The Alcoa-Reynolds Merger
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The Alcoa-Reynolds Merger

When Alcoa, the world’s largest aluminum producer, acquired rival Reynolds Metals on May 9, 2000, it activated an ambitious global communications program that generated excitement about the merger on “Day One” and beyond.

Paul Holmes

 

When Alcoa, the world’s largest aluminum producer, acquired rival Reynolds Metals on May 9, 2000, it activated an ambitious global communications program that generated excitement about the merger on “Day One” and beyond.   

Executing a high-impact, multimedia program developed by Ketchum Pittsburgh, Alcoa delivered powerful messages to internal and external audiences, with an emphasis on informing and motivating 125,000 employees at 300 locations worldwide. 

By the end of “Day One,” Alcoa’s instant global outreach had created a worldwide buzz that translated into success in any language.  The aluminum giant had set a new gold standard for integration communications.  

SITUATION 

Alcoa’s bold $4.4 billion acquisition of Reynolds Metals, its chief rival for most of the 20th century, delivered a powerful message to Wall Street and the company’s worldwide workforce – the potent combination of Alcoa and Reynolds creates a stronger global competitor that is poised to achieve new levels of growth.  

To ensure a smooth integration process and build internal and external support of its growth strategy, Alcoa turned to Ketchum to develop a program that could influence key audiences on May 9 and in the days that followed the merger completion. The program would use a diverse array of traditional, multi-media and Internet Age communications instruments.  

With input from new Alcoa CEO Alain Belda, Ketchum worked daily with a team of senior executives from Alcoa and Reynolds Metals for four months to design a program that would be the most ambitious and comprehensive global communication effort in Alcoa’s history.  

When the project began in January 2000, Alcoa and Reynolds agreed that the success of the merger would depend on a large extent on their ability to blend two workforces into one harmonious global organization of 125,000 employees in 36 countries. They agreed that a world-class global communications program was needed to build a foundation for that success.  

RESEARCH

Alcoa conducted employee focus groups and surveys during September and October 1999 to determine employees’ chief concerns about the Alcoa/Reynolds merger. 

Key Findings: 

·        Employees want to know why Alcoa is buying Reynolds;
·        Employees want to know about the future of their benefits and retirement programs; and
·        Employees want easy access to timely, accurate information. 
·        Ketchum used these results to plan the campaign’s objectives, strategies, tactics and key messages.

We measured key communicators’ response to the merger announcement by Intranet site activity:  

·        The level of orders placed for merger-related materials; 
·        The number of local ads requested by the plant managers; and 
·        The nature of e-mail comments returned to management.

We measured awareness of the Alcoa merger story by the number of broadcasts of the video news release.

PLANNING

Objectives

·        Deliver timely, accurate information to employees through 300 key communicators to aid the harmonious integration of new employees into the Alcoa family.
·        Communicate value and benefits of merger to both internal and external stakeholders.

Strategies

·        Build employee acceptance through targeted messages delivered by 300 key communicators.
·        Create employee excitement and awareness though promotion of merger and celebratory events.
·        Use Alcoa’s vision and values to communicate the benefits of the merger to new employees. 
·        Leverage merger news to generate international news value for the Alcoa company story.
·        Gain acceptance through direct communication with community influencers and elected officials.

Target Audiences

·        Alcoa and Reynolds employees in 36 countries                        
·        Leaders and elected officials in communities housing Alcoa and Reynolds facilities.
·        Charitable organizations which were traditionally funded by Alcoa or Reynolds
·        Investors and customers of both firms and worldwide business community

Key Messages

·        The integrated companies offer new strength and new potential for global leadership.
·        Advancing to our goal of being the best company in the world will require employees’ energy, creativity and perseverance.
·        Our customers will expect us to be faster, brighter, more competitive and quality-conscious than ever before and we will not disappoint them.

EXECUTION

Intranet Innovation – Ketchum created an Alcoa Intranet site where merger documents, including advertising, were prepared and held ready for last minute changes. When the merger was approved, 300 key communicators from both companies in 36 countries around the world could access, with the click of a mouse, merger communications kits and order a wide selection of collateral and materials for customized distribution to employees and other audiences. They downloaded fact sheets, newsletter articles, and employee benefits Q&A to help them communicate to employees.

World-Class Materials – Ketchum developed a special edition box of Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil, posters, brochures, a wallet card and advertisements to commemorate the event.  Printed materials were also available on a CD ROM in any of 11 languages. Messages focused on the strengths, histories and values of both companies, and included prepared articles for use in plant publications, to customizable letters for community leaders. 

The Personal Touch – A whirlwind three-stop Day One tour by top executives, who met with hundreds of employees at Alcoa’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pa., at the Reynolds Metals HQ in Richmond, Va., and at Reynolds’ facility in Massena, N.Y.  The latter site was selected because the Reynolds’ plant plays an important role in the community of Massena and its economy. 

Video Vision – Camera crews filmed Day One events, enabling Ketchum to generate managed media coverage and produce a merger video that was distributed for employee screenings.

It’s a Wrap – Full-page advertisements celebrating the merger were placed in media outlets that would reach analysts, investors, shareholders and employees, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The ads were designed to reinforce the key messages of the global communications materials, boost employee pride and send a message of optimism to Wall Street.  These ads were available to key communicators via the Intranet site for use in local newspapers in the communities where Alcoa and Reynolds Metals plants are located.

EVALUATION

Objective 1 - Deliver timely, accurate information to employees through 300 key communicators … Key communicators visited the Intranet site during 562 user sessions – double the objective. The site received 20,702 total hits, registering orders for or downloads of more than 10,000 brochures, 3,700 wallet cards, 2,700 posters, 47 printer-ready CDs in 11 different languages, and 200 employee videos.

Objective 2 - Communicate value and benefits of merger to both internal and external stakeholders.

Key messages stressing the merger’s benefits were delivered via the Intranet to 125,000 employees within hours.  

Employee concerns and questions were anticipated and answered by key communicators or via e-mail

19 advertisements in local newspapers delivered messages to residents in plant communities. 

More than 5 million people in 56 markets heard the news through the VNR broadcast.

More than 9 million readers saw advertisements in the Wall St Journal, USA Today and other media.
“No matter how many balls I tossed into the air, they were always caught.  You did a masterful job of coordinating this project and have been a major contributor throughout.  I am very grateful for your help.” -- Gary Biviano, VP/Lead on the Alcoa/Reynolds Merger Communications Team.

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