After Five Marketing

M & A Communications

After Five Marketing became involved in developing and executing communications plans to support company acquisitions, mergers and integrations when Eaton Corporation acquired Aeroquip-Vickers. The communications planning and strategies did not stop with the acquisition itself, or even shortly thereafter. Actually, there were several related communications plans. The first of these was targeted to internal audiences (employees), the second to customers (distributors) and the last to end users. This experience serves as a good foundation on which to help other clients faced with critical communication needs during mergers and acquisitions.

The internal communications plan was designed to promote a culture of “transparency” via a surfeit of communications wherein employees would always be knowledgeable about changes that could affect them. The primary internal concerns were:
  • Continued employment (Will I still have a job?)
  • Geographic change (Will I have to move to keep my job?)
  • New reporting structures (To whom will I report?)
  • Salary (Will my current salary be reduced?)
Several strategies and tactics were devised to support measurable objectives like awareness and knowledge. Yet, the plan also contained objectives addressing perceptional issues like corporate honesty, openness and integrity.

The mediums used to deploy and receive communications were typical of standard internal communication practices and included:
  • Intranet site with response mechanism, rolling Q&As, physical transition status, etc.
  • Town hall meetings hosted by executive management
  • Informational video
  • Bulletin board postings
  • Department meetings led by transition champions
  • Suggestion boxes with personal responses and published responses when appropriate
The "customer" plan had several strategies but all were designed to prevent business erosion and maintain confidence in Eaton (and Aeroquip-Vickers) as quality suppliers. The background and market situation sections of the actual customer plan have been included here as an exhibit. Some of the following objectives (measurable) from that plan may be familiar to readers that have faced similar challenges:
  • Instill customer confidence that Eaton's business decisions will not affect their businesses
  • Make customers feel welcome to voice any concerns with the transitions and provide them with forums and avenues by which to do so
  • Establish and reinforce the perception that the consolidation efforts and acquisition will provide positives outcomes for the customer
  • Create anticipation for the new organization that will arise from the acquisition of Aeroquip-Vickers
  • Generate channel support for the actions Eaton is taking to become streamlined
  • Make customers feel like Eaton is and will continue to support the Vickers and Aeroquip brands
In terms of mediums and venues targeted to customers, the plan called for mailings, trade advertising, direct mail, editorial road shows, publicity (trade and financial press), newsletters, customer visits, and conference calls. The plan also included a Customer Presentation Kit which contained a premium item (shown) but also a customized PowerPoint presentation, ad reprints, media schedule, executive biographies and a video.




Most of the plan elements were executed, with the exception of the full “Kit” which was downsized. The original plan called for a pre-test/post-test of select attitudinal measures but given budget restrictions, we did some informal spot checking and a sample penetration test.

The final plan (targeted to end customers) was preceded by brand research such that we could position the new integrated entity relative to competition and develop and deploy key messages in our press materials, advertising campaigns, sales meetings, etc.   The actual plan in its entirety is too much to encompass here. Yet, it adhered to conventional communications practice including specific, measurable objectives and sound strategies and tactics. Care was also given to the branding components of the plans given a need to establish the nature and promise of the new combined entity.
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