Years ago, a friend told me about the experience she had when her company filed its IPO registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Even though she was the senior-ranking communications executive at her company, she was not informed about the registration decision until three weeks before it was filed. At that point, her job changed dramatically, and she had no time to prepare for it.

She was told by the company's CFO that their attorneys now had sign-off authority on all communications and she would have to modify the wording in all future company announcements. It took her a few months to learn that these attorneys really didn't understand the PR function. Their jobs were basically to ensure compliance, not optimize communication.

Much later, I asked her what three things she and her company should have done differently. Here are her answers:

  • "I would have educated myself on the IPO process at least one year before the registration process started."
  • "I would have worked to convince company executives that the corporate communications functions should be integrated into finance, marketing, sales and securities processes."
  • "I would have practiced being a public company, at least during the two quarters prior to our public offering. You have to learn to cook before you can start as a chef."

I have since heard this sage advice echoed from many other investor relations (IR) professionals. Let's discuss how a corporate communications professional could go about the business of learning more about IR, pitching IR to company executives and practicing IR processes before going public.

Round Out Your Communications Experience

The National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) is like an IR graduate school and a great resource. NIRI (pronounced near-ee by those in the know) is a professional association of corporate officers and investor relations consultants responsible for communication among corporate management, the investing public and the financial community. The organization has over 4,500 members in 36 chapters around the country, and they organize some of the finest education seminars available.

I decided to investigate NIRI by attending a three-day NIRI seminar last month. I found it extremely valuable. It was evident by the caliber of speakers and the material covered that NIRI offers some of the most comprehensive information available on communications and investor relations.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Gallagher is president of RW Gallagher & Associates. He can be reached at bobg@rwgallagher.com