Exploring ways to enhance the website

One of the first impressions a firm can make is through its website. Industry communications specialists and web consultants speak to PE Manager about how GPs can enhance their online presence.

Years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find specific fund information or even in-depth profiles of partners on most private equity firms’ websites. But a confluence of factors – from the industry’s ongoing institutionalization to the realization firms could better influence public perception by providing more info on their own activities – has prompted more and more GPs to upgrade and enhance their web presence with all kinds of neat information not as easily accessible before. 

Industry titans including the The Blackstone Group and The Carlyle Group are considered to be ahead of the curve on the amount of content they provide and in what fashion, (including podcasts and thought leadership videos). In recent months, Carlyle has been revamping its website to now include hundreds of staff bios, more detailed investment case studies and more transparency on its portfolio companies. The website was in part designed to provide everyday visitors a clear rundown of what it is that Carlyle does, says Chris Ullman, Carlyle’s global head of communications, who led the redesign efforts. “We want to give someone in, for example, Montana, who may be reading about a Carlyle investment in their hometown, the ability to easily navigate our website and feel assured in our work,” says Ullman.

Below are some more features GPs may want to consider adding to their own websites:

Provide staff bios: It may seem obvious, but GPs should think about showcasing their in-house talent with short biographies of key personnel and their role within the firm. These bios can include details around past employment, when they joined the firm, academic achievements, boards that they sit on, deals or firm milestones they were associated with and perhaps hyperlinks to papers they’ve written or conferences that they’ve spoken at.

But should bio pages include contact details? Industry PR experts warn that including individual partners' phone numbers and/or email addresses can be a distraction to staff. Instead, a majority of sources recommend in-house media relations specialists and other support staff field calls and channel them to the appropriate person at their discretion. However a minority of sources praise the benefits that access and transparency can bring. 

Mention your firm's history: When was the firm founded? Who are its founders? When did it open additional offices or launch new initiatives? Again, it may seem obvious, but these are key pieces of information to include – even better if you can do it by way of a nicely arranged timeline or providing key milestones with dates. 

Use plain English where possible: It isn’t just industry professionals who Google private equity firms. For instance, a city council member may want to learn more about the buyout shop that intends to take control of the local manufacturing plant. Providing your investment philosophy and other website content in a way that is accessible to audiences not familiar with industry jargon widens your firm’s message to a larger audience.

Keep the news/award section fresh: A number of firms have added these sections to their websites, but fail to keep them populated or up-to-date, which can make both the site and the GP seem stale and inactive. Press releases issued by the firm as well as portfolio companies should be accessible, as should links to relevant news articles, guest columns penned for media outlets and even clips of partners’ TV appearances.

Highlight your successes: Has your firm been voted ‘Secondary Investor of the Year’? Won kudos in Private Equity International’s Operational Excellence Awards? Been given pats on the back by various associations or even governments? Don’t be afraid to list your plaudits clearly – but be mindful about how recently they were awarded. A list of old awards, with no recent additions, can give the impression of a firm losing steam. 

Consider language options: Firms with a global presence should weigh the pros and cons of including language options to their websites. The Blackstone Group’s website for instance allows visitors to navigate in English, Chinese or Japanese.Multilingual websites can increase your visibility in foreign markets where English is not as widely spoken, but maintaining a language option feature can be difficult. Anything changed to the English side of the site needs to be relayed to staff responsible for maintaining the Japanese content for instance. 

Create a blog: Partners who contribute to a blog or commentary section aren’t just spinning their wheels. Such items can help establish a certain degree of expertise in an area and gives the firm an opportunity to convey that specialist knowledge to a group of people who may be less familiar with private equity and venture capital. The right commentary can draw people in, increasing web traffic, and in turn possibly create proprietary deal flow.

Showcase your work: At a time when every GP seems to be touting their operation capabilities, it can make sense to prove your value-add skills with case studies of exits or operational work. Doing so allows the firm to demonstrate how portfolio companies are taken to the next level without relying on financial engineering.

Outline your ESG and CSR policies: Clearly explaining how the firm approaches environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues – as well as any corporate social responsibility (CSR) and charity programs – can go a long way in terms of winning over stakeholders or the general public wary of private equity ownership. Some firms, such as Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and 3i Group, actually have standalone websites for these purposes.