Central London certainly felt busier last week, the queues for coffee and sandwiches in Pret and M&S were longer and the tube on my commute was standing room only. However, against that seemingly positive backdrop, last week would have been a challenging one for all those working in communications at the larger law firms. Last week I caught up with a number of senior comms and business development friends and contacts and all were focused intently on the latest developments in terms of other firms’ return to the office policies. Kirkland’s decision to delay its global opening by two months was of particular interest, as was the fact that Slaughters and several other firms implemented their new policies last week.
As many readers will know, the external press statement is the tip of the iceberg. A full suite of internal communications materials will have been produced by every firm, often including Q&As, videos and encouraging words from senior management. Any subsequent decision to change track will have resulted in a massive amount of work behind the scenes to ensure staff were kept fully in the picture.
And there may be another communications challenge looming. Even a cursory scan of the business pages will tell you that M&A is booming, with deal volumes seemingly stratospheric on both sides of the Atlantic. That’s great news for corporate practices everywhere but perhaps slightly less so for communications teams and corporate practice area BD professionals. They will know that trying to get hold of corporate partners – not always easier in quieter times! – will be tricky if they are buried in deals. Press releases, directory submissions, client briefings, social media campaigns and podcasts will be tougher to get out of the door with partner engagement understandably harder to secure.
Reflecting on this at the weekend I was struck by a conversation I had with an M&A journalist a decade or so ago. He told me that he received at least ten M&A surveys every day from financial and professional services firms. Most were useful and insightful but there was only so much space in the publication, and most sadly never received much in the way of coverage.
Beyond the current headlines of multi-billion dollar and pound deal values and private equity firepower, there doesn’t seem to be much content emerging that gets under the skin of what’s happening on a global scale. Perhaps now is the time to start thinking about reworking some of that great and ambitious thought leadership of a decade ago for the new digital age.
There’s potentially a great space for firms that are prepared to invest in survey-based M&A content again and a much greater range of social media, broadcast and mainstream media channels for their clients and the market to see it. People want to hear the views of those C-suite decision makers within large corporates. Are they more or less likely to execute deals next year? Which sectors are hot? Are planned deals part of an ambitious growth strategy or simply to protect the company? All these questions were asked on a global scale a decade ago and remain very pertinent today. And the heavy lifting can be done by internal and external content and PR teams rather than the partners. Just a thought….