This morning I attended the latest Masters’ Institute Series event by the Publicity Club of New England #PCNE titled, “PR and the Complex Investor Relations Path.” On the panel was: David Calusdian, EVP, Sharon Merrill Assoc.; Howard Berkenblit, partner, Sullivan & Worcester and Maria Scurry, VP Global PR, QlikTech. Maria kicked off the panel with one of my favorite comments of the entire event, “It’s critical for PR to manage expectations. Too often at smaller companies management thinks that filing an IPO means that even though no one really knows us now, soon everyone will know our name! Ummm… No!”
There are three phases of an Initial Public Offering (IPO): quiet period, waiting period, and effectiveness. If you’re a publicist and have been through an IPO before or represented a public company you know how frustrating it can be to experience a quiet period. It’s our job to hype the company and its products, yet this is strictly forbidden. What is allowed is communication that is standard for the company’s normal course of business. So, here’s the good news, if you are in a position to know that in six months – one year your company will want to go public, then start setting the bar for company announcements and news high now. This way when you head into your quiet period and want to issue news the SEC looks at your track record and sees that it’s perfectly normal. (Awesome tip, Maria!)
“The Bible” a.k.a your S1. Once it’s filed it’s a publicist’s best friend. It’s a legal document, but marketing and PR are involved (or should be) in its development. Any questions reporters have and you can point them directly to your S1 link. What happens though when you have an article in the works before you know that you are going public and then all of a sudden you are in a quiet period? It happens! Hopefully you can get your company or your executive gracefully out of the situation without actually saying to the reporter- you can print this, because of our new legal situation. Sometimes it can’t be helped though and as in the case of Google’s Sept. 2004 article in Playboy that had to be added as an appendix to its S1. Check it out (no pics here!): http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1288776/000119312504139655/ds1a.htm
Information about Google has been published in an article appearing in the September 2004 issue of Playboy Magazine and entitled “Playboy Interview: Google Guys.” The text of the article, which is included in this prospectus as Appendix B, contains information derived from an interview of Larry and Sergey conducted in April 2004, prior to the filing of our registration statement of which this prospectus is a part. The article presented certain statements about our company in isolation and did not disclose many of the related risks and uncertainties described in this prospectus. As a result, the article should not be considered in isolation and you should make your investment decision only after reading this entire prospectus carefully.
Social media is making lawyer’s lives much more difficult when it comes to IPOs, but the consensus on the panel was that things are evolving. Certainly if your CEO doesn’t tweet normally then starting to do so during the IPO process is a really bad idea. At the end of the day the most common mistake executives and publicists make is thinking of an IPO as a sprint, something to get through, and then it’s back to business. The reality is that everything changes once your company goes public and it’s critical to have a new, strong, communications strategy in place that will take you into the future. If nothing else, our panelists suggest that as you participate in and help manage PR through the IPO process you should: Be thoughtful. Talk to your lawyers. Keep pushing and asking questions!
A big thanks to all of the panelists today for lending their time and insights!