Thinking About an IPO? Here’s How to Brand it for Maximum and Enduring Value

IPOIn the IPO  planning process, you also will have sensitized your management team and the board to life in the public arena and to best practice disclosure policy. You will become familiar with the process, key players and responsibilities and the expectations of discerning investors, as well as the necessary demands on top management time devoted to building and maintaining relationships in the aftermarket.

Here are 4 tips for maximizing the benefits of your IPO.

Set your corporate brand strategy well in advance of any consideration of public financing. Take a fresh, honest look at your entire brand identity, from an outsider’s perspective. Is your corporate brand strong, clear and sensible? Does it reflect integrity and an ethical business model? Are your product or service brands in sync with your corporate brand? Together, do your brands add or detract from your IPO valuation? Is your brand messaging platform sustainable into the intermediate term? Has your brand identity been refreshed within the past 3-5 years? An updated brand identity is often a critical diagnostic tool utilized by financial analysts and other market influentials when evaluating your company.

1. Establish differentiation of your corporate brand from your peers. Are your competitive advantages understood and evident in your external communications and identity? If not, you must prioritize this exercise and reconsider your company’s positioning platform, essentially enlivening your corporate brand. Ideally, in an IPO, bring something original or proprietary to the table, just as you do with customers.

2. Build a strong image. Your reputation is built upon everything you say and do. Keep your corporate messaging platform current. Craft critical messages with care, and ensure that everyone in senior management is using the same playbook and that all employees understand the importance of strict adherence to disclosure policy.

Reputation, integrity and customer satisfaction are but a few of the non-financial measures of value. How well do you understand your intangible assets? How well do you communicate them?  Intangibles are highly leverageable and among the fastest growing assets in most businesses today. According to the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), intangibles have increased from 15% of total enterprise value in 1975 to 80%, today. So, don’t forget to include discussion of your intangible qualities in your corporate/financial presentations and messaging platform.

3. Keep your messaging, clear, concise and consistent. This goes beyond “common speak” filings encouraged by the SEC. Take the time necessary to develop your key messages. Be sensitive to inconsistencies in messaging and correct them as necessary, perhaps with the help of outside counsel.

4. Remember that an informed investor market is a much more receptive market. Thus, it is most important to develop and commit to a targeted media relations strategy, both among the trades and the general business/financial press well before your IPO financing. And don’t ignore online sources.

Establish your company’s “normal” pattern of engagement and transparency with the media regarding business strategy and performance, creating a body of knowledge about your company, its products and services and the unique characteristics of your brand. As a best practice, this will also help safeguard the company through the so-called ‘quiet period’.

The corporate brand is a useful, non-financial lever that can showcase the company to all its constituencies. A corporate brand that is compelling, and properly positioned and presented will add significant tangible value to the IPO. It also will help to sustain and grow that value in the aftermarket.

James R. Gregory is the chairperson of Tenet Partners, a global brand strategy and innovation firm, based in New York City. Jim is a leading expert and pioneer in measuring the power of corporate brands and their impact on valuation and financial performance. Jim's most recent book is entitled POWERHOUSE--The Secrets of Corporate Branding. Robert D. Ferris is a well-known investor relations and crisis counselor and commentator, with more than four decades of experience with both domestic and foreign issuers. A former chairman of National Investor Relations Institute's Senior Roundtable, his ideas on C-suite communications strategies in challenging situations have been widely published.

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