See how we managed communication of a merger of two leading Central European EduTech companies in eight different markets. These very practical steps can support the communication of your brand, too.
Do you need to spread important company news in more than one market at the same time? Is it a launch, a new investment or maybe a merger? Let us show you – step by step – how to manage a multi-market communications project. The guidance is based on our experience managing a PR project of a merger of Codecool and SDA.
Client: Codecool is a Budapest-based, privately founded 7 years old company present in 4 countries (HU-PL-RO-AT). It has close to 150 employees, more than 2000 graduates already, and 300+ corporate partners.
Software Development Academy (SDA) is a Gdynia-based (Poland), privately founded 7 years old company present in 6 countries (PL-RO-EE-CZ-SK-AL). It’s got close to 150 employees, more than 15 000 graduates already, and 100+ corporate partners.
Task: communications of the merger of Codecool and SDA in eight different markets where the companies have their operations (Albania, Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia) and in the international business media. Our agency was assigned not only to
- dispatch the news, but also to
- manage the whole project,
- be an information hub for local PR & marketing teams,
- execute a thought leadership campaign.
Timeline: 2.5 weeks for the preparations, execution, and reporting of the project + 2 months for the thought leadership part
Start with communications plan
There is a starting point that we recommend with any kind of project – creating a complex communications plan that later serves as a base of all the tasks that have to be done to successfully complete the project. It’s crucial to indicate the deadlines for each step and people responsible for completing it.
Disclaimer: As we are very straightforward and fair with you, below let us present the real picture – not the ideal one where we would have months to prepare a strategy, and weeks to work on the press release and pitching. In a rapidly changing business environment, such a friendly timeframe is not always rarely happening. So this guide will show you a down-to-earth, time-effective (and money-wise) way of global business communication.
As Enterie we were provided with a very detailed and professional plan of the merger communication by both companies and were only responsible for the Public Relations part:
Our strategic approach: news & thought leadership follow-up
From the very beginning we knew that the merger announcement would be of interest to the press for several reasons – including the size of the deal, the company’s growth potential, and the fact this deal could provide a new talent pool of IT developers from CEE, at a time when there is a desperate skills crisis in technology.
However, considering the fact that the merger will be a local thing, we also knew that it will only attract CEE-based media. Especially from the countries where the merged companies already operate (having a physical office and reps there). For this part of the assignment, we have used EnterieGO, our single press release service, and local PR teams of the merging companies.
Read more: What’s EnterieGO?
The challenge was to attract English-speaking, international business media. To address that we have decided to:
- prepare a media list which includes European tech titles, education titles, HR and other business media
- sell in the merger story and focus strategically on the wider business story – how this could address the digital skills crisis and help companies reskill/upgrade/transform their business at a time when it is critical to reduce costs
- offer interviews with the key spokespeople
- pitch articles based on the wider trend to secure thought leadership around the digital skills crisis, the need for digital transformation in organisations and how this talent pool from CEE can plug the gap.
This additional project – executed from the UK, as we believe the local, native teams are best at reaching out to local journalists – was supposed to last another one-two months after the merger announcement.
Once the plan was ready, we shared it with our partner agencies in the respective countries – together with a cloud space where later on we would upload press releases and all the other additional information that could be useful for local press release dispatch, i.a.:
- pictures and graphic materials (an example below)
- notes from the organizational meeting
- an internal Q&A document with all potential journalists’ questions coming to our mind
- reports with statistics that may be interesting in the context of the news.
Draft the press release
Not always the client provides the agency with a template of the press release, however in our case we were lucky to get it in advance. Knowing where to put the emphasis and what information to highlight, our PR specialists slightly edited the press release and once we received a green light from the client, we shared the document with respective partner agencies.
What we believe is crucial in such kind of news, is including a commentary of C-level company representatives where they share the insights of the transaction. It always adds a new perspective to the text.
We also advise to share – if possible – the amount of money involved in transactions, the revenue, and expected growth. No other thing but dollars and euros attract journalists’ attention.
Do not forget to include any other numbers that can be shared with the public, such as the number of your clients/visitors/graduates (our case), staff, percentage of your company growth y/y etc. Be creative, but cautious and honest! There is no space for understatements and half-truths when communicating with media representatives.
Not only translation. Localize the text!
Following the communications plan, preferably at least a week before the day the news is released, local agencies should start translating and localizing the press release so that there is still time for the client to authorize it.
The local versions of the press release should be a reflection of the original press release, but it’s always recommended that some local aspects are added. Those may include the regional Country Manager’s commentary, data and statistics from the local scene (in our case – the IT scene) or local market insights. We encouraged local agencies to use such research and data.
In the case of Codecool and SDA merger, the press releases from eight different countries were collected in one shared space to be approved by the client.
Arrange publications under embargo
Having the press releases ready, in all the corresponding countries we would encourage our partner agencies to arrange a publication of the news under embargo. It’s a recommended step, especially if the news is big and you believe it can easily sell to some key media outlets from the sector. In the case of the merger news, we managed to arrange publications under embargo in almost all the eight markets.
Embargo news meaning
What’s exactly an embargoed press release? Simply said, it is the one sent to journalists prior to its publication date. Media reps receive it and agree not to publish the story before the time agreed. This gives them additional time to prepare, research and write an in-depth story of their own.
To use such a strategy we need to be sure that we CAN do that (that does not apply e.g. to the stock news – according to the law all should be informed at the same time) and that the story won’t be leaked, which can ruin all the announcement communication. Good and professional relationships with a journalist are crucial to obtain that.
Be prepared for the D-Day
One of the challenges of the project, in spite of a short execution period, was the fact the internal announcement of the merger took place a day before the official press statements were to be issued in all the eight markets. There was a risk the information may leak earlier and consequently, on the dispatch day the news won’t be news anymore.
Luckily, that wasn’t our case. Operating in two distinct time zones, we managed to successfully distribute the news on the previously agreed hour on the D-day. We managed to have the news published in Tech.eu, Emerging Europe, Puls Biznesu (PL), Money.pl (PL), Forbes (HU), Ziarul Financiar (RO), IT Welt (AT), TVklan (AL), among others. (Some of them previously arranged under embargo – check the paragraph above.)
Some journalists contacted us and our partner agencies in order to coordinate additional interviews and so we would connect them with corresponding Codecool/SDA representatives in the country. We supported them and provided the CEOs pictures, etc. It is mandatory to have such visual materials.
Learning? If you are a comms pro in charge of distributing this kind of news, or even more – managing that in more than one country – do not plan anything else for D-Day. Some unexpected activities will surely come. 🙂
Make a smart Social Media move
Apart from a proper PR strategy for communicating your company news, there is always way more to do to create a wider picture of what’s happening. One of the means we recommend using is Social Media.
In the case of Codecool and SDA merger, the Social Media strategy wasn’t part of our scope of work, but it was so well-planned by the client that we believe sharing it may be inspiring for other projects.
Once the news was announced internally (and still before announcing it externally), the C-level executives of both companies would change their positions on LinkedIn – CEO at SDA would become CEO at Codecool, Country Manager at Codecool would change the position to Country Manager at SDA – all that causing a positive fuss for one day.
The Social Media strategy was intriguing and certainly arousing people’s interest in what was about to be announced, making the news resonate more.
An official LinkedIn / Twitter / Facebook communication is a must-do, and it needs to be coordinated with the announcement time (hour etc.). Usually, Social Media communication should not surpass traditional media outreach. Journalists prefer to get exclusive news, not something already trending on Twitter…
Add another perspective (thought leadership & fresh angles)
Apart from the main task of the project – in our case the communication of the business news in a number of the CEE countries – it is often advised to “extend” the communication and reach wider audiences. To achieve that you need to find an interesting and catchy communication angle.
Depending on the client’s needs, such additional coverage may create a media hype that increases the company’s recognition and helps to reach possible clients and, perhaps, investors.
We came up with an idea of creating additional coverage that would not necessarily be about the merger itself, but rather about the new powerhouse and its expansion plans. The angles of why CEE is a rich source of coders, the boom in digital skills in the region and what this pool of talent could offer corporate partners, governments, and large institutions in terms of improving their digitisation are interesting particularly how it could help them save money and transform their businesses or reskilling their projects.
Obviously, there is the argument that digital transformation in business has never been so important – with companies still trying to recover from the pandemic, it’s a way to deliver efficiencies, drive down costs, and increase productivity and competitiveness.
We agreed the additional task will take two more months and the arranged publications – ten in total – will be different from one another and will be featured in top-tier European media outlets.
Ideas of communication angles
We believed there were several themes that could interest the media – please take a look at the creative process behind that:
- War for talent – lack of developers / IT staff
- Digital transformation and need for organizations to have the right skills (upskilling existing workers)
- Learn to code from anywhere – tap into a trend to work from anywhere in the world (increase in people considering working remotely abroad)
- Training with a guaranteed job. As Uni students go back / saddle themselves with debt with no job guarantee at the end
- Graduates lack the skills employers need. Codecool/SDA teach soft skills and IT skills which are in demand
- Gender gap – Deloitte Global predicts that large global technology firms, on average, will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022
- Diversity story – encouraging more girls into IT (as a third of Codecool students are female, there is also a dedicated Codergirl scholarship program for them)
Five reasons women should go into IT
…and more! Not all of the ideas were used, but this can give you an idea of what it means to dig around the main subject.
Thought leadership results
Report and gather learnings
While the additional project of preparing and publishing ten articles related to the merger in different Pan-European media was still on, the main task of the communications project could be summed up a week after the announcement.
Having a clippings spreadsheet with nine different tabs – eight for corresponding countries and one for Pan-European media – our partner agencies filled their local clippings in. Based on the information, we created a shared report including the list of publications. All together, within a week we reached
- 110 quality publications
- in 8 European countries
- and 18 publications in Pan-European media outlets.
Learnings & follow-up with all involved
This very last part is usually omitted, yet really important. Contact all involved, talk through the project, and try to frankly admit what has worked and what has not. While news similar to the size of the previous one is never expected in a feasible future, such meetings also give space to generate some fresh communication ideas and angles.
We gathered three months after the beginning of cooperation. This long timeframe gave us a different, less-engaged perspective on the deliverables, structure of work etc.
For external PR teams like us, this is also important to get feedback on our work. Was the flow good? Was the customer happy? Did it influence its business in a good way? If you are interested how Enterie was assessed for this project, you can read it here or below:
Feedback of our work
“Despite the extremely short timeframe and complexity of the project, Enterie team has done an excellent job preparing a cross-European communications plan and executing it. They coordinated our merger communication on 8 markets, helping us to secure 130+ publications in two months.
The agency approached the project of communicating our news – a merger of the two leading EduTech companies in CEE that resulted in the formation of one of the biggest powerhouses of digital skills in Europe – in a unique way. First, they prepared one central press release (template) and managed to coordinate the creation of all the local versions. Then, Enterie very well coordinated the distribution of the news in 8 different countries. Finally, they started pitching to journalists with exclusives, proposing interviews, articles and thought-leadership pieces by our C-level executives. The angles of communication were genuinely customized for different kinds of outlets (…) [READ MORE].”
Viktor Bálint , CMO and Head of Expansion at Codecool
Do you have a PR multi-market project to run? Are you planning a launch in different countries? Or maybe you want to share investment news in a couple of markets at the same time? Contact us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s see how we can help you!