4 Tips for PR Pros When Their Company Goes Private

Matt Purdue

The financial world is buzzing with the news of Dell’s $24-billion deal to go private. If your company goes private, you’re going to need to rethink your entire communications strategy from the top down.

Here are four factors to consider if it happens on your watch:

  1. Who’s driving the bus? Obviously, shareholders will no longer be one of your stakeholder audiences. But you need to dig deep into exactly who owns the company—and who their audiences are. In Dell’s case, founder Michael Dell will hold a controlling interest; Microsoft and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners owning major stakes. For a PR pro, new sets of influencers will demand your attention. Your communications’ strategy must address them, and your team must have experience dealing with these types of audiences.

  2. What’s the vision? A public company’s goal is straightforward: build shareholder value. But a private company’s objectives can be as idiosyncratic as its new owners. Are they in this for the long haul, or will they look to sell in a few years? You need to know where they are headed, and design your PR strategy to help them reach the finish.

  3. Going private doesn’t mean going silent. With no shareholders to answer to, newly private companies tend to clam up. This is especially true of private equity owners, who are notorious for keeping mum about portfolio companies. But companies in transition must clearly tell their story to stakeholders. You may have to work harder than ever, though, to prove the value of public relations to the new owners. Make sure you have the numbers to back up your argument that PR pays off.

  4. Think inside the box. Don’t forget employee communications. Employees are likely to be wondering about their careers, especially if the new owners had to borrow mountains of cash to close the deal. It’s vital to give them clear direction about the company’s future. 

Matt Purdue is Director, Media & Editorial Strategy at Peppercom. He is a former executive editor of Worth. Follow him: @Peppercompurdue.