Sunday, November 27, 2011

An IPO in Your Future?

"Facebook Employees Go Nuts as Zuckerberg Tells Them the IPO Is Coming" was the lead story last week in the Tech section of The Huffington Post. And rumors are swirling that the S-1 filing is due as early as next month—that is, if Facebook selects a bank to underwrite the offering.

In the United States the Initial Public Offering (IPO)* market is holding, although many pulled back in Q3 due to cancellation, postponement or in some cases mergers and acquisitions. Today many of these companies are just waiting for better market conditions to get out on the road.

As of Nov. 23, Groupon (GRPN) was experiencing major volatility and the stock price was trading 15% below its initial public offering price of $20. As a result companies like Zynga and Yelp, which were hoping to squeeze through the IPO window, are now rethinking their market debuts.

If there is a possible IPO in your company's future and you're waiting for the IPO market turn-around, take advantage of this time to learn about the process for taking your company public.

How to Begin
Start by assembling an experienced team of investment bankers, attorneys and accountants. Then you'll write a prospectus. And finally, you'll take your roadshow to brokers and institutional investors in designated cities around the world.

Preparation Is Critical
Going public entails making one of the most important series of presentations in your company’s history—one that involves selling your company to a wary public for the first time. You must ensure that your key people are prepared to give a well thought-out, clearly focused, enthusiastic presentation from start to finish every time.

Most management teams are unprepared to tell and sell their company story. They are inexperienced at developing and delivering a succinct presentation outlining the company's investment potential, complete with a winning presentation that must be delivered in 20 to 30 minutes.

Drafting the Roadshow    
Creating text and visuals for a road show begins with a drafting session, and then the story is refined over the course of three to four weeks. The final story must be compelling and easily understood.

Using Effective Visuals  
You must support your company story with graphics that are visually clean, simple and easy-to-understand—which translates to a professionally produced presentation (Powerpoint or KeyNote) that can easily explain a complicated technology or multi-product company.

Delivering the Presentation
Can you synthesize and articulate the most important elements of your company's investment story?

Can you speak energetically and use eye contact?

Are you comfortable in a stand-up presentation?

Does anyone on your team have an accent that could create communication problems?

Do you have carefully crafted answers for that all-important Q&A session?

Go for It!

With coaching your team should deliver a relaxed, informative, crisp and persuasive presentation that will motivate potential investors to invest with you. And remember, a sharp presentation can boost the offering price!

Melissa designs and develops roadshows and coaches management teams that are raising equity in the private and public markets. 

* A company’s first sale of stock to the public. Securities offered in an IPO are often (but not always) those of young, small companies seeking outside equity capital and a public market for their stock.

Parts of this blog first appeared in August 2009 in Communicating Effectively, a column Melissa Monson wrote regularly for the Hong Kong Regulatory Forum online newsletter. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Professional Media Training Is No Longer an Option: It's a Necessity

You only have to witness all the backtracking, sidestepping and tap dancing going on in the presidential primary race to recognize a universal truth of our electronic age: a blunder in front of a video camera will go global in a matter of minutes.

With the rapid proliferation of "citizen journalism" and social media sites, on-camera mistakes will be seen and heard by millions – instantly, repeatedly and permanently – with practically no chance of a "do-over." How many times during the past few weeks have we been subjected to a replay of Herman Cain pausing to, in his words, "gather his thoughts" before commenting on Libya? Or Rick Perry fumbling through his brain freeze?

It's equally true in the corporate world. Consider just a few recent PR nightmares at companies like (BlackBerry maker) Research in Motion, Hewlett Packard or Netflix: serial strategic gaffes that drove customers to defect and market values to plummet. Many wonder how or even if these companies can recover from their very visible missteps.

Companies of any size can suddenly find themselves in the spotlight having to answer to customers, investors, the press or the public. Senior executives, particularly CEOs, are more likely than ever to face a camera at some point (if not frequently) during their tenure. And how they handle it can make or break careers and companies.

All of which brings me to another truth:

Professional media training is no longer a luxury or confined to only the largest companies. It's a job requirement for senior management in companies of all sizes and industries.

Through On-Camera Media Skills Training, I will prepare you to master interview situations, whether sit-down or spontaneous, through a simulated live experience in a broadcast studio.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reasons to Outride the Redcoats

Listen my Children and You Shall Hear………………

Well, this week was just filled with communication goodies/disasters. From the Herman Cain/Gloria Alridge press conference, to the University of Pennsylvania's football child sex scandal, to the Oakland mayor's response to an Occupy Wall Street protest turned violent, to Rick Perry's presidential debate brain freeze. The difficulty of making a consistently good presentation and articulating a consistent message were front and center in the media.

Perry's memory lapse will live on in YouTube in clips such as "Watch Rick Perry's Campaign End Before Your Eyes" and "Rick Perry's Big Oops." Newt Gingrich put a human face on the unfortunate incident. He supported Perry's forgetfulness with compassion and freely admitted that he feared a memory lapse whenever he was in front of an audience. Newt's candor was admirable and helped neutralize the press attack dog antics.

To salvage his candidacy, the morning after last week's presidential debate, Rick Perry pushed back on the Redcoats and blitzed the morning and afternoon TV talk shows (as well as late night's Letterman) to apologize and make fun of himself as not much of a debater. He may have actually done himself some good, as the impression that emerged was that of an extremely likeable guy with a good sense of comedic timing.

The press worked hard to kick Perry to the curb. But he got up, dusted himself off and came back slugging. I have a feeling that's not unfamiliar territory for Rick Perry, who grew up the son of two hardscrabble West Texas tenant farmers. Perry, no doubt, had a few slugfests on his journey to Texas A&M.

So what are we to make of this media chaos? Campaigning for the presidency is not a sprint; it's a marathon. It takes a plan and lots of practice—as I well know, having run a marathon a few months ago.

A well-defined plan should include a crisis management strategy and regular video training drills. Herman Cain was late—perhaps too late to embrace crisis handlers—but Rick Perry has had an army of consultants from probably day one. It shows in his quick response to what might have been a real game changer for him.

Much has been written about Rick Perry as a ten-year governor of Texas. His press and speaking skills were rusty, and he had to get on a fast track quickly. He has proved up to the challenge, so now it will be interesting to see if he can move up in the polls.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Three Strategies for a Better Crisis Action Plan

A crisis usually happens when you least expect it, which is all the more reason to have a crisis action plan in place and ready to go. An executive team must be well-trained to meet the challenge, demonstrate leadership and smoothly and confidently articulate a solution.

Images of the British Petroleum oil spill disaster are still around. When the accident occurred, BP was the third-largest energy company in the world. Too big to fail? Hardly, as apparently BP didn't have a crisis plan ready for rollout.

CEO Tony Hayward became the face of the company. Unfortunately, his response to the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon's oil rig was just one blunder after another. The press and the public found his self-serving and inappropriate remarks confrontational, petty and arrogant. Ultimately Tony Hayward lost his job, but in the interim he did a significant amount of damage to BP's reputation and goodwill worldwide!

British Petroleum learned belatedly important communication lessons from the disaster, and so can any organization. It is important to respond to and recover quickly from a crisis. Here are three strategies for creating a better crisis action plan.

  1. Respond quickly. Try to gather all the facts within four hours. The faster you can respond to the public, the better; lots of misinformation will already be circulating. Today, with so many ways to broadcast via social media, the message spreads quickly. You need to get it right the first time, as there won't be an opportunity for a re-do of the facts, and you can't pull it back.

  2. Identify and articulate the message. Acknowledge upfront the tragedy and be empathetic. If you don’t appear sympathetic, you will be seen as callus—and that will likely damage your company's reputation for a long time.

  3. Undertake media training. Train the management team so that all could step in to be the designated spokesperson to address the media. Training should be in a studio setting with camera and lights. Other components should include how to identify the company message for the media, "how-to's" for working with the press; techniques for not being misquoted; and videotaped mock interviews with playback critiqued.

Maybe you can't prevent a crisis, but careful planning and training will help you manage the message and deal effectively with adversarial events.