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Granat on Cision-Vocus merger: Building combined culture is biggest challenge

Peter Granat, who resigned from his position as president and CEO of Cision to join Vocus as chief exec in June, explains how private equity firm GTCR’s plan to bring the two companies together to form a global PR cloud business is progressing, and how he is communicating the changes internally and externally.

GTCR bought Vocus in a $447 million deal in April, and now owns 97.4% of Cision, which it acquired from trade rival Meltwater and individual shareholders last month. When is GTCR’s acquisition of Cision expected to close?
Within the next couple of weeks. Now it is just individual shareholders that own the rest of it; Meltwater no longer owns any part of it.

Even though the merger is not yet complete, you have already started the integration process.
We are well underway in integration planning and working on things like the new brand for the combined organization. After acquiring social media analytics platform Visible Technologies earlier this week, we have another great brand that we will need to integrate into the overall company. I would expect the integration of the Cision-Vocus merger to be completed over the next few weeks.

In terms of looking at the best of both tools and content sets across each organization, we are already moving fast. Last week, Help A Reporter Out and PRWeb – two of Vocus’ most popular services – became available to Cision users. In addition, Vocus announced a strategic alliance with LexisNexis, increasing users’ news monitoring capabilities. This is a relationship Cision had with LexisNexis since 2012.

So our Cision and Vocus customers are getting the best of both services. There will be more of those types of initiatives going on through the end of the year.

What challenges are you facing in the integration process?
The different stakeholder groups and the communication and cultural integration of three different firms at different stages, sizes, and geographic markets.  We also have to take into account our different product and content sets, as well as our customer relationships. But building a combined culture is always the largest challenge in any integration process.

What is the main message you are trying to get out about the merger at this point?
The core message is the commitment to continue to make investments in this space. Putting Cision and Vocus together, along with the addition of Visible, plays on our investment and strategy to be a leader in the communication space. The intersection between content marketing, PR, and social is the sweet spot for the combined organizations and where we will focus in the year ahead.

How are you communicating the company’s changes internally?
Integration starts first with building a combined culture. With my comms team, I have been leading frequent town halls and comms strategies via video to all 1,500 employees across all the countries Cision and Vocus operate in.

There have been frequent updates as decisions are being made internally by the management team. As an international CEO and with my travel schedule, shooting videos and sharing them internally via our intranet is our most effective way to communicate and share information across different time zones and languages.

One of the values we have at Cision is open communication, talking about the changes, and sharing with the employees our decisions around products, market strategy, and platform content.

Vocus had some layoffs over the summer. Tell us about that.
The reductions in the overall organization were mainly linked to themarketing automation business we spun-off earlier this month called OutMarket. As a part of the spin-off, OutMarket has a new management team and a new brand, focused on the middle-to-bottom of the marketing funnel around demand creation and lead generation.

Meanwhile, Cision and Vocus will focus on the communication space, including awareness, reputational drivers, and buzz in the social space.

I am not commenting on the size of the reduction.

Are customers concerned about changes to their services?
We have not seen a lot of concern from customers about the merger, but we have had some questions from them about what the impact would be.

Both Cision and Vocus account teams have made customers aware that there will be no change to their platforms at all over the next year. There will only be the introduction of services which enhance the services they have today.

Customer communications come through the sales organization as well as through our marketing teams via email and through one-on-one phone calls during the account review process.

Any other joint acquisitions on the horizon?
I can’t comment in detail on this, but I can say we will definitely continue to make investments.

This article was originally published in PRWeek US on September 18, 2014.

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