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Let’s say you recently received a memo from your company’s board of directors saying your business is merging with another. (Cue the ominous music as all the hypothetical scenarios, questions, and concerns race through your mind.)
As the communications representative, you’re in charge of getting the word out. Mergers and acquisitions are common, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, successfully publicizing an acquisition, sale, or merger can be a challenge.
To help make the communications process easier, we suggest having a plan of attack. Asking some initial, strategic questions will help alleviate anxiety and shape your plan. Think through the basics:
• Who are the essential audiences for the news?
• How do you think they will respond?
• When should you communicate to each target audience, and how do you prioritize them?
• Where should you communicate your messages? Social media, email, in person?
Answering these questions is crucial and will dictate the timing, messaging, execution, and responses to your communications strategy. Secure key messages and all your documentation (news releases, shareholder letters) before you make the announcement. Once the message is out there, it’s hard to control. (Consider staffers telling friends, who in turn might tell the media.)
Now it’s time to start sending out your key messages to your different audiences.
Before communicating to customers or the public, start internally. Make sure executives, colleagues, and staffers know about the deal and are aware of the benefits. Conducting communications trainingto ensure everyone in the company can discuss it publicly is helpful. If your business is large enough, you can work with human resources to help with internal communications. (See our previous blog post: M&A Communications for HR Professionals.)
Next you want to inform your shareholders, customers, and partners—anyone and everyone who directly interacts with your business. You don’t want them to hear about the situation through the media first, particularly if you’re in a business that goes by a “customers always come first” credo. Send a personalized letter or email, and make sure to provide updates as soon as they happen.
After all immediate audiences are notified, you can inform the public and media. Social media is a good place to announce the merger beyond the walls of your staff/customer community. For the news media, contact reporters via email, telephone, or social media with a script of developed talking points so you are prepared for questions. As the announcement rolls out, maintain contact with the reporters writing the story and be readily available in case they need to contact you.
Even though there is an order of which audience is notified first, make sure you communicate to each group in rapid succession to control the message the best you can.
Overall, the communication process varies among companies and industries. There might be protocols you must follow, switching up the communication order of the announcement.
Either way, you want to make sure everything is timely and in sync. Remember to be readily available after the announcement has been made to address any questions or concerns.
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