Voxus works with small to mid-sized technology companies, many of them startups — and that means communicating information about acquisitions and mergers is a regular part of our PR efforts. In many ways, these business activities are the holy grail of tech PR. Whether your client is being acquired or purchasing another company, acquisitions are major news that can often get your client local and business press they wouldn’t otherwise be able to secure. But there’s also the potential for acquisitions to damage your client’s brand if the news is handled poorly. To help prevent that from happening, here are five tips for successfully pitching acquisition news.

Note that this assumes both companies are privately held, and you don’t have to deal with the extra level of legal scrutiny that comes along with a public company. That’s a different beast completely and my advice doesn’t cover this situation.

Get the story straight

Acquisitions are often kept a secret from one or both companies, but in PR, it’s important for you to know what’s coming so you can prepare in advance. Work with your contacts to get the basic information about the acquisition as soon as you can, and figure out the message you want to push through your PR efforts. Why is the acquisition happening? What do both companies stand to gain? What is the take-home message for customers? Getting this information in advance will make the pitching and interview process much smoother.

Reassure customers

When drafting an acquisition press release and talking points, remember that both companies have customers in their pipeline and this news could affect their decisions to buy. Many people assume that when a company is bought, their products will become more expensive or be removed from the market, or the organization will lose the close relationship it had with its customers. Make sure your release and materials address these concerns.

Work together

You may find yourself working with another PR agency if both companies have an agency on board. While none of us like to share our lists with the competition, the best tactic here is to play nice. It usually makes sense to split up pitching and let each agency reach out to the reporters that it has good relationships with. Make sure you decide in advanced who will manage interviews and who will track and report on coverage. Without coordination, you could end up double-pitching reporters and annoying them.

Prepare for the hard questions

Here are some common questions reporters will ask when doing an interview around an acquisition:

  • Why this deal happening and why now?
  • Will these two brands merge? If so, how long will that process take?
  • How many employees from the purchased company are joining the purchasing company? How are the leadership roles changing?
  • Will either company lay off employees?
  • Are your two customer bases similar?
  • What should your customers take away from this deal?
  • What will happen to the major products at the purchased company?

Prepare your spokespeople to answer all of these questions. If representatives from both companies won’t be participating in interviews together, make sure they know how to answer these questions on behalf of the other company.

Expand your pitch list

Acquisitions are major news and can often net your clients coverage in publications they would not normally be in. Make sure to pitch local newspapers and business publications like the Business Journal and Crain’s families. Some top-tier news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Fortune or TechCrunch have weekly mergers and acquisitions newsletters. But keep in mind that many top-tier pubs don’t cover acquisitions if you don’t disclose price and terms of the deal. Be aware and communicate to your client that this decision will likely affect coverage.

Image via Creative Commons and NY Photographic.