Every transaction hangs by the thread of communication. How you get your message across can either make or break a deal. Yet, this important aspect tends to be the most overlooked by many in the M&A industry. That is why in this episode, Domenic Rinaldi invites guest Justin Breen, the CEO of the PR firm, BrEpic Communications LLC, to talk about how you get the communication down the line in a way that positively impacts the entire M&A process. At the heart of it is the importance of knowing your story that captures your message and getting it out there. He gives advice for those who just purchased a new business on how they should approach their PR in terms of their employees, clients, and even with the media.
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Justin Breen: The Importance Of Communication In The M&A Process
Communication is one of those phases in M&A transactions that is oftentimes overlooked or underserved. It is important that you think through a deal narrative and how that deal narrative is going to be communicated to the various constituents that are going to be impacted by the transaction. What do I mean by that? You’ve got employees, clients, the industry at large, vendors, partners and affiliates. All of those people need to be communicated. The messaging is most assuredly going to be different. Thinking through the messaging, what you want to say, controlling what gets out into the public, what gets to your employees and the vendors is critical. It’s also critical to involve a professional to think through what is the proper messaging. The time to be thinking about it is well in advance of your transaction.
You want to be thinking about during diligence how you will be communicating this and what you want to say so that when you do close on the transaction, you’ve got a plan and then you’re implementing the plan. If the plan needs some course correction, you can do that midstream but you’re not trying to make it up on the fly. In addition to that, one of the best ways to capitalize on an acquisition, assuming that you want to promote the fact that the business has been sold, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense to communicate it. You want the acquisition to fly under the radar. I’ve been involved in situations like that. We’re getting the word out. It can be harmful and you don’t want that word to get out. You only want to be talking to your internal employees about the sale and select clients or controlling our clients who are hearing about it.
Assuming that you want to capitalize on the acquisition, one of the best ways to do that is through public relations. With us is Justin Breen of BrEpic, which is a PR firm. Justin built this from scratch after a career in journalism with the sole goal of helping his clients tell their stories and get them placed in the media. He is an expert at this. It’s so important because what the media is looking at for stories may not be what you think your story is. People like Justin can help you formulate that and get the right messaging out. PR can be a tremendous way to grow your company. You’re going to enjoy some of the key messages from Justin.
Before we get into the interview, please head over to K2Adviser. If you want to avoid the common deal pitfalls and the risk of losing substantial dollars, you need to know how ready you are for a transaction. On the site, you’ll see a couple of assessments that we’ve built for buyers and sellers so you can very quickly understand how ready you are. The other thing I want to announce is that I will be personally advising and opening up a small group to people who want to learn how to buy or sell a business or need some coaching through buying and selling a business. If you are interested in that, we’re only opening it up to a limited number of people. Please email us at Inf[email protected]. Let us know that you are interested in our coaching and we’ll be back to you soon. Being prepared is critical to ensuring that you maximize returns and minimized risks. Thank you for being here and I hope you enjoy this episode.Make sure that message is out there before others can do what they will with it. Click To Tweet
Justin, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here. For our audience, could you give them a quick background on yourself and how you got to where you are now?
I was a journalist for twenty years. I create newsworthy stories that the media cares about and I pitched them to media on a global level. My PR firm BrEpic is a few years old. It has clients around the world. I only work with visionaries who look at things as an investment and not as costs. It’s this giant incubator of geniuses around the world that we’re constantly introducing each other from mutual gain and the byproduct doesn’t constantly getting insurance to companies around the world that want to hire my firm. I wrote an international bestselling book called Epic Business that talks about my weird brain and how I built a global business in three years.
I see you everywhere. I see your client stories so it’s working.
There’s a called For Love of the Game, which is a terrible movie. Kevin Costner is in it but there’s a good scene in it. He’s a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and he throws a perfect game. The one scene that I watched the YouTube clip once or twice a week is called Clear the Mechanism. He’s on the mountain, people are yelling at him and horns are blaring. Before he throws his first pitch, he says in his head, “Clear the mechanism,” and everything goes silent around him except that he’s ultra-focused on the home plate. That’s how I approach every single day. I eliminate the noise and only focus on a certain type of visionary type genius who invests instead of looks at things as cost.
Those people are running some of the most successful businesses in the world. This is a huge opportunity for them that they’re leveraging and investing like crazy. I just weed out all the other nonsense and my business has exploded. Since COVID, it’s always done well. It’s the company’s biggest quarter that it’s ever had. It’s only going to get better and better because the only people in my network are these tens of thousands of amazing people that also are clearing the mechanism, enjoying life and these awesome businesses.
As you know, our show focuses on mergers and acquisitions. What I’d love to talk to you a little bit about and pick your brain on is when buyers first take over a business, they’ve got many things on their plate. They’re worrying about employees, client retention, vendors, learning the business in some cases and integrating it into theirs. Communication is something that’s talked about often, but I would imagine there are some best practices and some things people shouldn’t do. What advice do you have when somebody first walked in and they’ve purchased a new business? How should they think and approach communication?
These are discussions that should be taking place before the purchase is made. I only work with visionaries and they would have thought about this long in advance of acquiring a company. They would have created a communications program that would have been ready when the acquisition took place. The media only cares about two things. One is a good story, which everybody pretty much has, something inspirational, overcoming the odds, human interest thing. Two is the news peg, meaning why is it a story now? The fact that a company was acquired or is bought out, that’s an obvious news peg. The reason I’ve been in media so much lately is that I’ve had a book that came out. That’s a news peg. A company being purchased or acquired by someone else, that’s an obvious news peg. That’s something that’s a nice human interest story. Why this is happening? The news peg is the company was acquired.
Following that train of thought, there are different constituencies in an acquisition. You’ve got your employees that you’re trying to communicate with, your clients, the marketplace in general, partners and affiliates. How does the story or the news peg all relate back to all of those constituencies? How does it impact employees and clients? How should somebody be thinking about that?
They should be thinking about hiring an expert who knows what they’re doing. I can talk to someone for 1 hour and 55 minutes. It will be totally useless to what anyone cares about in terms of what a media perspective is. In five minutes, I’ll know what the story is and everything is based around that, and then the news peg. The stories that my firm creates are perfect for not only news, media, mainstream, both podcasts and that kind of thing to understand at a third-grade level why this is important and interesting. Also, for the client, the spokesperson or whoever goes on the shows, they have a perfect blueprint to talk about these bullet points that are in this story. It’s a dual-pronged effect.
In terms of my firm’s approach from a client perspective, them reading the story that my firm does is not as important. What is important is when the client talks about the acquisition. They have the story that my firm does. It’s a boilerplate. That message is echoed through mainstream media to potential clients or to the employees, “We are on TV. We’re on this podcast. Check it out.” We talk about how happy we are to be part of this company to be taking over or whatever it is. That’s what my firm’s story serves us. It benefits the client and more importantly, the journalist because they’re not going to pick up some dumb press release. They get hundreds of those a day from people they don’t know.
In this day and age, we’re getting so much information thrown at us from all different angles. Are we at a point where we’re at risk of over-communicating? How do you separate the good messages from the bad messages? What’s newsworthy and what’s not newsworthy?
As a journalist for twenty years, I got 100 of these ridiculously bad press releases that were not newsworthy and not interesting. Not only does that annoy you as a journalist from the person who’s sending it to you, but in my opinion, it damages the company that’s hiring these people to send this nonsense too. That’s why my firm has been successful is because I clear the mechanism. I know how to do two things at the very high level that cuts through all that clutter and all that noise, and focuses on razor-sharp things. The people in my network, all they care about is results. They don’t want to do all this other stuff. They don’t care.
When we started this, they have all this stuff going on. They want someone who’s going to get stuff done and follow through on the process which they talked about. From a journalistic perspective, companies hire my firm because I know the story that the media cares about. I’m not sending my media context a bad story idea, that’s a bad press release. It’s going to be something that’s worth their time. A lot of the stuff that you’re talking about is a lot of the noise that journalists get annoyed about because most people are doing it completely wrong. The most successful entrepreneurs I know create a business that solves problems created by others. That’s what mine does. It solves a problem that was created by other PR firms doing things wrong.Confident people are the best clients because they hire other confident people. Click To Tweet
Let me shift back to that entrepreneur that just acquired that business. Nobody buys a business to have it stay steady. They’re buying it because they envisioned something much bigger. They want to take it in a new direction or they see an avenue for growth. PR could be a big part of that. One, getting the word out there and building to something bigger. What is your advice to people when they’re first taking over a business and how they should view PR when they’ve got all this other stuff going on? They’re trying to learn the business. What would your advice be to them?
As background, I created my entire business model based on how PR firms annoyed me for twenty years. People classify my business as a PR firm but it’s not. It’s more of a high-level storytelling and then media relations, getting stories and news. I’ll answer it from that perspective. Arguably, the most important thing you can do is tell people about your business in a positive and productive way. The people in my network understand that. That’s why my business has exploded. It’s because visionaries with an abundance and positive minds realize that telling people about their businesses is arguably the most important thing. Make sure that message is out there before others can do what they will with it. That’s an interesting thing that I’m hearing from most of the people in my network.
To also answer your question, the thing I hear the most from potential clients is we are tired of being the best secret out there. They have this amazing technology or whatever. They’re at one level and they need to have more people know about them to get to the next level. Getting that exposure when you own an acquired business and you want people to know that, you want your employees to know how happy you are to be at this company is essential. Most high-level entrepreneurs understand, especially the ones who are pivoting, investing like crazy, and acquiring businesses. They didn’t get to that level of success by cost-cutting or being in a scarcity mindset. They did it by understanding the value of being in media, the value of investing in their businesses and brands, and the value of acquiring businesses and brands.
You might not agree with this but my experience has been, most people are not good storytellers. They have all the information.
That’s what I know. I 100% agree with you. If you asked me to install a light bulb, I’d have a nervous breakdown. I have two superpowers, getting people in media at a high level and connecting people on a global level. Those two things where there are very few people in the world that are better at it than I am. Other than that, I’m useless to society besides being a good dad and an average husband. That’s what I mean. My company is successful because I know what I’m good at and more importantly, I know what I’m terrible at. Most people have no idea. Smart people hire experts to do things that they don’t know how to do.
The people that are confident in their superpowers and they know what got them to a certain level, they hire other confident people. Cocky people think they’re good at everything. I can’t stand those people. They’re the worst potential clients because they think they can do their job for you and they can’t because they don’t know what they’re doing. Confident people are the best clients because they hire other confident people. They know their superpowers and what their lane is. They put the teams into place to help them achieve their vision like you were talking about.
It goes back to one of the first points you made in the interview which is, you should be thinking about communications the day you decide that you’re going to buy a business. It’s such a critical component of acquiring a business, and then setting the right tone going forward. Hiring experts is exactly the right step there. Unless you know what you’re doing, you need to hire the experts to do that work.You should be thinking about communications the day you decide that you're going to buy a business. Click To Tweet
I’ll give you an example. I can’t give you specifics on this because there’s a lot of NDAs which I’m happy to sign by the way. I’m involved with conversations where these things aren’t even going to be launched for 3 to 6 months. They’re already talking to me and retaining me for the communication strategy. These are 8 to 10-figure businesses and they have not been acquired yet. They have not been launched yet. That’s what I mean, to go into this shotgun without developing a communication plan, that’s very rare in my experiences. It’s more than what I was talking about. People are reaching out to me well ahead of time because that’s the right model to prepare for that thing.
In your experience, who are you working with? Are you working directly with the owner of the business?
The answer is both. We’ll start with the smaller project type of thing. That’s someone who’s launching a newer type of business, someone who’s writing a book or something. That is the founder CEO. That’s my client contact. For mid-size to larger companies, it’s usually the communications or marketing director. Someone in that sphere. In that case, my firm is a hired gun for two reasons. One, to create newsworthy stories that the media cares about as opposed to the standard press release that most people are sending out that no one cares about.
Two, for my firm’s connections to media because I’m not sending them a bad story idea. It’s a two-pronged thing. It’s either the founder CEO if it’s smaller and sometimes mid-size companies, but usually at the mid-size and the larger ones, it’s the communications or marketing director because they have a good list of story ideas floating around. What my firm is able to do is figure out which ones are the most newsworthy and most interesting. When the media is interested, my firm is able to introduce media to that client contact persons.
Let me follow that question up with the next obvious from there. The smaller company makes perfect sense. People there should be involved and oftentimes, they’ve got their hand on everything. In those mid-size businesses, how important is it to hear from the principals as well as the communications people to make sure that there’s no disconnects or something is not getting missed, or the story is not really the story? It’s something else and there wasn’t an internal communication going on.
All the stories that my firm does are always edited and approved by the client, whether it’s the communications person or if it gets funneled up to the top. I’m glad that it happens. As a journalist, the approval came from the editor, not from the actual business. God forbid something was wrong. I liked the fact that the client edits the story. In terms of what is newsworthy, what the client thinks is newsworthy for the most part, they’re dead wrong. They don’t know. That’s why my firm is successful and why we’re hired is, we know what the actual newsworthy part of it is. It’s the opposite of what you said. The client doesn’t necessarily know what’s newsworthy and my firm does, and then the client edit it and massages it as needed.
With the changing landscape in journalism, everybody has become a writer and everybody has become a news outlet. What has changed on the media side as far as getting stories placed and getting good information out there? What have you had to adapt to in the last 5 to 10 years?
My business was incorporated on April 16th, 2017. The number one biggest surprise, in a good way, has been the power of shows like this. It’s not necessarily fully replacing mainstream media, but certainly on its way for two reasons. One, you can do a deeper dive and real interview on these types of settings, as opposed to a drive-by interview on TV, radio, newspaper or whatever. Two and what is more important is that the visionary that I can use in my network who are genius level, they’re listening to these podcasts as opposed to reading Forbes or Wall Street Journal. It’s great to be in those publications but from what I’ve seen, it’s more of an ego boost than actual leading to real connections or business transactions.
What’s been interesting is that now I’m seeing it firsthand because of the book I wrote. I’m constantly in media and doing interviews because people are weirdly interested in how my strange brain works. I’ve seen these types of interviews lead to huge contracts and intros. It’s also great for my business and brand, but then the host wants to interview my clients as well. They’re like, “These are the people that you work with. We want to interview them too if they’re as fascinating as you are.” Everybody wins in that. To directly answer the question, these podcasts are hugely important. I don’t know if they’re going to replace mainstream media fully, but it certainly takes up a huge portion of what people used to consider media.
Change is great. That’s called progress. People ask me all the time like, “How’s media doing?” I go, “It’s never been a more exciting time.” There are so much great media out there. Traditional newspapers might be struggling but there are all sorts of other news sites that are popping up in their place led by former journalists of those great newspapers or other news sites. People are becoming more entrepreneurial in general and they’re going with it, as opposed to like, “Change is horrible. What’s going on? What’s wrong with this?” I’ll be like, “Embrace it. It’s great.”
If somebody is not catching on that podcast is a new medium that was going to matter, look at Joe Rogan getting paid by Spotify for an exclusive. That’s one example. There are many out there that are carving out a path.
In terms of direct revenue, people are paying you to be a podcast host. There could be more examples like that, but more of it is a funnel to meet the right people. The people listening to it are like, “I want to talk to this guy.” That’s where I’ve seen the real value. It’s these intros or people who have reached out to me because I’ve heard this and it’s great for my clients too.
Without a doubt. I see it day-in and day-out. Our podcast gets calls from around the world now. We’re downloaded in 47 countries. The calls we’re getting from around the world for help on mergers and acquisitions is something I would have never thought of when we first started this. It’s unbelievable.
The beauty of what you’re saying is two-fold. One, you have the complete right mentality. Two, it’s only the beginning like 47 countries. You’ll be in 50 soon and then you’ll be in 60. There’s no limit to it when you have the right mentality. That’s why I get frustrated when I get certain questions about, “What about this?” I go, “This is how it is. Embrace it, enjoy your life and abundance.” That’s what it’s about. When you preach that and live that, it attracts other people like that. When you started this, you’re like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Look at what’s happened because of it. It’ll keep getting better and better.
I’m a complete novice, tech novice, everything novice. I had no idea and we stumbled our way through it, and anything we had written down early on. The only thing that we’ve stayed true to from day one was our mission of we want to educate people on mergers and acquisitions so they can make better decisions and be more ready, whether they’re looking to buy or sell. That was our mission from day one and it’s never changed.
That’s a core value. I only work with visionaries who look at things as investments and not costs, and everything else falls in after that. You have your core mission and you watch it grow.
Justin, what advice or closing comments would you have for anybody reading about communications or anything else that you think would help people as they look at mergers and acquisitions?
If you think you know what you’re doing in this space, you’re wrong. It’s very important to get out ahead of this sooner rather than later. The media is a very fickle and strange place. Most journalists are strange. I’m definitely strange, that’s why I’m a journalist. They’re very particular how they want things done. It’s not like, “We launched it and now we are all in these news outlets two minutes later.” It’s a process that takes time. Planning ahead is great and please don’t think you’re going to be an expert at this because if you’re doing 50 things with your own company, I’m guessing being a communications expert is not one of those.Change is good. That's called progress. Click To Tweet
Justin, congrats on the success. Congrats on your book. Thanks for being here. If people in the community wanted to get in touch with you, how could they reach you?
Justin, it’s great to be with you. Thanks, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Thanks, I enjoyed this. I appreciate it.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you enjoy our content, please remember to subscribe and review our podcast. I look forward to seeing you again in the next episode. Until then, please remember that scaling, acquiring or selling a business takes time, preparation and proper knowledge.
About Justin Breen
Justin Breen is CEO of the PR firm BrEpic Communications and author of the No. 1 International Best Selling Book, Epic Business. Justin is hard-wired to seek out and create viral, thought-provoking stories that the media craves. And he finds the best stories when he networks with visionary entrepreneurs and executives who understand the value of investing in themselves and their businesses. Justin believes strongly in the power of introductions and creates important relationships through those introductions.
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