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A proposed marriage, where one partner might be on the fence or even openly hostile to the prospect, can be a lot like a merger or acquisition – a topic explored by a panel during an April 8 professional development program presented by IABC New Jersey. The program, “Mergers and Acquisitions: Strategic Communications Planning,” presented by IABC NJ on April 8, at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

An audience of communications professionals and students from FDU’s corporate communications program were entertained and informed by a panel of three M&A experts, who also engaged in a lively Q&A session following their presentations.

It’s important to remember there’s a difference between a wedding and a marriage, said panel moderator Kristina DiPalo, founder and principal, Elysian Communications LLC. Similarly, a merger or acquisition culminates like a wedding but the culture and relationships involved in the new union must continue to be cultivated, as in a marriage. She identified four stages of a merger or acquisition:

  • Launch Preparation – the 60 days before the countdown.

  • Countdown to Close – the final 30 days before closing.

  • Working as One – the first 60 days following closing.

  • Operating as One Culture – the 60 to 180 days following closing.

“Don’t over-focus on Day 1,” DiPalo said. “Each stage is equally important. Sometimes, companies ease up on the gas too soon after a merger or acquisition. That’s the period to lean in, to communicate more to maintain continuity.”

A merger or acquisition, she continued, “is one of the few times you have the complete attention of senior leaders, so take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen your communications functions. Communicate through a range of media … and experiment with social media. Find as many opportunities to be transparent and build trust.”

Panelist Stacy Quinn, director of internal communications, Black Rock, said it’s essential to give employees the opportunity to be part of the conversation by engaging them in two-way communications through a variety of media, including:

  • An online Q&A site

  • Various events and gatherings

  • “Rounding,” where senior leaders make the rounds by walking through work areas and talking with employees about their concerns and listening to their feedback

  • A candid senior leader blog

“Be sure to provide timely answers,” Quinn said. “And leverage the feedback to improve the transition.”

In addition, she suggested the newly combined organization  think about its employees into distinct audiences and identify the transition’s likely emotional impact on them – from rank-and-file employees who might lose their jobs and their understandable apprehension to longtime employees who, fearing dramatic change, might need help moving on.

Panelist Stuart Katz, president and executive producer, Elm City Communications, offered some key steps on “how to avoid a migraine,” including:

  • Manage expectations related to speed, quality and cost

  • Determine the approval process for communications – and get it in writing

  • Use technology to simplify the process. Wistia, for example, is useful software to garner feedback for a video before its release when preparing, for example, to communicate a merger or acquistion. [more needed here perhaps … such as, a pre-merger video, or a Day One video]

By exercising transparency, Katz said, “Employees will understand the thought and rigor used to drive the transition.”

In summing up her thoughts, DiPalo said, “Ultimately, employees and customers are not only the most affected, they’re the ones who will decide if the merger or acquisition is a success or failure.”


Click here to view Kristina DiPalo’s presentation

Click here to view Stacy Quinn’s presentation

Click here to view Stuart Katz’s presentation



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Are you a “know-it-all”? Have strong opinions? Known as the “resident expert”? These were some of the questions raised during IABC New Jersey’s Feb. 3 professional development program on developing thought leadership’s role in an organization’s communications.

When we think of thought leaders – Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, even Taylor Swift – those who impact society may come to mind. These individuals are all thought leaders to some extent, but let’s focus on thought leadership as a business strategy.

There are a lot of definitions out there. People use jargon to declare themselves thought leaders because they wrote a book or have an occasional speaking gig. So, what exactly is a thought leader?

Joel Kurtzman, a Senior Fellow at the non-partisan think tank Milken Institute, created the term “thought leader” and defined it as, the difference between content marketing and thought leadership is that you’re not just trying to further knowledge – you’re trying to further a discussion that leads to action.

Program moderator Jeanine Moss, founder and president of Turning Point Solutions, provided practical advice and a better understanding of how to position yourself or your organization as a thought leader, the impact, importance and benefits. The reasons for doing so are varied and can include:

  • Awareness of expertise – more inquiries about it

  • Higher and faster close rates – better demonstrate your expertise

  • Higher fees – differentiate your expertise

  • Generating revenue from new prospects and existing customers

  • Building reputation/brand as insightful, innovative thinking

  • Talent retention, attraction and development

  • Business growth

David Polinchock, Director of AT&T Big Data team, brought the story to life and introduced the audience to his successful path to becoming a thought leader. He showed how thought leadership is about engagement, interaction, influence and, most importantly, understanding your audience and what’s in it for them (WIIFM).

Todd Grossman, CEO-America of talkwalker, discussed successful thought leaders and how they maintain their prominence. Practical advice included what can and should be measured, and examples of how to get buy-in and support from the C-Suite.

The Q&A portion of the evening covered practical steps towards become a thought leader – doing it right and getting best outcomes; measurement specifics, and the caveat that consistency, collaboration and flexibility are just some points to keep in mind.

Our next event on Social Media Trends and Best Practices will be held March 5 at Rutgers University. Look for your e-invitation.

Resources: http://bloomgroup.com/ –Thought leadership marketing and http://amecorg.com/ –International association for the measurement and evaluation of communications.

You can find our panelists in cyberspace:

Jeanine Moss –@MarvelousIdeas

Todd Grossman –@toddgrossman

David Polinchock – @polinchock; http://blog.polinchock.com

Click here to view Todd Grossman’s presentation

Click here to view Jeanine Moss’s presentation

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