The appetite for corporate transactions clearly varies depending on which headlines you read. Recent reports by KPMG and PWC suggest that deal volumes have slumped, while investment directors at LDC recently told The Business Desk that the north west M&A market is in rude health.
Perhaps this is just a sign of regional variations.
Whatever your view and irrespective of the economic conditions, there will always be business owners heading for the door marked exit.
All transactions – whether acquisition or disposal – have one thing in common: the need for carefully managed communications.
We are frequently appointed to handle the communications around corporate deals in their many and varied forms. Our involvement ranges from drafting memos, scripting speeches and creating presentations to be delivered to staff and customers, through to handling all external communications such as press statements and newsletters.
We invariably have to use tact, diplomacy, sensitivity and a fair bit of professional steeliness to satisfy the competing demands of the various parties involved in a deal.
Everyone has a slightly different priority:
· Business owners exiting a company through an outright sale, merger or management buyout will want to ensure they have a say in the messages conveyed to staff, customers and suppliers. In most cases, they will insist that any reference to the amount they’ve pocketed from the transaction is not publicised.
· Buyers will be keen to convey the benefits of the deal to everyone affected, stressing the growth potential, their future plans and the symbiotic ‘fit’ with their existing holdings, while avoiding any firm commitments about staff numbers just in case a little bit of consolidation is required.
· Venture capitalists and private equity investors will want to reassure their funders about the soundness of the rationale behind their investment and why it is a great addition to their portfolio. They, too, will take care to avoid making promises they might be unable to honour.
· Meanwhile, ranks of advisers on either side of a transaction will want to shout about their involvement and expertise in the hope of attracting similar instructions in the future.
It really can be a minefield!
When business owners and their advisers are grooming a business for sale, they invariably look to cut ‘unnecessary’ overheads. All too often, PR is a victim of this approach. A short-sighted, false economy.
Strategic PR should be viewed as an investment. It can influence perceptions about a business, positioning it as an attractive proposition and ultimately affect the price tag that’s attached to it.
Ideally, positive communications about a business should be ramped up a good couple of years before an exit process starts.
News articles, commentary and interviews secured in key publications, supported by wider strategic communications not only help deliver new business enquiries but also put a business on the radar of potential acquirers.
If ever there’s a time to be bold, it’s when you want a potential acquirer to come knocking. So, rather than hiding your light under a bushel for the sake of cutting some spend, view PR as an investment that will deliver exponential returns.
Ruth Shearn, founder of RMS PR, Marketing & Design, has been providing strategic PR advice to business owners, private equity firms and corporate advisers for over 30 years.