How to create an IPO communications strategy for social

7 Jun

Initial public offerings (IPOs) are major business and career milestones. It’s only natural to want to knock your IPO communications strategy out of the park. After all, it’s a major opportunity.

So, how do you make the most out of the big day? For an outsized impact, let social media be the secret sauce that elevates your strategy from “good” to “great.” Social’s role in investor relations has blossomed over the past few years, making it a go-to channel for listing day communications. Your day-of presence will lay the groundwork for connecting with a brand new audience of investors post-IPO.

Keep reading to learn more about social’s role in your IPO communications strategy. Plus, we’ve also outlined a detailed timeline with instructions for a successful listing day social moment.

3 reasons social needs to play a role in your IPO communications strategy

If your IPO is the first day of school, then your social strategy is the outfit. It’s what helps you make a stronger first impression with potential investors. Beyond that, here are the three main reasons social needs to be included in your IPO strategy:

1. It’s a key tool for investor relations

Social media doesn’t just move markets on its own. Specific platforms have built a strong audience of investors, big and small.

“Social media has become a key platform for investor relations professionals to gauge important conversations around their company and the broader market. Particularly in recent years, platforms like Reddit and Twitter have become popular destinations for retail and institutional investors to discuss and analyze market trends.”

— Abigail Schmitt, Corporate Communications Strategist at Sprout Social

Your listing day social presence will be your launchpad to connect with this new audience. Being thoughtful about your strategy can help you court your first few investors.

2. It’s essential for risk management

Going public comes with a whole new set of communications responsibilities, including SEC regulations. As you make the transition from private to public, social listening will play an essential role in your risk management toolkit.

In the days leading up to the IPO, you’ll be working under a microscope. Any information shared that’s at odds with SEC rules can derail your whole listing process. With social listening, you can monitor the conversations happening around your brand to ensure everything is above board.

Once your first trade is live, you can also use social listening to track brand health in real time. These insights will be crucial while preparing for your first few rounds of investor Q&A.

3. It’s where your IPO story will unfold

The bell ringing ceremony creates a major social media moment. For one day, your brand will be amplified by the Nasdaq brand. The impact this will have on your reach will be huge.

Businesses like Expensify use this opportunity to reinforce their brand stance as a public company. This example shows how much they’ve grown while staying true to their vision by repurposing a popular social post format.

Social allows you to lean on more immersive visual storytelling tools, like images, video and audio. Compare that to a standard text-only press release and you can probably guess which will leave a more lasting impression.

These conditions combined make social a heavy hitter in your IPO communications strategy.

Creating a social communication plan for your upcoming IPO

The road to an IPO is paved in confidentiality. When and how conversations move beyond the C-suite and into your communications team will largely depend on the structure and operating norms of your company. That said, you can anticipate needing three to four months to get your social strategy in order.

Use this timeline to effectively collaborate with your social media team in the months leading up to listing day:

3 months to listing day

Complete the following steps to set the foundation for a great working relationship throughout your IPO planning process:

Share overarching IPO marketing strategy

Kick off your partnership by sharing the strategy documents you’ve created thus far. This will help your social team better understand the goals and expectations around your IPO while also shedding light on SEC rules and regulations.

Some important items to include:

  • Your IPO narrative: What is the message you want to communicate alongside your IPO? Social will play an integral role in telling this story. The more details you can share here, the better.
  • Priorities and concerns: If there are opportunities you want to capitalize on or pitfalls you’re trying to avoid, be sure to outline them upfront.
  • Important timeline information: Be clear about any content review deadlines. Social teams are notoriously lean, so anything you can do to make their process more streamlined will be appreciated.

Request social team feedback

Your social media manager will be able to provide more insights on network-based opportunities. If you give them space to develop their channel game plan, your entire IPO communications strategy will be stronger for it.

Ask them for thoughts and feedback on social’s role before, during and after your listing day experience. They can illuminate risks and opportunities you may have missed.

Outline team roles and responsibilities

Your IPO social strategy will extend far beyond more than just posting and engagement. Here are some additional items that will need owners for a successful listing day:

  • Day-of inbox management: The increased brand exposure will likely cause a huge influx of inbound messages. You’ll likely have to tap multiple people to handle this to account for breaks and after-hours monitoring.
  • Event highlights: C-suite-level executives will want to see how people reacted to the day as a gauge for communications success. Deciding who will be responsible for those highlights can streamline the process while allowing you to share examples live as they happen.
  • Employee advocacy: An employee advocacy strategy is essential to ensuring your IPO goes off without a hitch. Whoever is responsible for this will need to ensure all employees are aware of what they can and can’t say leading up to the big event.

1 month to listing day

By now, the planning is done and the wheels are in motion. Now is the time to lay the groundwork for increased reach on listing day.

Decide on a branded hashtag

Your cashtag will help you monitor stock-related conversations happening on Twitter. Still, if you want a tag you can use across all networks, you’ll need a branded hashtag.

A listing day hashtag can make reporting on the success of your IPO communications strategy much easier. Your cashtag will be included in social conversations for years to come. Conversations including your branded IPO hashtag will be specific to your listing day.

Create listing day content

All IPO-related communications will need legal approval, which takes time. Prepping your copy and visuals ahead of schedule gives enough breathing room for final sign-off.

Sprout Social's Calendar Notes feature, which helps social media managers create placeholders for upcoming content.

Pro-tip: The Nasdaq team will have a social professional suggest some opportunities for event promotion on their channels. Once you know when they’re going to share their message, you can include a placeholder for it in your schedule using Sprout Social’s Calendar Note feature.

Outline patterns of engagement

You won’t be able to engage with every message that you’re tagged in on listing day and you shouldn’t try to. Interacting with stock predictions or updates can look like an endorsement, which falls under tricky legal territory.

Create a document that outlines what types of messages your team should engage with and how. Include some legal-approved canned responses so your teams can keep their social media response times quick on listing day.

1 week to listing day

It’s the final countdown. Time to prepare for the exposure that comes with becoming a public company.

Set up your social listening tool

Set up a brand health listening topic to monitor IPO day conversation trends.

A screenshot of Sprout Social's Listening tool displaying sentiment data.

Setting this up in advance will ensure it doesn’t get missed in the listing day madness. Check it throughout your IPO to monitor real-time reactions and sentiment data.

Get all your assets in one place

Once you receive all the necessary legal approvals, create a folder to organize your final assets. This will speed up your publishing process on IPO day while mitigating the risk of any unauthorized posting.

A screenshot of Sprout's Asset Library tool, displaying an IPO Content folder.

This folder should house everything you plan on sharing on IPO day—copy, image files and any other creative assets you have on deck. If you’re using Sprout Social, the Asset Library will help you sort and label each file for easy access. If not, a Google Drive file with the proper permissions in place can work, too.

Confirm your inbox management strategy

If you manage your social inboxes natively, you’ll want to divide and conquer on IPO day. Create an hourly schedule that details who is managing which inbox and when. Those individuals will also be responsible for flagging any day-of social opportunities or risks.

A screenshot of Sprout Social's automated tagging feature.

If you’re using an inbox management tool, set up a rule to automate day-of message categorization. During Sprout’s IPO in 2019, we set up an Inbox Rule that tagged any message with our cashtag as stock-related so we could easily filter them in or out as needed.

Listing day

On the big day, your main priority will be getting your company to that first trade with no hiccups. More eyes will be on your company than usual, so make the most of it with these tips:

Reiterate employee advocacy guidelines

The risk of sounding like a broken record is way less dangerous than the risk of an SEC violation. Reshare guidelines on what employees can and can’t share leading up to your first trade on listing day eve, and the morning of, to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Rely on internal channels

This is an absolute must if you’re managing an IPO within a hybrid work environment.

A screenshot of a the Slack channel creation window, displaying the set up of a private channel for IPO-related discussions.

Use your business messaging platform (whether that’s Slack, Teams or other) to create a channel for IPO day communications. This will increase visibility across task owners for a smoother workflow.

Celebrate your achievement

Navigating an IPO isn’t just a milestone for your company. It’s a career event for you and every member of your team as well.

On listing day, you’ll be participating in something that only a handful of communications professionals will have the opportunity to do. Don’t forget to step back, soak it in and take tons of behind-the-scenes photos for even more IPO-related social content.

Get listing day-ready

Becoming a public company is a major turning point for businesses. The months leading up to ringing the Nasdaq bell will be busy, but all the work will be worth it once you’re celebrating this impressive career milestone with the rest of your team.

Remember: going public is only half the battle. Soon, you’ll have to navigate being a public company, and all the opportunities and obstacles that come with that.

Work closely with your social team to keep tabs on both. Check out this guide to social media for investor relations to get an idea of what you need to be looking out for and why.

The post How to create an IPO communications strategy for social appeared first on Sprout Social.

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