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M&A Communications: Using Digital to Reach Diverse Audiences with a Simple Story

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A version of this post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

As we hit the midpoint of 2014, a spree of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) has led to an accelerated rise in global deal activity. In fact, data from Barclays Research and Thomson Reuters indicates that deal volume is on pace to reach levels not seen since 2007. This signals that the recent flow of large, high-profile deals is poised to remain strong in the coming months.

For prospective acquirers and targets, the successful execution of a major M&A transaction demands thoughtful communications with diverse stakeholders during a transformative and sometimes tumultuous period. Companies need to tell a clear, compelling story to their investors, employees, customers, government regulators and key constituencies. At the same time, they must monitor market sentiment and public perception to adjust their narratives to the fast-changing information needs of disparate audiences.

A regulation-compliant digital strategy is an important piece of an integrated transaction communications plan. During M&A situations, stakeholders have immediate questions and are increasingly looking for answers and voicing opinions through social media, search engines and public web channels. This represents an opportunity to drive scaled and tailored cross-channel communications around a deal’s benefits, milestones and anticipated synergies.

When planning the digital communications component of a transaction announcement, consider these actionable pillars:

 1. Monitoring for Intelligence

From blogs and forums to Twitter, there can be thousands of speculative interactions related to a rumored deal before a formal announcement is ever delivered. Companies should listen for stakeholder sentiment, key themes and potential leaks at the earliest stages. This type of monitoring – which can be supported through smart processes and new tools – not only provides useful intelligence for corporate communications and investor relations personnel, but it also informs the development of effective “what it means for me” messaging and optimized content.

 2Digitizing Your Story

For both internal and external stakeholders, an announced transaction often raises complex questions that require simple answers. In recent years, acquirers have creatively addressed this challenge by launching dedicated transaction websites to tell a comprehensive story and serve as a platform for additional updates and information distribution. Beyond the core narrative for the deal, these digital content hubs often include videos, infographics, educational modules and executive blog posts that serve to reinforce and simplify a deal’s rationale, purpose and path forward. In many cases, companies have also developed internal digital platforms to ensure that employees receive information that is tailored to their needs.

 3. Surgically Targeting Stakeholders

Once content is available online, take steps to ensure your stakeholders are fully engaged. Targeted social media promotion and search engine marketing campaigns drive content specifically to the audiences you are looking to reach. This approach – which enables companies to finely target individuals – entails positioning content within the social feeds and search engine results of individuals who use applicable keywords; maintain certain interests; and operate in specific global geographies. Google, LinkedIn and Twitter offer some of the best targeting options for investor and corporate stakeholder campaigns.

4. Measuring Against Communications Goals

Identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) – such as specific geographical visits to your owned properties, content page views and email signups – is an increasingly important part of any integrated communications program. Companies should use KPIs as baselines to measure how messages reach and resonate with the stakeholders who are most engaged with a deal. The process for obtaining these insights includes evaluating site analytics, social metrics and pay-per-click campaign results.

Today’s aggressive media cycle and volatile markets require real-time, targeted and simplified storytelling. To meet this need, digital communications should support investor relations, media outreach, employee engagement and external advisory efforts when preparing for and executing your next deal.

Gregory Marose, a member of Edelman’s Washington D.C. Digital practice, specializes in financial communications. 

Image by Jason Howie.
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