For companies wanting to go public, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACS), are a streamlined alternative to the more traditional initial public offering (IPO), requiring a shorter timeline and fewer restrictions. Also known as “blank check vehicles,” SPACs have become more popular than the IPO as a route to the public markets. As a testament to their popularity, SPACs raised a record $82.1 billion as of the end of 2020 — a sixfold increase from the prior year.
But how does a SPAC differ from an IPO? A SPAC raises capital against a temporary shell with no assets. The sponsors are not allowed to identify potential targets for acquisition prior to going public, but the SPAC can specify an industry or geographic area of interest. Once an agreement is reached and approved by shareholders, the transaction closes and the target company survives as the publicly listed entity. Most can complete their paperwork quickly – within three months – as opposed to an IPO, which requires you get your ducks in a row six months before.
Public Relations for SPACs
The role of public relations in the SPAC process is critical to its success, touting the firm’s vision and building credibility. SPAC sponsors are encouraged to communicate the transaction and “sell a vision” to the media, investors, and employees about the premise and the management team. If done right, the new merged company will ride the PR wave to the closing. In the case of Hippo, for example, a homeowners’ insurance company and a Moderne Ventures portfolio company, the initial announcement of its SPAC in March attracted widespread attention for its big numbers and prestige investors. When, a few months later, many of its investors pulled out, it can be argued that it was PR that helped preserve its value. A well-played public announcement about its plans to enter the commercial market helped bolster Hippo’s value, despite the loss of millions of dollars. It ended up going to market with $550 million, still a significant sum, albeit less than planned.
This is the opposite of the IPO scenario where a mandated quiet period means that the company must be silent about the business from the date of filing until 40 days after the stock starts trading in order to avoid having an impact on its trading price or effecting the company’s value.
So how do you maintain a robust press pipeline? You will need to make sure the PR team (in-house and/or agency) understands the SPAC process, timeline and is synched with your Investor Relations (IR) firm, which deals directly with shareholders and interested investors. You should also make sure your employees are informed and fully leveraged to share the message when and where appropriate.
One IR expert breaks the SPAC process down this way:
- Deal Announcement: Working closely with your IR team, this is the first reveal and the best moment to tell your story to your key audiences, communicating the vision – the long-term value and massive opportunity in the space, your Unique Value Proposition, the financials and why your executive team is the right group to hit these goals. Visuals always help.
- Deal Marketing: Continuing aggressive pitching of your story to the business, financial and sector media using key allies whenever possible. This should include features on your company, trend stories and inclusion in roundups and larger themed pieces. A press and analyst tour (Zoom or in-person) is good for relationship building and a flow of compelling thought leadership content including an industry-focused white paper is important. Basically, it’s important to drive as much visibility as possible during this phase.
- Deal Closing: The closing of the deal should be announced via a press release, closely coordinated with your IR team and your internal comms team, taking into account how important it is for employees to know what’s happening and to fully leverage their support.
PR Post SPAC
Once the company has gone public, it’s critical to work with your IR firm and follow all the regulations required of a public company. In addition, to drive value and maintain momentum, it’s important to sustain a consistent flow of news, demonstrating forward motion and growth to your shareholders. Your PR partner can help mine opportunities for coverage, proactively and reactively, which will keep your company out front, and propel relationships with the media who will increasingly come to you for comment, giving you a consistent voice in the press.