Private equity sponsors are often portrayed in news reports much like they were 15 years ago: as buyers that are focused on cutting costs and selling assets. What’s missing are stories about how firms have grown companies successfully.
These stories are often lost in the flood of press releases that private equity groups issue daily about new deals, fund closings and portfolio company acquisitions.
To be certain, sharing news about these developments is important for keeping key stakeholders informed. But the approach is shortsighted when it comes to reputation management. Most PE firms these days employ an excellent resource for supporting their industry image: operating partners who generally remain out of the public eye.
Ex-corporate chieftains are regularly employed by PE firms to work with portfolio company management teams, but too often these human capital assets are under-utilized for public relations. Their business acumen, experience and sector expertise should be viewed as another arrow in the strategic communications quiver.
Below are a few ways these executives can be leveraged proactively to support reputation management.
DRIVE INDUSTRY VISIBILITY & ORIGINATION EFFORTS
For many PE firms, the ability to attract capital and source deals is dependent on how well known they are within an industry.
Executives with expertise in a certain sector can be leveraged to share their perspective on key trends and developments with trade media reporters who report about a certain industry, helping to support a firm’s visibility among investment bankers covering the sector.
These discussions with reporters can also drive a consistent flow of media opportunities where the firm can have a prominent voice.
SUPPORT INVESTOR COMMUNICATIONS
Operating partners who work closely with portfolio company management are well-positioned to tell a story about how the business has grown under the private equity firm’s ownership. They can provide good insights to readers about what a firm has done to build a company, and position the firm as a grower of businesses.
Investors are looking more closely at how general partners are creating value at portfolio companies and adhering to environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) practices. Operating partners are in a good position to share news of socially responsible investment practices. They can serve as spokespeople in media interviews to highlight achievements within a portfolio company for articles that IR professionals can share with investors at an annual meeting or posting in a virtual data room to support their fundraising activities.
– Kelly Holman
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