If there’s anything that enterprises have learned from their
acquisition activities, it’s that you can’t possibly think of everything you need
to do operationally and even strategically during a merger. One area where gaps are likely to turn up is on the web
side of the acquisition.

The first challenge on the public relations end may come from within corporate walls. Senior executives and the public
relations departments of both the acquiring and the acquired companies need to get their
heads together so they can develop consistent messaging and talking points that
go out to both web and non-web channels. Talking points include: What benefits does the acquisition bring to both organizations
and their customers? How will the acquisition contribute to the corporate direction,
and what can stakeholders expect to see from the merged enterprise in the
future?

Corporate announcements must be clear and anticipatory of
the questions that are likely to be raised. In the course of crafting these
announcements, one oversight public relations often makes is to
devote significant effort to meetings with the web and non-web presses and other
interested stakeholders and not as much effort to websites and social
media. However, most stakeholders and interested parties
get their information from the web. Because of this, there is a compelling
argument that web assets should be dealt with as aggressively as other assets
when it comes to ensuring a smooth corporate acquisition.

Corporate executives, product strategy setters,
and public relations personnel should consider these five questions (at a minimum) on the web side of any corporate acquisition.

1: How
should the corporate website be re-messaged or rebranded?

A common strategy is to redirect via web link visitors from
the acquired company’s website to the acquiring company’s website. Unfortunately,
the follow-through can break down once the redirected visitors are on the
acquiring company’s website, especially if there is no mention on the corporate website about the company that was acquired. At a minimum, visitors should see an announcement of the
acquisition with a link to a press release or an announcement that explains the acquisition
and how the new company will operate.

2: What
steps should be taken if a website is decommissioned?

For a period of at least several months, visitors to the acquired
company’s website can be redirected to the acquiring company’s website—but just
as importantly, there should be a decommissioning plan for the acquired company’s website, if decommissioning is determined to be necessary. This decommissioning
plan should include maintaining a property interest in the website’s domain to prevent other parties from taking the domain over to where it can create
confusion and adversely affect the corporate brand.

3: How
should social media be approached?

It’s easier for public relations to set a strategy for
outreach to traditional media and analyst relations channels than it is to set
a course for social media, which is much less predictable. This is why a social
media approach should be an integral part of the acquisition rollout plan. The
social media approach should address proactive communications to social media
channels as well as timely responses, especially if negative messages appear
regarding the acquisition.

4: What
is the immediate impact on web content?

Press releases and corporate announcements are usually the
first news of an acquisition that appears on the corporate website, but after
that, it is likely that new content will need to be developed concerning new corporate
product contacts and even changes in the products. Marketing should
have a content change roadmap in place that takes root in early acquisition
activities.

5: How
will web-based process flows change?

If the acquired company has an e-commerce channel, this
channel will need to be incorporated into the acquiring company’s e-commerce website. This presents immediate work for IT and for marketers, sales executives,
and product managers who are actively engaged in pricing and product bundling
and coordination.

Also read on TechRepublic