Simply Said
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Simply Said is the essential handbook for business communication.

Communicating Your IPO Effectively


Getting ready to announce an initial public offering is a stressful undertaking. Newly formed companies are typically so distracted with all the financial and legal details of "finishing the deal", that they often do not spend enough time properly planning their communication strategy for the crucial first press conference.

"Many companies mistakenly wait until the last minute to craft the corporate message," comments Merna Skinner of Exec-Comm LLC, a New York communication training firm. She adds, "Their lawyers are so nervous about what can and cannot be said, that company spokespeople risk coming across as unnatural and lacking confidence."

The first all-important press conference can take many forms-a face-to-face briefing, a series of "road shows" in various cities or even a teleconferencing arrangement. Regardless of the set up, officials need to know that in the same audience will be analysts and reporters-each will have different needs and types of questions. Analysts are poised with technical financial questions-some usually inviting speculation on the part of the company as to future fiscal performances. Reporters, in contrast, usually search for a unique story "angle"-often fueled by provocative questions. In both cases, company officials need to be confident with their information and prepared for questions.

Skinner offers some specific tips on how to communicate with intelligence and clarity:

  • Clarify your message: Company spokespeople need to have pre-planned "talking points" that are consistent. Spokespeople should craft their key message in 10 words or less. The language that is used should be identical--be it a public statement, a press release or a website.
  • Pre-determine what can and cannot be discussed: Make sure you know the limits of what you will discuss. Many analysts typically press spokespeople to discuss revenues or future earnings. Politely stating that such information is proprietary or "impossible to predict" is the best way to respond to such lines of questioning.
  • Choose facts or examples to illustrate key points: These audiences typically respond well to analogies to convey difficult information. Graphical information is helpful to show trends or changes in figures. "A good way to answer questions about future unknown information is to point out past trends or growth patterns and let the questioner draw their own conclusions," adds Skinner.
  • Practice question and answer techniques: Before the IPO, practice answering questions. Develop "bridging" techniques which help you respond to complicated questions and move them to "known quantities". An example of this might be: "That is a great question you ask about our revenue as you know, we aren't now commenting on such proprietary information, but what Ican tell you is that our product will be unique in the marketplace."
  • Coordinate your speaking team: Plan ahead who will be the main speaker and who will be available as part of the team to field specific questions. Many companies have technical spokespeople as well as public relations executives pre-trained and ready to support the central spokesperson.

Contact: Bradford Agry
(212) 501-8045

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