Public relations’ role in exit and succession planning

| June 30, 2018

Most business owners when they implement a business exit and succession plan will set out their goals and direction.  This plan often includes organisational restructure, streamlining systems and processes, governance and marketing.

Unfortunately in far too many cases they neglect to include a public relations (PR) communications program as part of their marketing and promotional plans and activities.

There are many reasons for this, but the answer is often very simple and that is business owners understand and are familiar with the traditional forms of marketing such as advertising, sponsorship, etc but are not so familiar and aware of the role of PR.

So why consider PR?

Put quite simply, if you want to reach a broader group of prospective buyers or investors, a business owner needs to raise the public profile and presence of their enterprise.

Therefore PR needs to be an integral component of the marketing and promotional process that articulates the strengths of the business to potential buyers that may include competitors, staff, alliance partners, etc.

Also, in many cases, PR is less expensive than traditional advertising and for a business can achieve far more traction than an investment in advertising and similar marketing activities.

PR is effective because…

When people see third party coverage of a business, product or service in the media, it is perceived much differently than an advertisement.

When we see an advertisement, we know the company is trying to sell us something. However, if your target audience sees a published story, it is regarded as third party endorsement and the business gains a higher degree of credibility.

As a result, the target audience is much more likely to regard the business and its products or services higher than if they see or read an advertisement.

A further benefit of an ongoing PR program is a higher visibility for the business with the target audience making the company and its brand more prominent and appealing to prospective buyers.
It also reassures existing clients, staff, centres of influence and alliance partners and provides them with an incentive to retain their relation with the business and refer its products or services to potential clients.

Using PR to sell the business

A PR campaign to promote a business to potential buyers and investors has a very different strategic imperative and focus as it promotes the company first and its products and services second.

However, PR is not an activity for amateurs as it is far more complex than simply writing a media release and sending it far and wide in the hope that it will be published in a newspaper or magazine.

Truly effective PR is very targeted in its application utilizing a strategic and tactical approach to build creditability and awareness through a program that educates and informs the target audience.

In addition, the modern PR program is multi dimensional incorporating social media, the company’s website and a distribution process that ensures staff, clients, suppliers, etc are in the ‘communication loop’.

The importance of time

Just as single trip to the local gym for a strenuous workout won’t convert an unfit overweight individual into a finely tuned athlete with an Arnold Schwarzenegger body. The same principle applies to selling a business and extracting the maximum value for the owner.

It takes time and the earlier the business owner starts his / her succession and exit journey the sooner will they will enhance the potential to achieve the best price for the years of hard work and endeavour that they put into their commercial undertaking.

Equally, the supporting PR program requires time as the end game is to emphasise the value of the business not its price. Therefore the messages reach out and educate the target audience.

In summary

The business owner that wants to maximise the financial potential for the years devoted to their business needs to start their journey as soon as possible with the end game or finish line being their primary objective.

A PR program that supports this objective has many benefits including –

• A competitive and high-profile point of difference is created and the commercial advantages and expertise of the business are strategically articulated.

• It provides an opportunity to attract prospective buyers and investors – as well as new clients, alliance partners and business opportunities.

• A communication link is established that maintains and enhances relationships.

• Provides a platform to generate revenue by motivating clients to maintain their relationship, encourage prospective clients to utilise the products, services and expertise of the business – and in doing so contribute to the business bottom line and asking price in the event of sale.