How to create value in Private Equity through communication

Proa Comunicación has conducted market research on the communication habits of private equity firms in Spain. The study analysed the practices of the main GPs, LPs and advisors of the Spanish private capital industry. Our analysis concluded that despite the fact that the communication of the sector has evolved significantly during the past few years, there is still considerable room for improvement.

In the same way that Spanish SMEs must internationalise their activities to create value, GPs have to increase their international communication efforts. Mid-market and lower-mid GPs are the ones doing the worst in this aspect.

Most GPs and communication agencies assume that small ticket transactions are of no interest outside Spain. However, in actuality there are a large number of specialised media outlets reporting every day on this type of deals. Examples include Unquote, Real Deals, The Drawdown, Private Equity International, Private Equity News, Alt Assets, PE Hub, Private Equity Wire or PitchBook News, among others.

Each one of these media outlets has their own specialisation within the specialisation. For example, while Real Deals and Unquote’s core readership are mid-market GPs, Private Equity International and Alt Assets are more for LPs. Meanwhile, The Drawdown focuses on Chief Operating Officers. Other media outlets, such as Dow Jones or Bloomberg, save their energy mainly for large buyouts while they spend most of their time chasing scoops.

There is a bad habit of sending press releases in Spanish firstly to national media companies and a few days later that same information translated into English to international media outlets. Doing so diminishes the impact of press releases in international publications because their editors have a lower incentive to publish exactly the same information that others published before them, especially if an Anglo-Saxon competitor picked up the information in Spanish and translated it into English before he received the press release.

That’s why in an ideal world the agents involved in the private equity market should upload their press releases in English and Spanish to the news section of their website. If possible, those press releases should also include images of the portfolio company or investment team so that media professionals can illustrate their articles. Press releases should also specify whether there is a spokesperson available for comment in order to maximise the probabilities of getting more space and of better quality in the publication.

Imperfect information

Many GPs and advisors believe that once they upload their press releases to their website the whole community will instantly know about their news. This would happen if the market worked like an economic model with perfect information, but the reality is that messages have to be distributed through various channels to efficiently reach their destination. This diffusion effort is of ever-growing importance in a world with overabundant information, where messages have to be not only sent but also flagged to generate interest.

When one media company publishes something online their competitors tend to follow the same day. That’s why private equity firms should distribute their press releases to national and international media companies the same day that they upload their press releases to their websites. Furthermore, the stakeholders interested in receiving alerts on the activities of the GPs should be able to subscribe to their newsletters by filling out a form.

Reaching out to foreign media has great value for national GPs because at the moment Spanish LPs invest less than 10 per cent of their capital in Spain, and most international LPs don’t have the mandate to allocate to the country. It is therefore difficult to be recognized abroad if your firm doesn’t communicate outside Spain. On the other hand, there are many examples of Spanish GPs that received phone calls from international LPs to invest millions in their funds following the publication of news about them in specialised media, saving them several thousands of euros on placement agent fees.

International funds with offices in Spain have different problems than national players. They usually have to be very cautious with their communications to avoid contradictions or conflicts with their headquarters. The most appropriate communications strategy for them is to carefully coordinate the timing and content of their message with the headquarters. However, sometimes the headquarters and the subsidiary have different interests. On those occasions they can leak their messages with off-the-record statements and provide background information in order to convey their message to the market without seeming like they did.

In a similar way, advisors must obtain approval from their clients to communicate the processes in which they have been involved. This helps them to build their brand and position themselves as experts on a particular sector or type of transaction without incurring advertising costs. Publishing sector reports and guest comments are another way to achieve the same objective.

Beyond media 

Apart from connecting with specialised international media, GPs also have to communicate periodically with alternative assets data providers such as Preqin, Pitchbook, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones or S&P Global Market Intelligence. Many LPs, GPs and advisors use these tools to find opportunities, thus it is important to have accurate and updated profiles on those platforms.

Participating in events like SuperReturn or the Iberian Private Equity Conference is another way to generate business and grow networks.  In order to maximise their chances of success it’s good practice to know beforehand who will attend each event in order to arrange meetings with whomever they want to do business with.

Internal communications are often as important as external ones. Some good practices are to celebrate meetings and events with all your portfolio companies as a team-building exercise that may lead to collaboration. Another interesting option is to invite LPs to your offices to meet in person your investment team and attend presentations from the executives of your portfolio companies.

In an increasingly competitive market with a record number of active private equity firms, it is crucial to understand exactly who you are and what makes you different from the rest. Therefore, conducting surveys to understand how your firm is perceived among stakeholders is always a step in the right direction.

If you want to receive more information about how your firm can create value through communications send us an e-mail to info@proacomunicacion.es or call us at (+34) 910882334.