From The Rock

Why a PR firm should be a part of your merger or acquisition planning team

By | February 20, 2019

Why a PR firm should be a part of your merger or acquisition planning team

Last week, we received a breaking-news alert that SunTrust Bank and BB&T would soon be merging. The combined assets of the two banks will make it the nation’s sixth largest bank – so it’s evident why this merger was deemed “breaking news.”

While we found out about the merger last week, this decision wasn’t made overnight, and we weren’t the first to hear about it. Mergers and acquisitions of this size are planned and negotiated over months, sometimes years, and require the expertise of attorneys, executives and, of course, public relations professionals. Without the integration of a company’s PR team, a merger or acquisition can be an epic and devastating failure. I’m not exaggerating.

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post explaining why your PR team should have a seat at the table when major decisions are being made. The wisdom (if I do say so myself) in that blog post still rings true and could be applied to mergers and acquisitions, among other business decisions. Today, I will explain why your PR team is especially and specifically valuable during a merger or acquisition.

The order and manner of information delivery matters.

How a person hears the news of your merger is one of the most critical pieces of a merger or acquisition communication plan. One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is allowing the story to leak to the news without first informing its board, employees or customers. It’s highly unlikely that your board of directors would be in the dark during the process of a merger. But, it’s unfortunately all too common that a company announces a major change without first informing its employees. It’s unsettling to learn your company is being purchased when you’re watching the evening news with your family.

When you incorporate your communication team into your merger and acquisition process, your PR and communication team can carefully craft a rollout plan that outlines timing and messages for each of your audiences. These multifaceted messages will quell worries, answer key questions and reinforce benefits. Truly, well-planned PR is like magic, especially during a time when you need news to go over well. When these plans are executed according to the strategies laid out in the plan, the results can start your next chapter on the right foot.

You’re merging customers, and each group has unique concerns.

Hey, one of your loyal customers is here to remind you that I’ve invested time, energy and resources into your business! As such, I deserve to know about your merger and acquisition before (even if just moments before) the general public does.

For companies where folks invest a ton of time or money, it’s essential that the PR team communicate with its customers early and often throughout the merger process. Your PR team can craft a stellar PR plan that spans the entirety of your merger period (and even a year or two following) that includes initial outreach, how to create open lines of communication, employee fact sheets, Q&As, customer service guides, unique landing pages and so on. Your PR team needs time to create these assets, which will make the transition exponentially smoother for your clients. And, ultimately, that’s good for retention.

Mergers and acquisitions are scary for your front line and your bottom line.

No merger goes perfectly, and there are inevitably going to be hiccups throughout the process. When you include your PR team on the front end of a merger or acquisition, they’ll plan for these hiccups, and all of the other hiccups you’re not expecting. PR practitioners will help you prepare for all of the crises you’ll face, the ones you won’t see coming, and the ones you didn’t think you’d need to plan for (CDC Zombie Apocalypse, we’re looking at you).

This is especially valuable during a merger or acquisition, when stakes are high and your footing is shaky. Even strong deals have the propensity to make people upset, leading to employee or customer turnover and periods of financial difficulty. Your PR team can help prevent that turnover through proactive communication, while also helping you respond to the inevitable bumps along the way.