You’ve all probably heard the news that AT&T Inc. plans to pay $48.5 billion to buy DirecTV. It’s a major deal that would create a massive new telecom and television company and, according to the Washington Post, will “raise fresh concerns about competition and options for consumers.”

It got me thinking about the major role public relations plays in the merging of two companies.  Mergers and acquisitions can be stressful and tumultuous for those involved, from employees to shareholders to consumers, but strong PR efforts can help ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible, creating one united company when all is said and done.

During an M&A, the public relations team plays a crucial role in:

  • Getting the Story Straight

When a major merger occurs, the media will catch wind of it and want to interview spokespeople from the companies involved. With the AT&T/DirecTV merger, just about every major news source has reported on it at least once. Therefore, it’s important that all people talking to reporters are prepared with the same talking points, background information, and language. This consistency will ensure the articles accurately represent what is really happening, instead of offering speculation.

  • Engaging Employees

Employees are a major part of any company’s brand and image, so keeping them upbeat and motivated (especially during a time of transition) is a large part of building this new brand. Employees will feel in the loop, and therefore respected and appreciated, if they are informed of every step of the merger process.  Send out a timeline, Q&A, fact sheet, photos and bios of all leadership, and anything else that will make employees feel like they are part of a new, cohesive group.… Consider hosting an after-work bonding event at all of the different branches where employees can get to know one another and meet new faces. 

It may also be worthwhile to offer media training to all of the company’s spokespeople. It’s important that when employees are talking to the media, they accurately represent the new brand, which I’ll address a bit more in the next bullet.

  • Building the New Brand

With a merger, it’s usually not possible, or advisable, to try to maintain two separate brands.  In the case of AT&T/DirecTV, AT&T will likely start to think about building its new brand soon.  For this example, the new brand may not be too different than its original, but in other instances, creating a fresh, new brand is the only way to differentiate the new merged company from the old.  Therefore, it’s important to create a strong brand that employees, shareholders, and consumers will grow to recognize and respect. 

From a PR perspective, social media will play a major role in building this new brand. Are the tweets going to be funny, serious, witty? Will Facebook posts be informative, playful, enthusiastic? The tone you take on social media should match the new brand. On press releases, the company’s website, and internal and external e-mails, use language that represents the new brand’s voice, mission, and goals.

Just remember, consistency is key. From the way the certain words are spelled to the way the new company is addressed, make sure all materials match.  

An M&A is a big deal, but it also opens the door to big opportunities… especially big PR opportunities.  It’s a great chance to amp up PR efforts and create a new brand with engaged employees and stakeholders.