Kristian Borbos of Ascelia Pharma discusses branding and IPOs

How to get your brand ready for an IPO

Published in Facts on May 22, 2020.

The build-up to an initial public offering (IPO) means juggling multiple tasks at once. Among everything else you’re also figuring out how to communicate your brand as you start the process.

We spoke with Kristian Borbos, Chief Financial Officer for Ascelia Pharma to get his perspective based on his own experience of getting a brand IPO-ready.

Kristian guided Ascelia Pharma through its 2019 public offering on Nasdaq Stockholm. Ascelia Pharma has also been recognized as the Best Life Science Company in Malmö by the Southern Sweden Chamber of Commerce.

Ascelia Pharma is welcomed to Nasdaq during its IPO

Ascelia Pharma is officially welcomed to the Nasdaq stock exchange

Why you should think about branding for an IPO

Investors are looking for companies that have a good story to tell. Having a strong brand helps you set yourself apart from the pack. For a company like Ascelia Pharma this is even more important.

“When you’re a small company primarily focused on development, journalists haven’t written about you before,” says Kristian, “an IPO is the first time you brand the company, so you have to do a lot of branding in a short amount of time to get attention.”

This is a once-in-a-lifetime introduction opportunity for a company. It will also be the first time that many companies will have such a spotlight on them from investors, trade publications, and the general public.

So how do you lay the foundation to make sure everything goes well?

Work with partners experienced with IPOs

The IPO process is intense but having partners who understand what it means to go through it makes things much easier. That’s why Kristian’s first piece of advice is to work with partners who are already familiar with the process of going public.

“Working with people who already have competence with listed companies and IPOs meant we were able to draw on their experiences as well,” he says. Whoever you bring onto your IPO team should have prior knowledge of what rules need to be followed to make things go as smoothly as possible.

“Things need to happen very fast and by the rules. You have so many things to keep track of, so it helps to work with a vendor that knows to look for certain things to keep within the rules,” he adds.

Get the language in your brand communications right

Kristian stresses that for a drug development company like Ascelia Pharma it was important that they worked on simplifying the language surrounding their work. 

“You can’t speak about how the drug enters your body and affects organs,” he says, “we had to go from a pharmaceutical company that mainly communicates to doctors and researchers to speaking to Mr. and Mrs. Smith”

This is particularly true for channels like your website where shareholders will look to for more information. In their communications strategy Ascelia Pharma ensured their website spoke to the shareholders in a language that was understandable, “branding and storytelling need to appeal to generalists that expect to acquire shares and participate.”

Kristian Borbos on Ascelia Pharma's branding for their IPO

Kristian (fourth from right) joins Ascelia Pharma’s management and board during their Nasdaq IPO

Pay attention to your website

Speaking of your website – it is an essential part of your communication strategy. This is where investors, media, and other curious parties will turn to for more information about your company. 

According to Kristian, “You build your branding through the website in an IPO. Decision-makers will turn to the website to learn more about you.”

Beyond that it’s also important to remember there are mandatory elements that need to be added to your site as part of the IPO process. You need to add investor relations (IR) contacts and articles of association.

If you’re working with an external agency to build or manage your site, this is when their prior expertise comes in handy.

Give external partners structured access to brand assets

Your external partners need to be able to quickly understand your brand story, brand identity, and brand assets, especially if you are working with communication and PR agencies. They need structured access to logos, brand images, and brand guidelines to create the best results for your company.

Having all these documents in one easily accessible portal saves you and your partners a lot of time throughout the process.

Prepare press release templates and brand images

Each press release is a mini-presentation to investors and industry media. They are a perfect opportunity for getting both audiences familiar with your brand throughout the IPO process and beyond.

In many ways, press releases set the expectations for the next stage of your business growth. To make them as perfect as possible, have press release brand images and your logos ready to go. If you are working with an external PR agency, make sure to review your brand guidelines and approve templates before the ball gets rolling.

Showcase your brand with a media hub

Give trade media and investors a centralized location to learn about your brand. Create a media hub connected to your website, or easily accessible from your site, that hosts brand materials like:

Your media hub can also include links to all your press releases and public documentation.

Internal communication also affects your branding

A brand or media hub does more than help external media and partners. It helps your team too. Brand consistency is incredibly important for an IPO. However, it is undermined if your team doesn’t have access to approved brand files. 

It’s important for everyone to know exactly where the right files are and that they can access them whenever they need to.

Employees are the first people that need to understand and connect with your brand. This is especially important for those responsible for communicating with customers and investors.

Your internal team always needs to know where brand materials are hosted. Relevant team members also need admin access to these resources to keep them updated.

Internal communication for IPO success

Bringing it all together for IPO success

A brand is much more than having a good logo. It includes the values that drive a company, the brand’s persona, and crafting messages that resonate with customers.

Bringing all these elements together helps your team build a strong foundation when prepping for a public offering. Here are the highlights of what you need for IPO branding success:

  1. Think of how to streamline your communication and branding before the process begins
  2. Work with experienced external partners who are familiar with the IPO process and its rules
  3. Ensure your language is easy to understand for people without direct knowledge of your niche – communicate in plain English (or your primary language) as much as possible
  4. Make sure your website is prepared for primetime and has all the mandatory elements necessary in an IPO
  5. Give partners necessary access to your brand assets and ensure they understand your guidelines on how to use them
  6. Create an easy-to-access brand hub for media and other interested parties

An IPO is intense and requires a lot of work and preparation. However, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience just as it was for Kristian and the Ascelia Pharma team.

“We were a small team that created a lot of noise and all of a sudden we were the talk of the town. The attention we got helped everyone feel even more connected to what we were doing.”



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