2018 could very well be the “Year of Consolidation” in the MLS industry. With the recent NAR move towards an “MLS of Choice” policy, we are likely to see a huge momentum build towards consolidation, especially in the second half of next year. That’s because smaller MLSs are going to find profitability under their current pricing model impossible. The simplest (and most often the best) solution will be to merge.
By failing to plan for the role communications and PR plays within a consolidation, you are planning to fail. That’s because an effective communications and PR plan is vital to the success of any consolidation. Without it, at the very least, you will fail some of your members as they will not feel included, and at the worse, you will fail all of them, as they all, may feel, in some way, left out.
Importance of PR
PricewaterhouseCoopers wrote about mergers “the need for effective communication is often overlooked or underestimated in the flurry of activity surrounding a deal. Executing a strong and clear communication strategy is critical to successful integration.”
That came from an accounting firm: the folks that typically ask why you are spending so much money on advertising and PR?! Ask any professional consultant who has lived in the world of company consolidations about the importance of internal communications and external public relations. You’ll quickly understand this is a corner you do not want to cut. It is a vital business tactic. In some ways, consolidations are all about communications.
Let’s look at just a few of the practical tactical communications and PR activities that are needed for planning any successful consolidation:
- What are we telling our employees, our vendors or strategic partners, our investors, or other stakeholders about the goals, timeline and expected outcomes of the consolidation?
- When are we telling whom, what and when?
- What are the best internal communication channels we can use to communicate to our staff?
- What are the right messages for each phase, and when do we communicate these and why do we use just these channels and the right timing?
- How do we mitigate the chances of internal communications being leaked externally, keeping internal messages internal?
- What is our story, the story we want to tell?
- What are the key phrases that we want to emphasize and resonate with our key audiences?
- What are our core message points that we want to repeat again and again?
- What is the single overriding communications objective, or one takeaway that we want people to walk away with after they hear our story?
- What are the types of communication channels we need to use for each audience we need to reach?
- What are the types of communications we need to create to tell our story – news releases, bylined columns, guest blogs, social media posts, images, videos, podcasts, etc.?
- What type of media training do we need to provide the spokespersons?
- What type of digital background material do we need to create to have available for business news journalists (i.e. digital press kit – backgrounder, fact sheets, bios, FAQs, historical timelines, etc.)?
- What type of presentation material do we need to create for telling our story to all of our audiences (internal and external) – presentation decks, newsletters, CEO video messages, email updates?
- Who will monitor and engage on social media and what are the rules governing engagement?
- How can we get our PR messaging – our story – quickly integrated into all consolidation partner websites, social media channels and internal communication channels?
These are just some of the top-level tactical communications and PR activities that are needed to be part of a consolidation plan. As you can see, it’s a heady task to make sure all of the boxes are checked, and it’s an even larger undertaking to make sure all of these tactics are implemented and monitored to make sure they are firing on all cylinders.
Getting Expert Help
Outsourcing some or all of your communications and PR needs for a consolidation makes sense for a few reasons. In addition to requiring a lot of effort, it also takes skill, one that gets a lot better with practice. I can say this from experience.
For me, I confess that it was a lot easier handling high-profile mergers like The First (Orlando) and CenTrust (Miami) after working on several smaller ones. I was able to learn a lot from my mistakes – and just the process itself, when I headed up the PR efforts for mergers and acquisitions for Great Western Bank (now Chase).
The fact is you can’t afford to make a mistake with a large consolidation. And it hurts if you do, often deeply, with even a smaller one. Hiring expert help increases your chances for success.
The biggest casualty of poor communication is often the early loss of your best people. They are typically gone before you know they have even left. A botched communications and PR plan can often be the tipping point for their departure. A well-executed one, one of the main reasons they stick around to see what happens. So the money you spend for communications and PR assistance, built into the consolidation budget, is a project expense that is well invested.
If you need help with a consolidation, contact Victor Lund at the WAV Group here.