quiet period
The term “quite period” sounds like companies must be silent, but that’s not the case. 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.
Phase 3: After the quiet period
Now is the time to put the initiatives that had to go onto the back burner before your IPO 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 increase the success of your PR exit strategy, remain aligned at all times with the efforts and goals of the CMO and marketing team.
What not to do in your exit strategy plan
It’s also important to recognize that though PR is pivotal to your plan, the team is composed of people, not magicians. Here are some missteps to avoid when it comes to leveraging the power of your PR team.
- Not using PR to build relationships – Keep in mind 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 communicating fully – Poor communication will jeopardize an exit. Make sure you interact often with your PR team, discussing all the factors that might affect the communications and messaging strategy.
- Getting antsy about how soon you’ll get press coverage – Though you might get lucky and garner coverage right away, it’s more likely that your PR team will rack up media wins over time as they build relationships and introduce your offering to the market.
- Not using the PR team for social media – The team is versed in communicating across many platforms, and it would be a waste to exclude them from your social media efforts.
Working with the marketing team(s)
PR achieves the most impact as part of a holistic marketing effort. 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.
Your PR exit strategy
VCs, private equity firms and acquiring companies are looking for solid tech investments that will yield a good ROI. How will they know what your business has to offer unless you have a robust messaging plan? Your communications strategy must be as ironclad as the rest of your exit strategy’s plan. Set yourself up for a successful exit by working with a knowledgeable B2B PR team that knows the tech industry. At Force4, we specialize in tech communications and have participated in 18 IPOs and over 120 acquisitions. You can contact us here to see how we can help.