Anyone who has been watching the tech PR space has noticed a huge rise in companies going public through Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs). For those who aren’t familiar, these are “blank check” investment firms that acquire a company with the goal of bringing them to the public market. It’s not a traditional IPO, but the end goal is the same. Companies like Taboola, Group Nine Media, and Buzzfeed have all either gone, or declared their intention to go, public via SPAC. And, just recently, we here at Crenshaw Communications helped our client Innovid make the announcement of its intention to merge with ION to go public in this way.
It’s huge news for any company that makes this decision, and the coverage needs to match the excitement! While many elements are the same as a traditional IPO, there are some key differences to consider for SPAC announcements. Here are some tips for PR professionals to plan and successfully execute an announcement around the intent to go public via SPAC.
There is no quiet period with a SPAC
One of the benefits of choosing the SPAC route is that companies don’t have to follow the dreaded PR quiet period once they file. This means PR can make a big splash on the day the intention is announced and continue to push out news in subsequent months to maintain the momentum in the market. It’s a good idea to plan several announcements after the big SPAC splash to keep media excited about the company- anything from partnerships and new hires to data or product news works well here. This is the time to pour it on.
Start pitching early
Big news is breaking every day, which means reporters are always swamped. To make sure they have enough time to cover the announcement, PR should start pitching at least 72 hours before the release goes out. The goal should be to line up several interviews ahead of the release so the official announcement day starts with top-tier stories that have the executive team feeling good and lay the foundation for more stories.
But be careful with embargo pitching
If you’re pitching your SPAC announcement globally, it’s important to understand that no one can break the embargo. If they do, coverage could be compromised, especially in the U.S. where press are sensitive about embargo times. If that means not pitching certain markets until the day of the announcement, it may be necessary to get the most mileage out of the news. Like many media strategy calculations, it’s something of a tradeoff.
You won’t get every outlet to cover
Some media will only cover a SPAC if they get the exclusive on the announcement– and that’s okay. If one of those publications is high-priority, an exclusive strategy can work to ensure they cover the news. Expectations should be set ahead of time to make sure there are no disappointed stakeholders on the day of the announcement.
Media training is a must
Even for a CEO who is extremely comfortable with the media, we recommend a refresher session to go over the approved messaging and prepare for any tricky questions. Anything said can now impact stock price, so every spokesperson must be buttoned up, able to articulate the value proposition of the company, and navigate hard lines of questioning to ensure the best outcome. The good news is that, after a series of investor conversations, media prep might actually be easier. Obviously, if you’re going to media outlets outside the business/financial sector, you will want you avoid jargon, acronyms, and other financial-speak to make the story relevant to a broader audience.
Leave time for lawyers to review
It’s wise to have communications material drafted and circulating as soon as possible to avoid delays on media outreach due to legal review. This is a new process for many people, and they don’t realize how much time it can take. (HINT: It takes a long time) Build in extra time for the back-and-forth.
You need to explain what SPAC is and how it works to media
It’s not as straightforward as you think. Many reporters still don’t understand how SPAC works, and what the advantages are for a company to go public that way. Executive spokespeople should be prepared to walk through the explanation in layman’s terms, pausing often to make sure the audience understands the company’s strategy, the advantages of the SPAC, and the quality of the partners and the backstory.
If your company is considering going public through a SPAC, we’d be happy to discuss the process and the role of PR and media relations. We’ve also supported the traditional IPO route and can offer objective advice on the pros and cons of each.