I believe that I speak for many of my peers when I say that watching the swirl of media around Nasdaq OMX’s handling of the Facebook IPO is cringe inducing. Let’s be clear, this is obviously a mess created by the business not the poor pr folks trying to put out the press fires.
I apologize in advance for this awful comparison. The Facebook IPO was about seamless as Kim Kardashian’s marriage. A lot of hype, a lot of money, a lot of press coverage, and apparently a lot less rehearsal and preparation than needed. It appears that neither was fully prepared for the speed bumps ahead.
Nasdaq seems to be making a lot of enemies right now. This event was supposed to earn back its credibility and make it some new “friends” along the way. But now everyone is coming out swinging against Nasdaq. Knight Capital’s CEO Thomas Joyce told CNBC that he dubbed the fiasco “the worst performance by an exchange on an IPO, ever.” EVER!
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal added insult to injury by outlining all of the crises that have occurred in the past 18 months under Bob Greifeld’s watch. That paragraph alone likely caused the most angst for Nasdaq and its press handlers. And today, the New York Post rubbed it in a little more by featuring an eleven-year old whose highly anticipated Facebook stock purchase is still in limbo. It’s never good for any firm to have an eleven-year old victim. Ouch.
So what is a pr and communications team to do? Get ahead of the problem when possible. Make sure that all hands are on deck during any large event. Second, decide early on how to best handle potential pitfalls. Nasdaq’s initial response to the press was to decline comment and avoid any press questions on Friday. The press and the public do not expect to have all of their questions answered during such frenzy but they expect something beyond a no comment. There was obviously a problem at Nasdaq. How about “We are addressing the issues and when we have definitive answers, we will communicate them.” It wasn’t until two days later that reporters were given any answers. That was a lot of time for others to fill the gap of silence. And finally, be sure that you loop in industry observers who can speak positively about your organization.
We can safely assume that the executives at the New York Stock Exchange are closely watching the press coverage. They are likely confident that they would have handled the Facebook IPO better than Nasdaq. Well, based on the bungling of this latest IPO, I think the NYSE has a pretty good shot of winning its next pitch.