Booster shot: How covid accelerated private equity marketing

When I started my career over 15 years ago, PE folks would laugh at me or roll their eyes when I talked about proactive brand management. This is no longer the case.

By Jennifer Prosek, Prosek Partners

Private equity firms, which I refer to as “the emerging market of marketing,” have recently become more sophisticated out of sheer necessity as a result of the pandemic, pouring millions into marketing and accelerating their brand building acumen. Here’s how I see this trend playing out in 2022.

Marketing spending will continue

Jennifer Prosek, Prosek Partners

When I started my career over 15 years ago, PE folks would laugh at me or roll their eyes when I talked about proactive brand management. This is no longer the case. PE firms that had a strong brand and reputation among current and prospective investors in the pandemic found that pivoting to virtual fundraising and deal-making was relatively easy. In other words, brand mattered in the pandemic. They also continued to attract talent in the tightest labor market in our lifetime. Those who were unknown or didn’t stand out had trouble. 2022 will be another big investment year for firms in brand, reputation, digital, video, audio and the like.

Firms will keep doubling down on digital

We will see virtual fundraising and virtual annual general meetings continue to be necessary as Omicron and other variants make in-person gatherings less popular. Firms will plow time and money into LinkedIn, which was often seen as a job seeker’s site by PE firms and their founders. But when covid forced us out of events and conferences and behind the screen, firms and founders realized the power of LinkedIn as a content engine. Founders like Orlando Bravo of Thoma Bravo and Mathieu Chabran from Tikehau began to publish and amass a following with investors, employees and potential talent. This trend will continue in 2022. Websites and digital profiles will be enhanced and revamped to best represent the brand and appeal to investors and recruits online.

Fundraising events will continue to be disrupted

In 2021 we saw a few fundraising conferences come back at “half-life” (Milken, SALT, Super Return Berlin to name a few), but with covid and other variants threatening these events for a third year, we will see disruption and innovation in this space as firms decide where to put their sponsorship dollars. Virtual fundraising platforms like Iconnections, which brings institutional investors and firms together via matching software online, are gaining speed and dominance as they offer a low-cost way to “speed date” investors where many of their competitors didn’t pivot or invest in technology and continue to rely on in-person networking.

Reporting on private markets will grow

As private markets grow and explode, so will the media landscape that covers them. More reporters will cover the space and there will be more scrutiny and skepticism about whether the private markets party will continue forever. And as social issues, equality and income disparity continue to dominate headlines, firms and founders will have to be very careful about how they show up publicly and how they express themselves.

PE’s cultural awakening will accelerate

Thanks to the most competitive talent market in our lifetime, as well as DEI and social movements and new workplace modes arising from the pandemic, the focus on retaining employees, culture and talent brand became well understood. This will continue to accelerate in 2022, and we will see investments by firms in places and spaces we have never seen before – chief culture officers, DEI heads and more HR, talent, branding specialists and consultants. And we will see regulatory bodies start to hone their focus and their measurement guidance on firms – those who have a strong start will be the winners. It won’t be enough to acknowledge the problem and have a plan. The majority of best-in-class firms will publish their results.

Jennifer Prosek is founder and CEO of Prosek Partners