October , 2006 – Growing closer – As we both grow together
Integration through communications – the first joint trade show presentation following the merger
October 9, 2006. The gray-haired gentleman in the conservative, double-breasted suit is carefully studying the literature stand at the Design Center in Linz, Austria. His somewhat rough hands betray his past career in the basic industry sector as he is leafing through brochures on subjects like electric arc furnaces, secondary metallurgy and hot rolling mills for profile products.
This was a scene from the IS06 (Iron & Steelmaking Conference 2006), the traditional conference of the iron- and steel-producing industry. And although the host company, Siemens VAI, was only formed twelve months earlier by a merger, the entire presentation was already seamless. Visually, in content, and in terms of corporate culture. Visitors could clearly see: Siemens Industrial Solutions and Services – Metals Technologies Division – and the plant and equipment manu-facturer VAI have become a single integrated company.
When companies merge, their intent is to achieve more together than they had achieved in the past. But the simple “1 + 1 = 3” formula only applies when the participants are really on board and working together smoothly in every respect. That includes strategy, objectives, and product portfolio as well as the soft factors that should never be underestimated: functioning communications, understanding each other’s language, and shared cultural aspects.
A high percentage of all international mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures fail when the integration doesn’t also take place in people’s minds. This leads to the converse question: How much positive energy can be released in a merger when there’s favorable chemistry between the people and the companies? And what can communications contribute to such a result?
In the summer of 2005, Siemens
Industrial Solutions and Services (I&S) acquired the business of Voest Alpine
Industrieanlagenbau (VAI) in Linz. This merger created the world’s leading partner for plant operators and investors in the metals industry. The customer list, with names from ThyssenKrupp to industry leader Mittal-Arcelor, represents a “Who’s Who” of the steel and aluminum producing companies.
Once the merger that formed Siemens VAI was completed, communications were needed to leverage and advertise the new synergies, swiftly convert them into customer benefits, and give the company an unmistakable identity. In other words: to define and pursue a uniform approach in strategy, content, and design. This was a challenging task since it required uniting the tradition-conscious business units all over Europe into an overall communications concept while ensuring its consistency, and also coaching the agencies on-site.
In February 2006, I&S Group Communication (GC) invited three agencies to pitch. The objective was to develop a campaign enabling Siemens VAI to swiftly and effectively publicize its presence in the media, and to present a lead agency concept for the corporate design, implementation of the strategy and coordination of the contents of all communication activities. In both instances, Group Communication, represented by Silke Geisler (management), Alfred Baur and Jens Kautler, decided in favor of gernBotschaft.
Now, barely nine months later, some important objectives have been achieved. Others are well on the way to being implemented. This is an ongoing process but progress is already very evident at events such as the Iron & Steelmaking Conference IS06. The profile campaign is now unfolding in the industry media with five main themes. The print landscape projects a clearly identifiable look & feel, and a uniform regional advertising concept for the locations in seven countries is about to be launched. A well-defined Siemens VAI identity is being
developed and refined with the collaboration of strategists from both Linz and Erlangen. Tthe goal here is to not only support the external campaign but to also speed up the integration within the company.
Group Communications and the agency maintain a steady flow of communications with the individual locations, which were originally mid-sized companies acquired by VAI. On-site workshops in different European countries contribute a great deal of mutual learning and understanding. Efficient teamwork has developed between gernBotschaft as the lead agency and the colleagues of the other agencies.
After more than six months of conceptual, coaching and implementation work, there are significant results. Both the overall strategy and individual mea-sures have met with a satisfying level of acceptance, the participants are pulling together, and the results are widely appreciated. By 2007, according to the strategic plans of Siemens VAI, the integration must be essentially complete – a very good reason to now start defining and refining a clear and enduring vision for the future.