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How a good communications strategy can shape IPO success.

Author Kiran Makhija
Published 02 Aug 2023
Corporate Communications

We advise high-profile international companies and organisations on a range of communications issues in complicated commercial and regulatory environments.

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Rewiring strategy for success

I moved to Dubai almost a decade ago, and it is fascinating to see the financial market at its highest point as the country draws investors. With a continuing focus on IPOs and a strong economic outlook, equity markets in the Emirates remain robust - a sign of growing investor confidence in the UAE's capital markets amid continued structural reforms and efforts to boost liquidity.

Recent Dealogic data shows that the Middle East IPOs raised more than $23 billion in 2022 from 48 listings, compared with $7.52 billion raised from 20 offerings in the previous year, more than half the total for the wider Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. Dubai alone raised nearly $8.5 billion from five IPOs last year, fuelled by a government privatisation plan to list 10 state-linked companies to boost stock market activity.

Building on the strong fundamentals and optimistic outlook, IPO experts expect more private and family businesses to list. The points below list how companies can navigate their listing journey to reporting their IPOs in this evolving market.

Preparedness in IPO comms strategy

Companies should be investing in IPO comms at least a year or two before the float, as the key to achieving the success of publicly listed companies is to thoroughly plan.

At the onset, the management teams should focus on what it is they’re trying to achieve, develop a truly compelling and values-based brand narrative, and begin mentally preparing themselves for the new level of scrutiny that their listing will bring. 

Media training is one helpful way to approach this challenge, but more importantly when it comes to the C-suite it’s more about ‘art of engagement’ and ‘presenting with purpose’ which is vital to build a strong narrative well in advance before the IPO, and again right before listing across your stakeholders.

Alongside, it is imperative to establish key contacts within the press at an early stage. Start educating key journalists about your company to establish trust and shape your narrative from the start.

Media training, establishing key contacts, and educating journalists about the company are essential parts in building a strong narrative before an IPO listing.

In summary, don’t leave your comms to the last minute! Investing in your comms team and strategy in the years leading up to your IPO will make it easier to win hearts and minds in the longer term.

Jargon-free and compelling brand narrative

To get your comms right on the path to IPO, you need to be able to confidently tell the world who you are, what you plan to do with your money and what your future looks like. 

We recommend crafting a succinct, compelling one-pager on your narrative and story to ensure that all stakeholders – including media – are hearing a consistent message about the business, the addressable market, and the equity story. At the centrepiece of this one-pager, you need a USP explaining why your company is more interesting than other firms in the sector.  

If this summary is kept jargon-free and easy for journalists to understand, it can be a very powerful tool in helping to shape your narrative. Keep in mind that once you’ve got this storyline in place, it will be hard to unpick or reverse. That’s why upfront investment in your company’s comms is so valuable and worthwhile.

C-suite positioning

A key aspect of the IPO communications strategy should be ensuring that the CEO and CFO are positioned as ‘opinion leaders’ or ‘changemakers’. Ensuring a consistent chronicle that underlies the wider communication messages is important, with each touchpoint reiterating a consistent theme. Firming connections with media, investors, industry leaders and the like are a continuous process.

A solid thought leadership framework with various tactics including media outreach and regular interviews with tier 1 English and Arabic media, background/intro informal meets with key media, and regular industry briefings via breakfast meetings or sharing insights could form the part of the plan.

To ensure a successful IPO, create a compelling one-page narrative and story that confidently explains your company's identity, financial plans, and future.
A thought leadership framework will also be needed that includes media outreach, interviews, informal meetings, and industry briefings for effective communication and insights sharing.

ESG ratings is critical

ESG ratings are an evaluation of a firm’s collective conscientiousness for social and environmental factors and are used by socially conscious investors to screen potential investments. The new generation of investors now focus on ESG and thematic investing; it is no longer just a matter of highest possible profit, but how to generate real value through money. Investors, especially the younger generations, are keen to invest in brands that have an impact on the world and avoid companies with ESG risks exposure. 

This means that not only is it important to have strong company values for strengthening your comms to attract and retain the best talent; it’s also hugely important that you communicate these values to be successful during and after your IPO.  

Taking a strong ESG stance early can also position your organisation as an employer of choice, making your brand highly attractive to employees seeking to align with organisations that share their values and vision for the world– and adapt comms to amplify this make-or-break messaging.

The younger generation of investors prioritizes ESG and thematic investing as they seek for impactful companies with no ESG risks.

Attract investor interest via roadshows

At roadshows, management presents the equity story with the aim of influencing the investment decision of participating investors in your favour. After the roadshow presentation, potential investors can ask specific questions so that you are given the chance to convincingly convey key facts and figures. The most recent example is the Al Ansari IPO; a successful roadshow and a robust IPO environment meant that the offering was oversubscribed 22 times. With an investment of 200 million dirhams, the Investment Corporation of Dubai-owned UAE National Bonds Corp (a sovereign wealth fund) landed the status of cornerstone investor.

A roadshow is an effective measure to build trust with investors. A low-buzz campaign will miss opportunities, while an exaggerated campaign will not be able to support extravagant claims, so there must be a balance between style and substance.

Going public... beginning of a new game!

Companies and management teams must be prepared for the media scrutiny that follows the IPO and keep their focus on balancing the narrative and reiterating their mission statements. Consistency is key to successful comms, and highlighted above the importance of media training in ensuring that management teams are aligned and ready for attention they’re going to face after listing. 

Essentially, as any company that’s just gone public will know, the IPO is only the start of the beginning. Using your compelling story, values and mission statement crafted in the years leading up to your IPO, shift your focus to staying consistent, committed, and – above all – confident in what you’re communicating. 

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