In 2019, I wrote a piece on Why You Need an IPO Communications Strategy Well Before the IPO. That was before a pandemic, during which time the healthcare industry experienced a breakthrough year of SPACs and IPOs, only to be followed by an austere 18+ months of market uncertainty. Add rising interest rates and a tough fundraising environment, and going public is now often a conversation that stays on the shelf. But the outlook may be looking brighter and the life sciences industry is showing a heartbeat.
According to the EY Global IPO Trends Q2 2023 Report, in the first half of 2023, there were 58 IPOs in health & life sciences, compared to 168 in 2022 and 391 in the most prolific year of 2021. Yet there is hope for a resurgence in IPO activity expected in the latter half of 2023, with health and life sciences anticipated to lead the pack. As we move toward a potential market re-opening, now is the time to be ready for your company to become public. And, as communications professionals, we know that time is not our friend. Whether it is six months or two years from now, preparing for an IPO should start well in advance. Having everything in place is the key to success.
The key takeaways for any communications professional that lead to a successful IPO remain the same, perhaps with a twist based on the current market:
- Treat going public as just another event, not THE event. It’s only the first step.
- Set realistic expectations on how you will behave as a public company—and practice!
- Have a clear strategy and process for dealing with current and future shareholders.
- Ensure the company’s positioning and messaging is always up to date.
- Integrate all approved messaging into the S1 language and mandate that messaging does not veer from the approved S1 once complete.
- Continue to build credibility and confidence into your brand.
- Align all management and key internal stakeholders so everyone is relaying the same message.
- Remain transparent in your messages and direction.
- Establish a “Business as Usual” PR process that allows the company to continue providing news to all audiences, even in the quiet period.
- Adopt a social media policy for all employees to avoid any pitfalls.
- Create a policy for responding to external sentiment as a public company.
- Set up a crisis preparedness plan and update quarterly.
During the IPO process, all the foundational work you’ve done comes into play. For example, having established your story through media relationships that you’ve developed prior to the quiet period mitigates the possibility for misperceptions about what your company does, particularly if your company has a complex offering. Relationships you’ve established with third-party partners, such as patient advocacy organizations, may bear fruit if the media seek their perspective on your company.
The IPO itself requires a special communications strategy to be prepared in advance and timed to a tee, including targeted messaging, materials development, spokesperson training, stock exchange staff coordination, and a prioritized media outreach plan for “Listing Day,” the day your stock goes public. Contingency plans are also necessary, because the IPO process can be unpredictable. You will need to coordinate very closely with your investor relations team, and above all else, you will want to seriously consider partnering with an agency who has deep experience in this area.
Maintaining a “future IPO” mindset, even in the current economic environment, not only positions your company well for a potential stock offering, it also ensures a robust and disciplined communications strategy that will serve your company well for a myriad of situations, whether you are working to establish and amplify your voice, prepare for potential crises – or undertake an IPO.
Need more tips on preparing for an IPO and getting your company in the right mindset to go public? Get our Insider’s Guide to Going Public.