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Communicating with impact – the role of communications in the journey to IPO: Insights from London Tech Week panel

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Last week, I had the honour of hosting a Finsbury Glover Hering panel, as part of London Tech Week 2021, looking at the role of communications for tech companies in the run up to an IPO.

The attendees

We were joined by Stefan Gaiser, CFO of TeamViewer; Philipp Freise, co-head of Europe Private Equity, KKR; Emma Thompson, Director of Communications & Government Relations at Tech Nation; Paul Klemm, Principal at EarlyBird and Daniel Schäfer, Partner at Finsbury Glover Hering. They brought their varied experiences and fascinating insights into the tech IPO process. This ranged from managing their own company through listing to reporting on tech IPOs as a former Bloomberg and FT reporter.

What was clear across all our panellists, without exception, was that how and when a tech company communicates is a critical part of a successful growth journey – be that before, during or after the IPO process.

The months pre-IPO

The panellists agreed that in the months pre-IPO, it’s vital to develop a clear, compelling and consistent narrative that sets out not just the all-important equity story, but also why your company is an exciting investment, what the total addressable market looks like and the long-term business vision. It was agreed that it’s also important to create a ‘derivative’ of the equity story that’s suitable for wider stakeholders - including media - who, unlike investors, won’t necessarily have the same depth of sector and market understanding but still need to understand the vision, mission and business opportunity.

Planning 2-3 years out

When looking 2-3 years out from the time of IPO, the group broadly agreed that similar rules apply. Diligently and systematically building brand credibility and presence over time is incredibly important to long term growth and viability. Testing whether the narrative stands up to scrutiny undoubtedly positions the company in better stead for the long term. On a tactical level, establishing good relationships with media can make a significant difference in how reporters engage and react when it comes to the ‘moment’ itself.

Entering the public markets

The conversation also looked at how an IPO is just the start of a journey to maturity – entering the public markets brings new levels of scrutiny from all audiences. Public companies are in the spotlight from day one, and so it helps to ensure that the communications function is ready, prepped and engaged.

Reaching all stakeholders

The group agreed that it has never been more important for tech companies to engage consistently, systematically and authentically with employees during the IPO process. They can act as advocates for the mission. In addition, having a clearly articulated purpose and meaningful employee brand can help attract the best talent into the organisation as it scales.

Another area of focus was ESG. The ability to articulate a clear ESG strategy was seen as crucial in attracting investment and in standing up to scrutiny in the mid and long term. And of course, being abreast of, and responding to, a fast-paced regulatory environment was highlighted as absolutely critical not just to success, but to survival.

Lastly, and potentially most importantly, a clear message that stood out: stick to your vision for a strong, resilient and successful business - if you don’t believe what you’re communicating, nobody else will.