The transition a company makes from a privately held entity to a publicly traded one is intensely fierce. With only one chance to do it right, there is a lot riding on a company’s trajectory when going public.
Well before and throughout the IPO process, the public relations team plays an integral role in building the market buzz that is essential to IPO success. With strategic planning and execution, a company will find itself prepared for the rigors encountered when operating in a regulated environment.
Publicly traded companies must adhere to strict SEC guidelines in several areas. Understanding what – and what not – to communicate can sometimes seem daunting. It’s vitally important to understand that all company spokespeople are subject to SEC regulations. Before any executives speak with media, it’s important for them to understand a few mission-critical do’s and don’ts.
Two high profile companies – Slack and Uber – are well-known examples of how not to handle PR during an IPO. Both companies had to amend their SEC filings due to unsanctioned board member interviews on CNBC that included commentary that was either not company authorized or inconsistent with its filings.
Careful advanced planning and experienced execution can help companies achieve maximum brand exposure without stepping out of line. Below are some guidelines for how SEC regulations apply to media interviews and posting to social media.
- DO work closely with your legal team for guidance on all SEC restrictions and regulations
- DO wait for all announcements to cross the wire before conducting media interviews and/or posting content on social media
- DO use information that is publicly available for interviews (i.e., from a press release, website, investor deck presentations, previous announcements, etc.)
- DO rely and stick to previously approved company messaging
- DON’T mention or provide anyone with advance notification about an upcoming announcement – even without details as to the nature of the announcement
- DON’T share any information not already included in official company announcements, including:
- Financial information
- Business plans such as for new product developments/service offerings
- Executive team changes
- DON’T predict or provide forward-looking statements about what an announcement could mean for the company (i.e., new revenue, new customers or products, etc.)
- DON’T speculate on any changes to the financial, executive or operational structure of the company
- DON’T disclose customer names that have not provided permission to be used as a reference
When in doubt, consult your legal team for guidance on how to proceed or what information to share. Like most things, SEC regulations may be subject to change so it’s also important to keep a close eye on developments and adjust your communications strategies accordingly. By making sure your communications team and executives are well versed on SEC communications requirements, you can ensure your spokespeople will remain on message.