Communicating the Merger

By Kirk Dorn, Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy

When two companies merge, or one is acquired by another, the immediate reaction from many stakeholders is trepidation.

Employees may fear for their jobs or benefits. Stockholders worry about profits. Customers wonder about the quality of the product.

At Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with business owners as they’ve gone through the process of merger and acquisition. Our job is to help them get the proper message out to all concerned parties.

And, in doing so, we are always guided by one word: Reassurance.

Clearly, transactions like this are not always good news for all sides. After all, the point of a merger is efficiency and that often translates to fewer employees. When two organizations become one, they don’t need two chief financial officers or, perhaps, as many workers at the plant.

But the goal, of course, is the greater good. We aim to reassure everyone involved that the changes will ultimately be beneficial for the future of the company, its investors, its workers and its customers.

Recently, we worked with a large educational services company that was acquired by a much smaller company. It was that rare case of a minnow swallowing a whale. Concern rippled through the staff of the company being taken over. We needed to let them know they were in no current danger of losing their jobs. Reassurance.

In another case, we represented a high-end restaurant group that was bought out by a larger restaurant company. It’s fair to say that the purchasing group’s chain of restaurants were more basic, in both price and menu. We moved to let all concerned parties – including patrons – know that the fancy eateries’ quality would not be compromised. Reassurance.

The first order of business in both cases was to help the companies’ leaders prepare their message breaking the news to high-ranking managers. Those managers, in turn, explained the changes to groups of employees.

In-person meetings are always best in these cases because impactful news deserves personal attention. Something might get lost in translation, even in well-written memos. Ceisler Media experts helped the managers prepare scripts they could read or use as cheat sheets. We also equipped them with likely questions and appropriate answers.

If an in-person meeting is not possible with every employee, we recommend video as an option. In these cases, the spoken word is almost always more effective than the written word.

Then there are the customers. In the case of our educational services company, we needed to reassure affected school districts that, even after taking on a large debt service, the newly created firm could still deliver the excellent service they were used to receiving. So Ceisler’s team helped company executives script phone calls to every school district.

For that restaurant acquisition, a main objective was to tell customers of the fancy establishments that food quality would be as good as ever. So we told frontline staffers to refer any customer questions to management. In these deals, worker bees are usually the least affected – you still need cooks and servers and busboys. The savings come in the back office – accountants, IT staff, HR people. Once those frontline employees understand their jobs are secure, they are happy to support the company and turnover inquiries to managers.

Keep in mind that any written materials for employees could make their way to news media.

Remember that if you are preparing an email blast or letter.

Ah yes, the media. Once employees have been informed, it’s time to broadcast the news – if there is a reason to do so. Sometimes the mergers or acquisitions aren’t all that interesting to media or there is no benefit to coverage. That’s a determination a Ceisler Media communications expert can help make. We have had cases where one company bought another to bail it out. It was not in either’s interest to publicize the deal.

If, however, there is a benefit to publicly sharing the news – or if it somehow gets out inadvertently – you’ve got to prepare your messaging. Come up with as many questions and strategic answers as you can for media interviews. Conduct mock interviews with the CEO. Know that when you go to the media you are talking to all of your audiences, as well as employees who already know the news.

Even as you prepare the message, realize ahead that you may not be able to answer all questions. False information may get out there. Sometimes you have to stay silent because you cannot validate – or dispel – a rumor.

One final point: The mergers and acquisitions we typically hear about in media are the huge ones. The rules change in those mega-cases because they receive so much scrutiny. But for the average case, following a systematic plan of reassurance for all audiences will produce the best results.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.

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Event Recap: “Get Social: How to Approach Online Influencers Now”

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By Brianna Rooney

On Tuesday, October 30, PPRA invited six panelists to discuss the fast-changing field of working with social influencers. Some panelists work with influencers daily, while others are influencers themselves who shed light on best practices. Participants included:

• Alex Bodgen, Visit Philadelphia
• Emma Fried-Cassorla, Philly Love Notes
• HughE Dillon, Philly Chit Chat
• Paige Knapp, Devine + Partners
• Kevin Chemidlin, PhillyWho Podcast
• Ja-mel Vereen, Cuba Libre Digital Media Producer and co-founder, Wooderice.com
• Moderated by Michelle Conron, Cashman & Associates

The panel kicked off with participants talking about why social media influencers are important and all were able to reinforce the same point – you’re showing content through the eyes of someone your audience trusts, someone they’re already following and creates an authentic conversation. With a lively conversation, audient members scribbled down notes on three key points: how to work with influencers, how to engage influencers and how to measure campaign outcomes.

In order to make sure PR pros set them up for success while reaching out to influencers, panelists broke down the best way to work with influencers:

• Build and invest in personal relationships.
• Understand their work and how a project can fit what they’re already doing.
• Keep an open mind – consider the influencers opinions as well and make it a collaborative effort.
• Offer them an exclusive.
• Compensate them for their time – respect their time and create an appropriate business relationship.

The audience was highly engaged and backed up a little – asking how to find these influencers before engaging them. Panels broke down a few easy ways:

• Look at top photos from Instagram locations.
• See who other influencers follow.
• Post a call to action – looking for photographers? Post about it!
• Look into business trade associations to see who members are.

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Finally, once you’re able to successful engage influencers, evaluation and measurement is important. Below are some tips for showcasing success:

• What content did you get? Can you re-use this on your website, social media and more?
• Qualitative measurement is as important as quantitative – look at the engagement and comments, highlights would include commentary such as “Wow, this is a cool event, where can I get more information”
• Make sure to get analytics from the influencers to see number of followers gained, Instagram Story views, etc. This will be part of your initial business contract and important in showing the value of the partnership

Do you work with influencers and have best practices? Tweet us @PPRA to share!

Tips to Help Team Members Grow

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By Maven Communications

There comes a point in everyone’s career when they are charged with managing an intern or a team member. This is more than your job, it’s a responsibility that can greatly affect the future of your team members. Interns look for positions to gain job experience and junior level staff look to learn and grow from their senior peers and managers. Providing feedback is a key part in mentoring a team member to produce the kind of work that you, your company, and clients expect.

Here are a few tips for managers to consider when providing feedback/mentorship to interns and junior level staff.

1. Create the right mix of honesty and encouragement: Provide truthful feedback that helps them learn what they can do better, while also providing positive affirmation by pointing out what they’ve done well.

2. Set expectations: From the first day, let your team members know the types of projects they will be working on, the importance of each part of the work, and the standards expected. Explaining the full picture of the projects helps them realize the important role even simple research can play, thus making them want to do even the mundane work well.

3. Provide examples: It always works best to provide samples to similar project work. This allows the intern/team member to evaluate what kind of outcome is expected.
Create a continuous learning experience: The review process is part of the learning experience, so set feedback check-ins to review parts of the project throughout the process. This will allow the team member to continue to improve while ensuring that they also understand. Once they have a grasp on the work, these check-ins can become less frequent.

4. Share the process that works for you: Sharing tips about what works for you can be useful to help them develop good work habits. This can range from telling them how you approach a project to walking away from something they’ve written for a few hours and coming back to it to proof with fresh eyes.

5. Share your experiences: We have all been in their shoes and have a few of our own war stories. Be relateable to them by sharing some of your experiences, especially the times where you faced hardships/struggled.

Using these tips can help create an effective team and gives interns and team members a positive experience that can have a lasting impact on their career. It often will lead to you being considered a trusted mentor.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS: INFLUENCER CAMPAIGNS DONE RIGHT

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By Skai Blue Media

Social media is one of our favorite things to talk about here at Skai Blue Media, and for good reason: it is perhaps the most valuable and prolific resource available for brands to communicate with audiences.

Whether you are launching your brand, debuting a new product or simply looking to gain exposure, the first thing experts will tell you about any social media platform is to get to know the players. This means reaching out and fostering relationships with relevant users and established brands.

Aligning yourself with key personnel not only provides insight into what works for your target audience, it creates valuable opportunities to access and leverage the large following of these major brands through influencer campaigns.

Mogul, the user-generated, global information-sharing platform for women that reaches over 18 million people per week, is a shining example of influencer relations done right. We recently worked with the Mogul team to plan and execute their successful #IAmAMogul campaign, and have consolidated our expertise into these 5 steps for a successful influencer campaign:

1. Define Goals

Before you begin tweeting every big name in town for shout-outs, consider what you want to accomplish with this campaign, and be specific. “I want to gain exposure” sounds great, but how can you measure that? For #IAmAMogul, we established more concrete, metric-oriented goals such as “drive traffic to the site” and “increase social media followers.” This helped to focus the planning and execution of the campaign.

2. Qualify Influencers & Inspire Participation

The best influencers for any campaign will be authoritative and relevant to your brand and audience. Justin Bieber has an outstanding Twitter following of over 79.9 million, but that would not necessarily qualify him to discuss topics like gender equality for #IAmAMogul. Instead, we sought out 39 prominent women whose voices and experiences called attention to women’s issues and who are representative of the Mogul brand, such as Kelly Osbourne, Alysia Reiner, and Shiza Shahid.

It is imperative that you do not contact influencers for the first time asking them to participate in your campaign. Ideally, brands should begin fostering these relationships far in advance, allowing them to grow organically.

3. Plan and Co-Create Content

It is important to choose the appropriate content and medium to compliment your brand and influencers. Mogul’s mission is to provide women with information to become the best versions of themselves as possible, so we asked #IAmAMogul influencers to contribute op-ed style guest blogs to the platform or share special custom graphics on their social media pages.

4. Measure & Optimize Performance

Remember that you chose an influencer campaign to access larger audiences and enhance your brand’s performance, so simply asking influencers to post on your behalf will not accomplish the specific goals you set., You need to interact with new audiences by following them, answering their questions or even just saying hello. Assigning one team member to check and re-check all social platforms and track campaign metrics daily via Sprout Social or another media management tool is a smart move.

For example, actress Jessica Biel did not directly participate as an #IAmAMogul influencer, but still viewed and re-tweeted #IAmAMogul content via via WomenCare Global CEO Saundra Pelletier. Her single tweet was one of the most impactful posts from the entire campaign, earning over 780k impressions.

5. Repeat

Influencer campaigns are centered on relationships, which should not be conditional. Therefore, it is important to continue to leverage new relationships after campaigns end. At the very least, reach out and thank influencers for their participation and make yourself available for contact in the future. This helps strengthen the association between your brand and your influencer in the eyes of their audience.
No one succeeds in a vacuum and choosing the right allies for your brand is critical to social media campaign success. Keep these steps in mind when you are ready to assemble your VIP dream team and view case studies and learn more about #WhatWeDo on our website.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.

From Reporting to PR: Lessons Learned

By Larry Miller, Ceisler Media

In my job as special projects manager for Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy, I frequently work with reporters. I think I have a good understanding of what they want and what they need. Because not too long ago, I was one of them.

I’m a guy who crossed the street, transitioning from a journalism career with the Philadelphia Tribune to one in PR here at Ceisler Media. Doing both jobs has helped me. I understand the roller-coaster relationship between people who write the news and those who want their stories told – or maybe not told.

And I think I can offer a few tips to both sides.

First, a little about my background. I was raised here in Philadelphia. I graduated from Overbrook High, hung out in Germantown as a young man and remember taking my girlfriends to dinner and a movie in Center City for just $50. Ancient times, right?

I studied journalism at Philadelphia Community College, and quickly learned the profession was tough to break into. So I knocked around professionally – working in construction, helping out at Drexel’s bookstore and freelancing as much as I could.

I was banging out two or three freelance stories a week for the Philadelphia Tribune when I finally got my break in 2004. They hired me fulltime.

I remember my first story on the job. There had been a homicide in the city, resulting from a fight between black and Cambodian kids. I went to the site and there was blood in the streets.

No other reporters were there, so I went up to the victim’s family and spoke with them. I was not emotionally prepared for that. But I had to talk to them like they were my own family. It was among the toughest stories I ever had to report.

Over the years, I covered the police beat, education stories and lots of trials.

And, of course, I worked with public relations people.

The first thing I’ll say about the give-and-take between news media and PR people is this – relationships matter. Interpersonal connections are supremely important. Always carry your business card and hand it out to everyone.

Media is transient, especially in television. So you need to constantly network to keep up with all the changing faces. Make all the contacts you can in both the print and broadcasting end.

Now, networking has changed, of course. These days, social media is such a huge part of it. There’s no way to survive without it. There are people I might never contact on the phone – but when I reach out on Facebook, I’ll hear right back. Social media may sometimes feel like a necessary evil, but it’s critical.

The more you know people, the more you know what they need to do their job. When I was a reporter, I regularly dealt with Brittany Tressler at Ceisler Media. Because we spoke so often, she always knew the kind of stories I was looking for. When she called, her story usually ended up in the paper.

Hey, relevancy matters. During my days at the Tribune, I would sometimes be amazed when a PR person called trying to sell me on a story that had no impact on my readers or my community. If you’re pitching me, make sure it’s something I can use.

A smart PR person will keep up with the news and try to make a reporter’s job easier. Maybe you’ve got something I can weave into something else I’m working on. Broadening the story always makes me look better with the community I’m covering – not to mention my editors.

Have I mentioned trust? That’s supremely critical. No one wants to be lied to. And often you won’t get a second chance. Media and PR can sometimes be adversarial, but most disagreements can be worked out if you trust the other person is at least telling you the truth.

Kirk Dorn of Ceisler Media was a PR person I always trusted in my newspaper days. When Kirk would give me something from the Philadelphia Housing Association, a group he still works with, I knew I could believe its accuracy. And I knew he wasn’t wasting my time.

Kirk called me in December 2015 and offered me an interview to come work here at Ceisler Media. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to cross the street. But I felt it was a good time for a change. And I knew this job would incorporate many of my skills as a writer and someone who enjoys talking to people.

There are certainly nuances on this side of the business. When you’re a reporter, you’re seeking as much information as you can. When you’re in PR – well, don’t ever lie, as I said earlier. But sometimes you’re privy to information that reporters want to know, but you might be wise not to tell them. Discretion is key.

Of course, there’s the other side of that, which I learned by working at the Tribune. Sometimes, a good PR person needs to show clients that it’s in their interest to be more transparent. I think I can now see this from both sides and strike a good balance.

It’s important now for me to always realize that I’m speaking for the client. Sometimes, I might be the face on TV answering the questions, and my client trusts me not to make a misstep. Savvy and an ability to think on my feet can really help the client.

I know how reporters think. I’m not saying that as a bad thing, but I need to be prepared if they throw me a question that I might be smarter not to answer. I have to know when to stay on script. I can anticipate the tactics, the pitfalls. Hey, I know where a question can lead you.

Being in PR gives me a broader perspective. I’ve always liked being in the middle of things. On this side, I’m often on the inside. I see the total picture.

Knowing the city, its issues and its important players really helps. Hey, the more you know, the better you are. That’s true in every business.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.