I was speaking to a CEO recently who was very disappointed by the amount of media coverage his firm’s merger with another business had generated. His expectation had been for a significant number of articles in all the key trade titles for his sector. This was, after all, a major event for his company – the deal that could spell serious success. So why so little media interest?
Later that afternoon, I took a moment to read through the coverage…and the reason for the journalists’ lack of engagement was immediately apparent. No story.
There’s a reason why a news story is called precisely that; it is a story. There is a narrative, there are characters and there are happy – or unhappy – endings. While the CEO’s deal was of paramount importance to him and his business, it lacked any kind of story. We’ve done a deal, we’re going to make a lot of money. End of. Nothing for journalists to get their teeth into. No meat on the bone.
A deal of this type can generate considerable quantities of media coverage, but its PR output has to be structured correctly. Specifically, the journalist needs to know the backstory to the deal – why it is taking place – and the medium-to-long term effect. Will this deal transform companies A and B into the UK’s market leader? Will it make them top five in Europe? Will it allow them to harness the power of their research and development arm to create products that have the potential to disrupt traditional markets?
Then the are the logistics of the deal. Where will the new business be based? What will it be called? Will it be recruiting staff? How will the new business be managed? (Journalists are very aware that any merger or acquisition means the potential for job cuts and one CEO to be shown the door.)
What about the personalities behind the deal. Who are the CEOs and what type of relationship have they had previously? Has it been combative or chummy? Is one top dog and the other a pretender to the thrown?
These, then are the elements of a deal that turn a financial transaction into a living breathing story that a journalist and his or her reader will find compelling. The board may not see the relevance on these elements to their neat and rather curt market announcement, but if the CEO wants coverage, board members ignore them at their peril.