Among its myriad functions, a key role for public relations involves all things concerning mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Effective PR stokes and optimizes the M&A environment, whether a company is hunting or being hunted. Interestingly, the needs of the hunted, or those desiring to be, often tend to be secondary — if considered at all. This is a significant oversight.
PR can and should play a pivotal role in the acquisition process from beginning to end. Here, based on the successful acquisition of a client earlier this year, are some things you need to know.
Using PR to get your company acquired reminds me of the first two rules from the 1999 movie Fight Club: “The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.”
To be frank, if you want to be acquired, do not talk about it until the parties involved agree it is the right time. That said, you can and should send signals.
Our client was a highly regarded performance analytics company with customers in several vertical markets, including a significant presence in the retail space. To support our client’s efforts to be acquired, we executed the following three-step plan:
- Educated the business media about a growing problem for retailers.
- Positioned the issues being faced by our client’s customers and prospects as an expensive problem too technical to be solved quickly.
- Persuaded influencers and decision makers that in order for a company to solve this growing problem, they needed this client’s technology.
Simple, right? While most case studies focused on how customers improved their performance using this technology, the underlying message to potential acquirers was, “You should buy this company!”
To create an aha moment for potential acquirers, there is a clear need for a well-rounded PR program that stimulates thoughts of acquisition and can resonate on a variety of fronts. It entails developing and executing a plan that opportunistically inserts the company into conversations in which it needs to be.
What were the ingredients that helped lead to success?
The plan required extensive preparation and timely execution in each step. It was designed to reinforce the company’s leadership, increase executive visibility and drive demand generation in a crowded space. The ultimate goal and priority was to create the need for a top tech company to conclude a timely and strategic acquisition.
Here are some specifics on what we did.
Position the company and its executives as experts.
- Leveraged product announcements to showcase the company as the leader in digital performance management (DPM). This included press releases for individual parts of its solutions portfolio and positioning the CEO and CTO as the business and technology experts for company news and for commentary on industry trends/issues, op-eds and vision and trend stories.
- Provided outreach to vertical media, key influencers and tech, DevOps and IT outlets.
- Secured byline placements in Forbes, Fortune, Inc., Entrepreneurand The Huffington Post.
Consider holiday readiness and the state of digital performance.
- Showcased real user data – representing millions of user sessions – for ten leading retailers during CyberWeek to predict peak load spots for conversion rates and what online retailers need to do to achieve best results.
- Developed press releases and tailored pitches leveraging research with analysis and predictions on which day would be the most important and lucrative for online retailers during the holidays, with specific data around Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Free Shipping Day.
Leverage relevant events in real time.
- Leveraged the presidential election to bolster thought leadership and establish the client as the changing face of DPM using real-time data on the digital performance of the presidential candidates’ websites.
- Employed the company’s consumer performance index (CPI) to determine how website performance impacts consumers and used it for Super Bowl-related outreach around the top sites visited during the game.
Harness third-party research and conference participation.
- Fielded Harris Poll surveys to secure data around top shopping holidays and events including Valentine’s Day, the Super Bowl, back-to-school shopping, Black Friday/Cyber Monday and the release of the new Star Wars movie, to augment other results. The team developed press releases and bylines around findings and pitched news to all relevant consumer, business, trade and vertical press.
- Enhanced company visibility across multiple media channels through in-person meetings with key business, technology, broadcast and trade media at trade shows and conferences — securing immediate coverage from meetings scheduled during Velocity New York, SHOPTALK, eTail East and West and more.
Evaluation And Success
The ultimate success was, obviously, the completion of the acquisition by an internationally recognized technology company. PR played a consequential role by creating an environment that facilitated awareness of the attractiveness of the solutions for providing invaluable insights to decision makers and, thus, the company’s value to any entity looking to enhance its own offerings with cutting-edge technology.
What does a successful M&A campaign look like from the perspective of a company seeking to be acquired?
The real lesson here is that companies looking to be acquired need to know that a well-thought-out and successfully executed PR plan is an important part of the mix when in the hunt.
This article first appeared in Forbes.